Graeme McDowell isn’t sure that Rory McIlroy has made any mistakes this year. But he’s certain of one thing - if he has, the new US PGA champion has learned from them and is breath of fresh air for the game of golf.
After finishing 11th at Kiawah Island to complete the best major record of anyone who made the cut in all four this year, McDowell hailed McIlroy as the kid that kids everywhere now want to be.
“He’s going to be the player that kids look up to, you know, that kids measure their own wannabe games by,” McDowell said as his friend romped to a record-breaking eight shot win with a closing 66.
“Ten years ago it was Tiger Woods. It still is Tiger Woods to a certain extent, but now we’ve got superstars like Rory McIlroy for kids to be looking at with the double hip snap or whatever the hell he calls it.
“The action itself of the golf ball, chipping was just incredible, touch and feel and technique, and learning how to putt, learning how to score. I mean, with a great attitude and great charisma and great character. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.
“He’s great for the game, absolute breath of fresh air for the game of golf, plenty of superstars around the world like him. “
McDowell is constantly impressed by McIlroy and believes he can add to his own major haul if he can slipstream his management stablemate over the next decade.
He flees from the comparison game with Tiger Woods, yet inevitably, he admits that McIlroy deserves to be mentioned in paragraph, if not quite the same breath, with the 14-time major winner.
“It’s tough to say that Rory is a Tiger Woods type player,” McDowell said after final round 71 left him tied 11th, 11 shots behind Northern Ireland’s fourth major championship winner from the last 11 majors. “Tiger Woods is a once in a lifetime type player, and Rory McIlroy is at least a once in a decade type player. He’s that good.
“I’ve been saying it for years how good he is. He showed us at Congressional how good he is, by getting to No. 1 in the world this year at the Honda Classic, how good he is, and here we go again. It’s been a lot of fun to be a golfer from Ireland and to be a golfer from Northern Ireland.”
McIlroy reached No 1 in the world for the first time in March but lost form and did not recover it until this month.
Questions were asked about his dedication to the game and his love affair with Caroline Wozniacki and even McDowell pointed out recently that McIlroy might be suffering “fatigue” due to the extra airmiles he has clocked up to be with the Danish tennis star.
“We played a couple rounds at Lytham and we chatted a little bit. Sometimes the ball ain’t going to make you happy. It’s a fickle game. Like I said, he’s bigger and better than that, and like I said, intelligent enough to learn from his mistakes, if he feels like he’s made any the last few months. I can only tell objectively I haven’t seen much in the last few months. So like I say, this is a tough game, and you’ve got to learn.”
As for his own game, McDowell was delighted to finish in the top 12 in all four major this year.
Outside the four major winners, no-one had a better record and he knows he’s close to adding to his 2010 US Open victory.
For me this is the week of should have been, could have been. Would I have given Rory a game today? Who knows.
“I threw at least six shots away that I can think of off the top of my head, threw them away, and a couple basic little errors around the greens. Not sharp enough on the greens this weekend.
“Two doubles this morning, a couple sloppy ones early why the week, but all in all, a work in progress, positives, getting better all the time.”
Having gone out in the final group in the US Open and the Open, he knows that second win is within touching distance.
“Great year, my best year in the majors bar none. Forget 2010, this is my best year in the major championships. Had a chance to win a couple. Didn’t get the job done, learned a lot about myself again, and very, very, very pleased with my effort in the four major championships this year.”