Christy O’Connor Jnr is backing world No 1 Rory McIlroy to win at least 10 major titles. But the Galway legend wonders if the 23-year old Holywood hotshot will have the competitive desire to chase down Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major victories.
Speaking at the launch of his autobiography, “Christy - From Rough to Fair Ways” (Paperweight €19.99), the 1989 Ryder Cup hero said: “If he minds himself, I think Rory could win 10 plus, after that who knows.
“He’s got to stay competitive and to stay competitive later in your career you have to play quite a lot of golf, not just the odd tournament.
“I say he’ll win 10 plus majors but whether he wins as many as Jack is another story. Jack Nicklaus had a massive desire to win trophies and it remains to be seen if Rory will have the desire that Jack had.
“Rory certainly has the ability, there is no doubt about that, but will he have the desire to keep going after he gets into double digits? That’s the question.”
O’Connor Jnr will forever be remembered for his iconic Ryder Cup winning two-iron at The Belfry in 1989 and his thoughts on the non-appointment of an Irish captain have been well documented since he failed to get the job at The K Club in 2006.
His book, which was penned with the help of journalist Justin Doyle, chronicles a life of huge ups and downs from that win at the Belfry to his struggles with alcohol and the tragic death of his son Darren.
He rails against what he perceived to be an anti-Irish feeling in the PGA in the UK and Europe, blaming Tony Jacklin and Seve Ballesteros for his non-selection for a wildcard for the 1985 Ryder Cup.
But it’s the fact that an Irishman has yet to be named as European Ryder Cup captain - 39 men from England, Scotland, Wales, Germany and Spain have led the team since the matches began in 1927 - that really makes his blood boil:
“To me it is doubtless very political, bordering on an overwhelming sense of anti-Irishness. How else can one explain it?”
He has nothing against Darren Clarke but he makes it clear that he wants Paul McGinley to get the job at Gleneagles in 2014.
“For me it’s McGinley,” O’Connor Jnr said. “His two winning captaincies in the Seve Trophy prove he is the man for the job. And he’ll be carrying the green white and gold [sic].”
Asked if he’d be disappointed to Clarke got the nod, he said: “I wouldn’t be disappointed if an Irishman gets it. But I hope if an Irishman gets it, it will be the green, white and gold of the captain. It’s very important to me that that flag is flying for the captain. Very important to me.
“Of course Darren had to make his voice heard if he wants the job at some stage but I really believe that Paul McGinley would make a very, very good captain and it has to be next time.”