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‘It’s only a question of time’: Darren Clarke backs Rory McIlroy to end major drought as pair tee it up at The Open 

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Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy at Royal St George’s yesterday. Credit: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy at Royal St George’s yesterday. Credit: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

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High hopes: Shane Lowry will make early start to the defence of his Open crown. Credit: Oisin Keniry/Getty Images

High hopes: Shane Lowry will make early start to the defence of his Open crown. Credit: Oisin Keniry/Getty Images

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Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy at Royal St George’s yesterday. Credit: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Former Open champion Darren Clarke believes “it’s only a question of time” until his good friend Rory McIlroy starts winning Major Championships again, but only if the Holywood man can get his mindset right.

The 2011 Open champion, who returns to the scene of his triumph this week hoping to join the legendary Harry Vardon and Walter Hagen as two-time winners at Royal St George’s, believes McIlroy is too talented not to be in the winner’s circle at one of golf’s premium events again.

The Northern Ireland pair played a practice round together yesterday ahead of the start of the 149th Open Championship — as they did in 2011 and when McIlroy won at Hoylake in 2014 — and Clarke is confident his countryman won’t end his career with just four Majors to his name.

“Who am I to give Rory McIlroy suggestions on what he should and shouldn’t be doing?” laughed Clarke. “The guy with the amount of talent (he has), he’s one of the best in the world, and I’ve been fortunate to play with a lot of them: Ernie Els, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory, all the greatest players.

“If you have the right mindset then you allow yourself to perform, and I think Rory has been working really hard on that. Believe me, I spoke to Rory many times when we were playing, and his desire is incredible. He wants to win Major tournaments.

“If I was him, with his amount of talent, hell yeah I’d be frustrated. But the flipside of that is because the talent that he does have, it’s only a question of time.”

The 52-year-old was the winner the last time The Open was held at Royal St George’s and comes into this week’s event hoping he can repeat the feat at a place he is very fond of, which would be an even bigger shock than when he won it 10 years ago.

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“To come back as the guy who won it last time is a huge privilege,” beamed Clarke, who tees off at 8.25am with Bernd Wiesberger and amateur Joe Long. “All I wanted from a kid when practising was to get my name on the Claret Jug, and I was able to do that here, so this is always going to be very special to me.”

McIlroy gets under way at 3.21pm with Patrick Reed and Cameron Smith, while Shane Lowry begins his defence of the Claret Jug alongside US Open champion Jon Rahm and Louis Oosthuizen at 9.58am.


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