Belfast Telegraph

The Punter: Major not too far away for Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy's hopes of a first major continue to soar, just like his shots off the tees — even if a bit wayward at times — and he looks destined to land one sooner rather than later.

Next on the list is the Masters next April and with the Holywood 21-year-old having got within touching distance of the last two majors, his chance at Augusta is clearly there for all to see.

Rory has long been tipped to take over the mantle from Tiger Woods and it could come sooner than possibly imagined which makes 4-1 to be the next British player to win a major, a bet worth having, compared to the 11-4 to deliver in 2011.

After all, if he is to triumph next year, it's almost certain he will be the next British winner.

Currently enjoying a holiday before taking his place in the Ryder Cup — the world number seven, is second in the European points list — young McIlroy has already won a PGA Tour event this year, tied for third in the Open and for the second year in a row, also finished tied third in the US PGA while being in the top 10 at the US Open.

That's consistency and he will have learned how to handle the pressure which he admits he felt when triple-putting on the 15th in the final round at Whistling Straits when sharing the lead with four to play.

Meanwhile, Paddy Power and Boylesports have decided to refund stakes on all bets involving Dustin Johnson who was denied his place in a three-way play off won by German 50-1 outsider Martin Kaymer.

Johnson who bogeyed the last when putting for what was thought to be the trophy, ended tied with Kamer and Bubba Watson, only to suffer a two-shot penalty for grounding his club on his second shot at the final hole in a so-called bunker.

The controversy and diverse opinions as to whether the piece of ground constituted a bunker, went on for some time and one can only imagine the scenes at the end if Johnson had dropped that putt which would have left him a one-shot winner, only to be turfed out.

No sport applies rules better than golf. It is unusual to see the public being allowed to trample over so-called bunkers but those

course rules have been in place since 2004 and every effort was made by the PGA to make players aware that all sanded areas were bunkers.

The only person to blame for what happened was Johnson who admitted he did not read the warning notice posted in the locker room.

Ignorance of the rules is no saviour. Once again, Paddy Power and Boylesports have decided not to apply their settlement rules based on official results which is their prerogative but could leave them open to customer controversy and accusations of double standards if not applying the same decision to future events with similar outcomes.

A Paddy Power spokesman said: “Dustin may have to live with the fact that the rules have robbed him of a chance to win a major but we don't have to live with such straitjacked nonsense. Johnson bets with us have not bitten the dust.”

Nicola McGeady of Boylesports took the same view.

“There was strong support for Johnson especially in the final round and as a goodwill gesture, Boylesports have decided to ease some of the punters' pain.”

Firms such as Ladbrokes and Hill's have not gone down that route.

Ladbrokes had taken a number of bets on Kaymer and spokesperson Brad Barry said: “Johnson was caught up in the moment when leading a major by one shot, otherwise he would have checked on whether it was a proper bunker or not. You could not imagine Tiger Woods not knowing the position.”

Johnson said: “It didn't cross my mind that it was a sand trap. There were footprints in it where people had been walking.” He did not dispute that he had touched the sand before playing his shot.

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