Stars advise new pro McIlroy

By Brian Keogh

Top trio Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Graeme McDowell have just one piece of advice for rookie pro Rory McIlroy: Don’t go changing.

The Holywood teenager joins the pro ranks today ahead of this week’s Quinn Direct British Masters at The Belfry.

And his Irish stablemates at Chubby Chandler's ISM believe he’s already good enough to trade shots with the best without changing a thing.

McDowell, 27, said: "The first piece of advice I would offer Rory is that he doesn't have to do anything different.

"Just because he will be out here now on the tour doesn't mean he has to change his game, change his equipment or change anything.

"He's shown already in the small number of pro events he's competed in that he's got the game.

"He's five to 10 steps ahead of where I was when I turned pro, so he's got a huge advantage from that point of view."

The shark-infested waters of the professional ranks should hold no fears for McIlroy, who has already teed it up in 12 professional tour events as an amateur since 2005.

Make that 13 if you count his comfortable cruise through the first stage of the qualifying school last week.

And while he’s missed the cut in six of his 12 starts in pro events, top performances in the Dubai Desert Classic and The Open this year have shown that he is a class act.

Having seen him in action, McDowell added: “Rory he will have a lot more experience of what it’s like out here than I had when I turned pro.

“I had played one professional event before I turned pro and Rory has played quite a few already. That's a huge boost for anyone, being out here and seeing what the environment is like because he's played with these guys many times before.

“These days there is not a huge jump from amateur golf. Guys are just a little more efficient getting the ball around. They are smarter and more experienced. Those are the major differences.”

McDowell knows that life in the pro ranks is far more cut-throat with everyone looking out for No 1.

But three-time Ryder Cup hero McGinley does not want to frighten the youngster with tales of doom and gloom before he even gets started.

He said: “The kid is full of confidence. Let him play on that confidence for a while and see where he is going. Then he can stop and think, I need to change this or that or keep going.

“I hate to hear people saying he is going to get a rude awakening in the pro game because you don't want to knock the kid's confidence. Confidence is such an important thing so let him ride this confidence.”

Getting off to a good start is vital but not imperative.

McDowell won in his fourth professional start on the main tour while McGinley won his second event, the UAP Under 25 Championship to pocket £15,000

Recalling that day, McGInley beamed: “I was a millionaire. But the top amateurs nowadays are very different amateurs to when me, Darren or Padraig started out.

“When we played, the thoughts of going away and playing different events in Australia, South Africa and Spain like Rory has done, was not even a factor. That was not the amateur game.

“But it is the game now for the top amateurs. They get these trips to Dubai. They go to Malaysia. The furthest we went was the Home Internationals or the European Team Championships in Madrid.

“The top amateurs now are playing a professional schedule so it is not the same as it was 15 years ago.

“He seems to have the game and the last thing anybody should be doing is trying to knock his confidence. Confidence is so important. Let him go with it and see how far it takes him and then sit back and reassess where he is after playing several events.

“He has been playing a professional schedule for the last two years. He has been to Dubai, Australia, Malaysia, America, playing these events. So the step up is not that massive.”

Clarke has taken McIlroy under his wing in recent months and will play a practice round with him today.

The Ulsterman knows exactly what McIlroy is capable of achieving but points out that the short game will separate the men from the boys.

Clarke said: “He has almost been a pro for a couple of years. He should just stick with what he knows - for now - and get himself established, as I am sure he will do.

“He has enough people around him to keep his feet firmly planted in the ground. He will be fine. And he will done fine.

"The biggest difference he will notice is that the short game in the professional ranks is like chalk and cheese compared with the amateur game. That is the biggest difference. That is the whole difference."