The rise and rise of Rory McIlroy this year has coincided with the fall and fall of Padraig Harrington — but the 20-year-old does not expect his fellow Irishman's slide to continue for much longer.
McIlroy, tenth on his United States Open debut on Monday, is now in Munich for the BMW International Open.
After four missed cuts in a row and five in his past six starts Harrington is on a short break before starting the countdown to his Open Championship defence at next week's French Open.
Asked about the fact that the Dubliner — winner of the last two majors of last season — has not had a top 10 finish since January, 20-year-old McIlroy said: “I think everyone is surprised.
“A three-time major winner in two years and then to have a run of form like he's had, but it would not surprise me if he turned it around for the Open and put in a really good result.
“Obviously he looked at his game at the end of the year and has seen a few things that he wanted to change or improve.
“Obviously he has tried to do that and it has not quite worked.
“I've played a couple of practice rounds with him, but you don't really know from that. Whenever you have a card in your hand it becomes completely different.
“He still hits it well. I was watching him on tv last week when we had a few rain delays and it just seemed that he was not hitting as many fairways as he needed to to give himself chances for birdies.
“That was my impression. His swing looks the same to me as when he won at Carnoustie, Birkdale and Oakland Hills, but it could be a slight fraction of the clubface at impact.”
Harrington's statistics for the year make horrific reading.
In Europe he ranks 188th in driving accuracy, 133rd in driving distance and 147th in greens in regulation. In the States it is a similar story — 173rd, 124th and 176th in the same three categories.
McIlroy, on the other hand, continues to impress in just about everything he does.
In Europe he is eighth in driving distance and although only 118th in accuracy off the tee that is not hurting him because he is third in greens in regulation.
His closing 68 at Bethpage Black gave him his first top 10 finish in a major and he stated: “There were no fireworks, but I stayed very patient the whole week with all the weather delays.
“It was a really good effort for my US Open debut and the key this year is that I've been very consistent.”
This week's course has also had a deluge of rain on it, but although England's Ross Fisher, fifth on Monday, pulled out because he felt the need to rest McIlroy is happy with his decision to play on.
“I never thought of pulling out. Although I missed the cut here last year I think my game's more suited here than to next week's French Open course,” he said.
“I can't hit my driver much there and find it a little fiddly.”
The next major, of course, is The Open at Turnberry and McIlroy, having already played it once, plans another trip there on Monday week before the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond.
“I loved it when I played there with G Mac (Graeme McDowell)
earlier this year. I beat him five and four and had eight birdies,” he said.
That was on a benign day — exactly as the Ulsterman hopes it will be next month.
“Most links courses need a little bit of wind for their protection, but I feel that if it's calm I can shoot a really good score,” he added.
“And it's good for the fans to see guys making birdies. It gives it a better atmosphere.”
For the first time in his career McIlroy will be playing with Bernhard Langer in the first two rounds this week.
“He obviously still has the game to compete and I think it will be a great experience for me. Hopefully I might pick up something from him,” he said.
Swede Henrik Stenson, ninth on Monday and world number five, is the highest-ranked player in a field that also includes American John Daly, Retief Goosen, Luke Donald and Colin Montgomerie.
The Ryder Cup captain, now outside the world's top 200, did
not qualify for the US Open and instead watched some of it while working out on a treadmill at home.
Since his last appearance at the Wales Open Montgomerie has been to Lausanne to speak to the International Olympic Committee on golf's bid for inclusion in the 2016 Games — and had his £150,000 Bentley repaired after a woman reversed into it in the car park at Celtic Manor.
“Even a small scratch on a car like that costs a few thousand to put right,” he said.