Darren Clarke is convinced that Rory McIlroy can challenge for the Masters title on his Augusta debut.
The Ulsterman is impressed by the teen sensation's red-hot run of form and he sees no reason why McIlroy can't contend for the green jacket when he make his debut at the fabled course in three weeks' time.
Clarke said: "Rory flights the ball perfectly for Augusta and he is on a great run at the minute so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he is up there challenging.
"He has got an experienced caddie on the bag in JP Fitzgerald - a guy who has been there before and knows what he is doing.
"Rory will discover things about himself because there is no course like Augusta. It is just different and it will not be easy. But he can definitely contend."
A rookie has not won the Masters since Fuzzy Zoeller claimed the title in a play-off 30 years ago.
World No 77 Clarke finished tied for eighth when he made his Augusta debut in 1998 but needs a top finish in next week's Bay Hill Invitational to qualify for the Masters through the world's top 50.
If he fails to qualify through the world rankings he will have a last gasp chance to make it as a PGA Tour winner when he tees it up with McIlroy and Padraig Harrington in the Shell Houston Open the week before Augusta.
Clarke finished tied 46th in the CA Championship at Doral and headed to Lake Nona yesterday to play on the same Isleworth side as Tiger Woods in the annual Tavistock Cup match between the exclusive Orlando clubs
Playing with Mark O'Meara, Clarke got off to a winning start when he carded a 10-under par 62 to beat Ben Curtis and Mark McNulty by three shots in the fourballs.
In the end Isleworth took a 3-2 lead over Lake Nona though Graeme McDowell and Retief Goosen shot 60 to beat JB Holmes and Daniel Chopra by four strokes.
Tiger Woods and John Cook shot a nine-under 63 to beat Henrik Stenson and Chris DiMarco by a stroke.
The two-day event finishes on Tuesday with two players from each club competing in singles medal-match against each player from the other club. Woods will play with O'Meara against Ian Poulter and Stenson.