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McIlroy will be Major star, says Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus has backed Rory McIlroy to repeat his US Open golf success by bagging more Major glory.

Ahead of Rory’s return to top level golf at next week’s Open Championship, legend Nicklaus (71) insisted the 21-year-old Holywood star is no one-hit wonder.

The Golden Bear, whose 18 Majors record McIlroy is incredibly tipped to beat, also played down fears that Rory may have affected his preparations for the Open at Royal St George’s in a hectic three-week time-out from competitive golf since his US triumph.

A whirl of social and media engagements ended as Rory took in the Klitschko-Haye fight in Hamburg and yesterday’s Wimbledon final, featuring pal Rafa Nadal.

Nicklaus, who has previously advised Rory and knows his mentality, observed: “That’s a long break.

“I understand that Rory has had a pretty hectic schedule, with TV and sponsors’ engagements and visiting Wimbledon. The one thing I imagine he hasn’t done much of lately is play golf.

“If he has a disappointing Open then I’m sure people will say it was too long. We’ll find out soon enough if it has recharged his batteries or drained them.

“I always found that well-timed breaks from golf could be healthy for the mind and the game, but each golfer has to determine what’s best for them.

“Rory isn’t the first player to build his schedule and strategy around the Majors. Ben Hogan did it, Bobby Jones did it, I did it and Tiger Woods has done it.

Nicklaus also shared his belief that Rory will not prove to be a one-hit wonder following his stunning US Open success last month.

“Of course, there are huge expectations on him after what he did at Congressional,” Nicklaus said.

“Almost immediately there was talk that he would be the man to challenge my majors record. Time will tell if he will become a multiple winner, but the one scenario I cannot imagine is that he will turn out to have been a one-hit wonder.”

Nicklaus has seen all the young pretenders across five decades come and go. Does he think McIlroy has the game, the strength of character and the maturity to stick around for a while? Will he stand out from that crowd?

“He's already a good player, but I'm convinced he's going to become a really good player. I like his golf swing and I like his attitude. Does he have the potential to dominate? Yes, if he keeps his head screwed on properly, and he does the things he has to do to improve.”

McIlroy’s priorities in placing trophies before earnings earned the Nicklaus nod of approval, too.

“Are you playing golf to make a living or are you playing to be the best?” he asked. “Those are two very different things.

“It takes a lot of work to get to be in Tiger Woods’ position or Rory's position, and some players just don't want to do it. I can't fault that; it's their call, their life. But if they want to be the best, then they've got to approach things differently.”

lThomas Levet, ranked only 352nd in the world, won his home French Open yesterday, 25 years after he first played in it.

The 42-year-old former Ryder Cup player beat Dane Thorbjorn Olesen and England's Mark Foster by a shot at Le Golf National near Paris.

Olesen missed a par putt of under four feet on the final green and then in the final group long-time leader Foster failed with a 20-foot birdie chance.

Levet shot a closing 70 to take the £442,446 first prize with a seven-under-par total of 277.

Belfast Telegraph


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