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Feherty backs McIlroy to be a Major force for years to come

By Liam Kelly

Rory McIlroy can achieve double figures in Major championship victories.

That's the verdict of former Ryder Cup player and highly successful US television commentator David Feherty.

Feherty interviewed newly crowned Dubai Duty Free Irish Open champion McIlroy at Carton House yesterday, where the Holywood man was hosting a golf clinic for the Northern Ireland football squad ahead of their Euro 2016 adventure.

McIlroy got no mercy from the irreverent Bangor-born Feherty, who started his career as assistant professional at Holywood GC 19 years before the future four-time Major champion was born.

McIlroy turned up late for the chat with Feherty for the Golf Channel - understandably, after celebrating his epic win in a dramatic finish at The K Club on Sunday.

"He got wrecked, but not totally wrecked. He needed a couple of Advil this morning," said Feherty.

No worries. Feherty is a huge fan and, when Majors are mentioned, he takes an optimistic view.

"For Rory to have won four so far is fantastic. Can he win double figures? Absolutely," said Feherty. "He's, what, 27? And the shape he's in...

"The way Rory swings a club, he's not doing himself any damage. It's a beautiful free-flowing swing, with lots of long straight lines in it.

"There's nothing crunched up in it. There's a number of them in the game now who could win a lot of Majors, but there's a lot of things that can go wrong, too."

Just over 20 years have passed since Feherty finished up as a Tour pro. He had won five times on the European Tour and played in the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island before a divorce and the loss of his playing rights on the PGA Tour necessitated a new career.

Enter CBS Sports, and a job as an on-course reporter and analyst. Feherty's spiky humour and refusal to be corralled made him a huge hit, and then Tiger Woods came on the scene in 1996. The rest is history.

"I ended up being in the right place when they were looking for somebody in television. I jumped at it," said Feherty.

Last January, he started a new job with NBC Sports and The Golf Channel but the brief is still basically the same - just be himself and keep the viewers informed and entertained.

He got up close and personal regularly with Woods as part of his on-course duties over the years, and right now, Feherty fears the end is nigh.

He believes that the big obstacle after Woods' back operations is that the problem appears to be in soft tissue and nerves.

"I think he has the feeling if he doesn't make it back this time, or it's not successful this time, that he might be done, from a physical standpoint," he said.

"There must be something about the game that has him hooked, because he can buy one of the Bahamas and declare himself a republic."

Meanwhile, a hoarse-sounding McIlroy said that he enjoyed the post-victory celebrations.

"If I couldn't have celebrated last night, I would never have celebrated. To be there and enjoy it with friends and family, there are not many times you get to be with everyone after a win, so it was very special," said McIlroy.

The three-wood 256-yard shot to the green at the par-five 16th will stand to McIlroy for years to come. He considered it one of the best of his career. Most definitely, in the circumstances.

"I needed to take the bull by the horns," he explained. "That was the shot that won the tournament."

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