Paul McGinley delighted with main man Rory McIlroy's new resilience
When a respected figure in golf mentions the name 'Tiger' in reference to Rory McIlroy, the eyeballs are prone to roll. But with Paul McGinley it is different, as the Ryder Cup captain is only illustrating his radically changed opinion of his fellow Irishman.
McIlroy, the world No 6, tees it up alongside Adam Scott, the No 1, and Jason Day, the No 7, in the marquee grouping of the first round of the Memorial in Ohio today.
After his first win of the season at Wentworth on Sunday, McIlroy will be many experts' idea of the favourite in Dublin, Ohio.
For his part, McGinley seems almost certain that McIlroy will be there or thereabouts. He used to believe that McIlroy was a streaky player, but the past few months has forced McGinley to think again. In his past nine stroke-play events, McIlroy has finished in the top 10 eight times.
"Having watched him the last six months and how he has been able to churn out a top-10 finish from relatively poor first two rounds, like he did at the Players (at Sawgrass this month), we are seeing a different Rory now," McGinley said.
"We are seeing a Rory who is able to dig deep when things aren't going well and still churn out a top-10 finish. He calls them 'backing into top-10s'. They are wonderful performances. And then when you do hit top form like last week, you go on to win.
"We are seeing a more mature Rory and certainly one for the better. And maybe a little into the Tiger-esque way of consistency week after week."
With seven of the top 10 in the tournament promoted by Jack Nicklaus, McIlroy will likely have to be at his very best to prevail.
McGinley will be thrilled that so many of his high-profile players appear to peaking for the summer, although he can be forgiven for reserving most excitement for McIlroy. Not only did the 25-year-old do so much to secure him the captain's role, but McGinley obviously sees McIlroy as his main man for Gleneagles in September.
"I couldn't have more engagement from Rory as Ryder Cup captain," McGinley said.
"We had a really good chat for half an hour on Saturday morning and he wanted to know the lines I am thinking on. I am sure come September he will be ready to fulfil a big role."
Scott is sure to remain as world No 1 this week, with the No 2 Henrik Stenson playing in his home tournament, the Nordea Masters in Malmo. Thomas Bjorn, who blew a five-stroke lead in the final round at Wentworth, also plays in Sweden.
Nicklaus revealed that Woods rang him to say how he will miss playing at the Memorial, and the American confirmed last night that he will not play in next month's US Open as he continues his recovery from back surgery.
Nicklaus also said he would not write off the possibility of Woods winning the five Majors he needs to break Nicklaus' record.
"If he's healthy, Tiger's got 10-plus years to play top-quality tournament golf," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, london)