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Irish Open 2015: Rory Mcilroy can follow in legend Seve Ballesteros' footsteps, says Ernie Els

By Peter Hutcheon

Rory McIlroy could have as big an impact on world golf as the legendary Seve Ballesteros, according to Ernie Els.

And the South African says the European Tour should do everything in their power to keep him playing on his home continent.

"If I was head of the Tour I would have made some plan to keep Rory McIlroy in Europe," he said. "I would not have let him go to the US.

"I would have kept him here and made him the new Seve. I think he could be like a Seve because he's so exciting to watch.

"To have a person like that on the European Tour for most of his career is something that I would absolutely have made happen - I don't care what it would have cost."

Els and McIlroy are level on four Majors each and although Els has far from given up on adding to his own tally, he reckons the Ulsterman will win at least 10 more before he's finished.

"The way that he is playing he can easily win many more Majors over the next 20 years," Els continued.

"Certainly if he stays fit and healthy, one every other year or so is far from out of the question."

Two of Els' Major victories came at The Open which has prompted a lifelong love of links golf.

Ranking both Royal Portrush and Royal County Down in his top links courses anywhere in the world, he had to settle in the end for a top five.

"My personal favourites are Muirfield and Lytham for obvious reasons," he said.

"I like Royal County Down ahead of Portrush - but they are both phenomenal tests. I'd put them both ahead of the Old Course at St Andrews, which is saying something."

Els is missing his daughter Samantha's 16th birthday to be in Northern Ireland this week, but he said he just couldn't turn down McIlroy's invitation to play.

"He asked me a few months ago and it was an easy yes," he said. "He's played some events in South Africa and we run a foundation there and he turns up every year.

"When you have the world number one in your field it's pretty easy to ask people for money.

"He's been a great friend and he's been a huge benefactor. To come here and play was not a problem."

It's been 17 years since Els last played an Irish Open - which is testament of McIlroy's pulling power.

And he says his first appearance in the event was pivotal in his career.

"I'd got an invite at Killarney and although I didn't win too much money that week, it did help me to get my card, so I have happy memories," he said.

"It's good to be back and I'm looking forward to this week."

Belfast Telegraph

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