Six time major winner Nick Faldo believes Rory McIlroy can barge his way into the major league this week.
The English legend watched his former protege cruise to a share of ninth place behind Hunter Mahan in the Bridgestone Invitational. And he’s convinced that the Holywood star, 21, is ready to peak at the US PGA.
Asked for his dark horse, Faldo tipped American Sean O’Hair to lift the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday. But when plumping for a favourite, Faldo chose McIlroy as the man most likely to succeed.
Faldo said: “Rory has to be my favourite. He might be a bit young at just 21 years of age but he is coming in with good form and it is a matter of whether he can cope with it all. He’s having the perfect week coming in - he hasn’t burned up a lot of energy but still played really well.”
McIlroy said he “couldn’t be happier” with his performance in Akron, where he broke par in all four rounds without breaking sweat.
And with six of the last eight majors going to first-time winners, he reckons the Grand Slam events are more open than ever.
Believing he has a massive chance, McIlroy said: “The majors are definitely more open than they were maybe five or ten years ago.
“And when Graeme McDowell won at Pebble Beach, that changed my mindset at the majors.
“Seeing a close friend win the US Open gives you a lot of confidence. And so does seeing guys Louis Oosthuizen, YE Yang, Lucas Glover and Trevor Immelman win majors.”
Third in the US PGA at Hazeltine last year and third in the Open at St Andrews last month, McIlroy hopes he has what it takes to cross the line.
He said: “The way I played at the weekend in the Open and came back from shooting 80 on Friday proved to me that I can play in the majors and grind it out.
“Finishing third at St Andrews proved to me that I can show a lot of character. After shooting eight under on Thursday and then having the 80, it would have been easy to let it all go.
“I’m really looking forward to Whistling Straits because it’s the last chance we get to win a major this season and it’s a long wait until the Masters.”