"They might as well play darts. It’s crazy," says O'Connor Senior

Christy O’Connor will go down in golfing history on November 2 when he becomes just the second Irishman to make the World Golf Hall of Fame.

But the man known around the world simply as "Himself" is certainly glad his playing days are over.

Now 84, the Knocknacarra maestro says he couldn’t stand to play the modern game where the six-hour round and the long bombers are making the sport unwatchable on TV.

Holding court in his Clontarf home as historians from the Hall of Fame collect a lifetime of memorabilia on the Royal Dublin genius, O’Connor is happy to have had his time in the sun.

Reflecting on the modern game of Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington, he said: “Golf is completely different today. We had to feel shots. Now they have three wedges in their bag.

“We wanted power, not three or four wedges. Today, almost everything is a full wedge with backspin. They might as well play darts. It’s crazy.

"They are taking six hours to play a round of golf. We used to do 36 holes a day around Wentworth and still break 70. And all this five or six or seven damned practice swings.  It is sad to see.

"They miss a putt and mark it and clean it and get down and look at the line again for an 18 inch putt! Okay I missed a few short ones myself by rushing a bit, but it is hard to watch.

"I suppose this is the way life is now. I wouldn’t like to be playing today and neither would a lot of my old friends on the tour.

“They wanted to just play and get away. They had their rhythm and they had their swing.”

O’Connor never won a major despite ten top 10s in the Open. But he had a rhythmical swing that Lee Trevino described as a thing of beauty.

On a visit to play with O'Connor, Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer at Royal Dublin, SuperMex said: “To me only three players have looked entirely natural swinging a golf club - Christy, Roberto de Vicenzo and Neil Coles. Christy flows through the ball like fine wine."

O’Connor will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Florida in the class of 2009 with former US President Dwight Eisenhower, PGA Tour star Lanny Wadkins and two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal.

During a career that spanned four decades, he won 24 titles on the European Tour, including the richest prize in golf at that time - a £25,000 windfall for the 1970 John Player Classic at a time when the Open champion earned just £5,000.

He also claimed another 20 international tournaments, including 10 Irish PGAs and the 1958 World Cup with Harry Bradshaw.

But his great legacy is his participation on 10 Ryder Cup teams, a record that was eventually beaten by Nick Faldo in 1997.

With memorabilia of his great career spread out all over the floor of his Clontarf home before they are shipped to Florida, Christy wishes the modern game emphasised skill over power.

He said: "It is all a big slog now. When Tiger Woods won the Open at Hoylake three years ago, how many times did he hit a wood? Maybe once.

“He hit four irons all the time and that was fantastic to watch. When Woods swings the club, there is nobody who swings the club better. But when he slogs, which he does, he is the poorest looking golfer.

“Padraig Harrington is very similar. He swings the club well but when he goes to really hit one, his left shoulder comes high and it’s goodbye. It could go left or right. Rhythm, finesse, was what we tried to play with.”

O’Connor’s failure to win a major has been put down to his weakness with the putter. But he reckons that he lost his once magical touch on the greens by giving too many lessons.

He said: “I was as good a putter as Harry (Bradshaw) was when I started. I felt I was a better putter than Harry was and people started asking me for lessons.

“So I started giving people lessons, which was stupid. And in the end I was thinking so much about it, I lost the feel. I became a feel putter rather than the good putter I was.”

O'Connor never made a structured assault on the US circuit and he never played in the Masters although he was invited to do so on several occasions and he regrets that. But the Yanks don't.

US Ryder Cup player Billy Casper, the winner of two Masters and a US Open title, once told him: “It's a good thing you weren't born in the United States, otherwise nobody would have heard of me, or those other two plumbers, Palmer and Nicklaus."

It’s been a long, magical journey from the village of Knocknacarra, just a few yards from the walls of Galway Golf Club, to the Hall of Fame.

Christy said: "You read about the wild west but even to go from Knocknacarra to Dublin was like going to a foreign country.

“I was brought up in the Gaeltacht and at that time I spoke very little English. I neither have Irish nor English now! There was nothing to do except play golf. We had a little farm with milk cows. Things were tough but we were very lucky.”

Irish and world golf was even luckier.