Belfast Telegraph

Make us smile at The Masters Rory McIlroy, just like Seve Ballesteros

By Steven Beacom

By now I reckon just about everyone on the planet knows that Rory McIlroy will complete golf's Major Grand Slam if he wins the Masters tournament.

Even the millions of young One Direction fans around the globe, still coming to terms with the departure of popular band member Zayn, are excited by the prospect.

It's true. I don't make this sort of stuff up. All those passionate Directioners will be rooting for Rory after Niall Horan acted as his caddy in the annual par three competition yesterday.

The combination was as rare as an albatross at Augusta because our Holywood hero actually found himself in the company of an Irishman more popular than him. Well, at least with pre-teens!

Regardless, the pair of them enjoyed themselves at the mecca of golf before the serious business for McIlroy started today.

He's only 25 and has already won the US Open (2011), US PGA Championship (2012 & 2014) and The Open Championship (2014).

Should last year's Masters winner Bubba Watson be helping Rory into a green jacket in the Butler Cabin on Sunday night, the Northern Ireland native will join a fabled list of Grand Slam golfers who have won all four Major tournaments.

They are Gene Sarazen (seven Major victories overall), Ben Hogan (9), Gary Player (9), Jack Nicklaus (18) and Tiger Woods (14).

Some list, eh?

The Grand Slam hype has been in overdrive for weeks now. Months even.

Perhaps that's why no one seems to have noticed that should Rory emerge victorious at Augusta, he will move to FIVE Major wins, the same number achieved by the magical, mercurial Seve Ballesteros in his entire career.

Think of Seve and I see images of him pulling off impossible shots, pumping his fists in triumph, frowning with frustration in failure, those Ryder Cup heroics and his unrivalled magnetism and charisma on a golf course.

It was Ballesteros, more than anyone, who brought the game to the masses. He drew the crowds and transformed European golf in the process.

Without his influence in the 80s, there would not be the money, the sponsors and television that is around now for players of McIlroy's awesome ability right down to the journeymen professionals.

Seve was the people's champion and from time to time the best player of them all, like in 1980, 35 years ago, when he became the first European to win the Masters, breaking through a barrier for Bernhard Langer, Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle, Ian Woosnam and Jose Maria Olazabal to follow.

Rory can be next.

Seve, who passed away in 2011 from brain cancer aged 54, won two Masters titles and three Opens.

The Spaniard didn't get close to winning the Grand Slam, never finishing higher than third at the US Open and fifth at the US PGA, but he did make sports fans sit up and smile.

Rory, by playing and winning in that stylish manner of his, could do the same this week.

History awaits the Holywood star.

You get the feeling Seve would approve.

Belfast Telegraph


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