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Rory McIlroy can prove he has ability to make Major history

By Karl MacGinty

Flintstones, meet the Flintstones. That tune has been rattling about in many a head at the DP World Tour Championship, inspired by the yawning rock cavern (and waterfall) which has appeared this year just behind the 18th green on the Earth Course. It looks uncannily like something you'd find in the cartoon town of Bedrock, a place right out of history.

Any 'history' made at Jumeirah Golf Estates has been made not by club-swinging cavemen but by golfers. There's nothing primitive about this opulent oasis in the Arabian Desert.

Indeed, people are clamouring to buy houses overlooking the course for up to ¤2.4m. Essentially, the golf is the same but there's a new air of sophistication about this place.

An interesting analogy can be drawn with Rory McIlroy.

Approaching the end of his greatest season by far, the Holywood star is playing to the same exalted level as 2012 - if not above it - when he blew past Justin Rose and on to victory in the tournament and the Race to Dubai with a five-birdie finish.

This year, however, McIlroy exudes a different aura.

After a succession of hard knocks in 2013, he clearly rededicated himself to golf, then increased his workload to fill any void left by the sudden termination of his engagement to Caroline Wozniacki in May.

Though McIlroy has drawn confidence from a potent combination of rock-solid technique and core strength and fitness, perhaps the most impressive feature of his campaign in 2014 has been his mental toughness.

McIlroy has always been blessed with enough raw talent to get to World No 1 but this year he has developed the Tiger Woods-like resolve to stay there.

Having spectacularly lived up to a tongue-in-cheek pledge made 140 miles down the Emirates Highway in Abu Dhabi last January to win two Majors this year, The Open and US PGA, McIlroy's second Race to Dubai title is already secure.

The Race is run but there's a fascinating sub-plot to McIlroy's efforts this week on the Earth Course.

The Ulsterman played in the fortnight before all but one of his 17 wins as a professional, the exception being the 2010 Quail Hollow Championship.

McIlroy surely cannot be expected to hit the ground running after nearly seven weeks 'off' to deal with legal issues and beat a select 60-man field featuring Rose, Henrik Stenson and two-time runner-up Ian Poulter.

Well, that's precisely what Woods used to do. So comprehensive was Tiger's practice regime at home, he expected to win every time he turned up.

This sometimes allowed Woods to forego a 'warm-up' event, helping him limit his annual schedule to under 22 events, and conserve energy for the Majors.

McIlroy's prospects of matching Tiger's 14 Majors will be enhanced if he achieves his ambition to trim his schedule to similar levels.

The physical effort of playing golf tournaments offers little stress. Instead, the mental pressure of contending at every event he plays exacts a heavy toll.

"It can be quite draining playing week in, week out," McIlroy confirms. "I feel if you put in enough good work away from tournaments and your preparation is right, you practice well, and don't just hit balls every day, by the time of the event, you should be ready to go."

We may find out this week if McIlroy has the mental discipline necessary to make that formula work as it did for Woods.

If he defies convention and wins on Sunday, we'll know he is capable of making Major history of his own.

Belfast Telegraph

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