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Rory McIlroy's Grand Slam a matter of when, not if, says Darren Clarke

By Karl MacGinty

Present indefinite: future perfect. It's fascinating how those grammatical terms so neatly fit Rory McIlroy's situation as his date with golfing destiny looms in 16 days' time.

Emerging from the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his final event before the Masters, with a 'modest' share of 11th and a question mark over his wedge play was better for McIlroy going forward to Augusta than if he'd produced a flawless performance at Bay Hill and won.

Naturally, it'll be tense for the 25-year-old at Augusta but McIlroy is perfectly equipped to take it all in his stride, according to Darren Clarke, Europe's new Ryder Cup captain.

While the rest of the world inevitably focuses on McIlroy's prospects of becoming only the sixth golfer to complete a career Grand Slam, Clarke insists the challenge is not as daunting for the Holywood star as many might think.

Why? Because Clarke believes McIlroy can be absolutely secure in the knowledge that he'll definitely don the Green Jacket one day.

Clarke said: "If Rory doesn't win at Augusta in a few weeks' time, he'll win next year. And if he doesn't win next year, then he'll win it the year after. His game is perfect for that golf course. He's going to win there. It's only a question of when, he's that good.

"He's got the shots, he's got the touch, he hits the ball both ways, flights it whatever way he wants. He's got soaring, high long-irons like Tiger," the Ulsterman added.

Clarke shook his head as he thought back to meeting McIlroy for the first time when the youngster celebrated his ninth birthday at Royal Portrush and how he welcomed him into his Foundation aged 12.

Thirteen years later, McIlroy, now the king-maker in European golf, played a decisive role in the appointment of both Paul McGinley and successor Clarke as Ryder Cup captain.

"Rory's so much more comfortable now in his role as World No 1 than he was the first time he had it," Clarke said. "This time he really seems to be enjoying it. He had that something special about him when he first came to the foundation as a young kid and he still has it now. He's a remarkable young man."

Is McIlroy a worthy favourite? The Holywood ace himself said: "Given the way I've been playing, I'd say no, though it depends on how far back you want to go to look at previous results and all that stuff. I'm not a bookkeeper. I mean there are a lot of guys playing well enough to be up there, but maybe not the favourite."

This 'kid' really is 'the man' … and he knows it!

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