THE RORY I KNOW

McIl­roy’s friends, con­tem­po­raries and com­peti­tors re­veal what they re­ally think about him as a golfer and a man.

Golf Asia (Malaysia) - - PROFILE -

DAR­REN CLARKE

“I get asked about Rory a lot be­cause we come from the same part of the world. All I can say is that he’s a spe­cial tal­ent. That is ob­vi­ous. But more than that, he’s an ex­cep­tional hu­man be­ing. He’s so ma­ture for some­one who is not yet 30. Dur­ing my time as Ry­der Cup cap­tain he was a more than use­ful sound­ing board and so an enor­mous as­set to me both on and off the course.”

LEE SLAT­TERY

“One of the big things for me was when Rory switched from Titleist clubs to Nike. His game went back a lit­tle when he did that. Now, how­ever, he’s free to use what­ever clubs he wants and it’s show­ing. He’s been the best player for the last five years and he’s swing­ing the best he ever has right now. He drives it bet­ter than any­one – and that is such an ad­van­tage in to­day’s game. If he drove the ball for me, I’d be a lot higher in the world rank­ings than I am now!”

THOMAS BJORN

“There are very few nat­u­ral tal­ents in the game like Rory. But nat­u­ral tal­ent doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily make you a com­plete player. Rory has im­proved on that score ev­ery year. He’s al­ways been a great driver – and that hasn’t changed – but when he is a lit­tle off he’s now so much bet­ter than he was ear­lier in his ca­reer. That’s down to hard work, im­proved fit­ness and his un­der­stand­ing. He’s be­come so much bet­ter at iden­ti­fy­ing his weak­nesses – and he works hard on them. So many pros sim­ply play to their strengths and ac­cept they will be good once in a while. Rory doesn’t do that. He has made his ‘bad’ golf bet­ter, which is what Tiger did.”

THORBJORN OLESEN

“Like most peo­ple,

I think he’s the best player in the game. And he has been for the last six or seven years. He has a dif­fer­ent gear to ev­ery­one else – and when he finds that gear, he wins by a lot of shots. He has such a nat­u­ral flair. He’s not me­chan­i­cal at all. I love to play with him, watch him swing and hit the ball. It’s so nat­u­ral and free. And he’s still get­ting bet­ter right through the bag. I can see him win­ning many more ma­jors.”

BILLY HORSCHEL

“The first time I saw Rory in per­son was when I played against him in the 2007 Walker Cup at Royal County Down. I’d heard of him and we knew he was their best player and that peo­ple were ex­pect­ing a lot from him. Right away I could tell he was ul­tra tal­ented. I was im­pressed with his game. But I’m not sure there was a time when I thought, ‘Wow, he’s go­ing to do some im­pres­sive stuff.’ I think some­times early in his ca­reer he strug­gled to close the deal and win. Once he fig­ured it out though, that’s when I knew he’d have an im­pres­sive ca­reer. His tal­ent is top three of our gen­er­a­tion and I’d say top 10 of all time.”

JUSTIN THOMAS

“My first mem­ory of see­ing Rory up close was four years ago out at the Bear’s Club near where we both live in the Jupiter,

Florida area. I was just 19 and not even on the PGA

Tour yet. He was al­ready a ma­jor cham­pion and a su­per­star. I was hit­ting balls next to him. There aren’t many play­ers I stop to watch hit, but he was one of them. Just see­ing him hit long irons and driv­ers is so im­pres­sive. We’ve since be­come friends and had some good money games there, or up at Medal­ist, too.

We’ve had a lot of fun.”

BERND WIES­BERGER

“It’s hard to say enough about Rory. He’s the best player on our tour and maybe the best in the world. But even bet­ter is his per­son­al­ity and the ca­ma­raderie he shows to ev­ery­one else out here. He’s so nice to the other play­ers, he’s so sup­port­ive of the younger guys and he sup­ports so many with their char­i­ties and foun­da­tions. It’s re­mark­able. It’s so im­por­tant for us that he plays as of­ten as pos­si­ble in Europe.”

SMYLIE KAUF­MAN

“Rory is only a cou­ple of years older than me, but he turned pro much ear­lier than I did so I re­mem­ber watch­ing him a lot when I was grow­ing up. I al­ways en­joyed it be­cause I feel like we have sim­i­lar styles of play and he al­ways walked around with a swag­ger that he was go­ing to be great, es­pe­cially the way he just bounded up the fair­way. I think he can make the game look ex­tremely easy when he’s play­ing his best. It looks like he can’t miss a shot. But the thing that was most im­pres­sive was his old hair­cut. Man, his curly ’fro was just awe­some.”

TREVOR IMMELMAN

“I’m so im­pressed by Rory in many dif­fer­ent ways. His golf is ob­vi­ously tremen­dous. At his best he ri­vals how Tiger used to play. To be fair, Tiger did that for years on end; Rory hasn’t quite found that for­mula yet, but I’m sure he will. He’s so much fun to watch be­cause he be­lit­tles cour­ses with his tal­ent. But I’m more im­pressed by the stuff he does off course and how he con­ducts him­self. The re­ac­tion he got in the South African Open this year was tremen­dous. He’s so hon­est and au­then­tic and peo­ple nat­u­rally grav­i­tate to­wards that. In terms of that pop­u­lar­ity, he will have longevity. If you’re putting on a bit of a front, you’ll get caught out even­tu­ally. Rory will not.”

BRADLEY DREDGE

“So many am­a­teurs ar­rive on tour with great rep­u­ta­tions. But they don’t all live up to the hype. Rory has ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions that were al­ready sky-high. I don’t watch a lot of golf when I’m off the tour, but I caught a bit of the re­cent South African Open, in which Rory was play­ing. I told my wife he’s one of the very few golfers I can sit and watch all day. I would even pay money to watch him in ac­tion.”

STEPHEN GALLACHER

“Rory is such an in­spi­ra­tion to young kids. He’s a great guy to be around and he’s so level-headed. He has so many fine qual­i­ties. And no mat­ter where he is play­ing around the world, he never for­gets where he came from. He al­ways has a minute for ev­ery­one and I’ve never seen him walk past a fel­low player with­out some sort of greet­ing. He’s a great role model in that re­spect. And his golf, it goes with­out say­ing, is spe­cial. Look at the way he can blow away the fields in ma­jors. In so many ways he’s spe­cial. I al­ways play bet­ter when I’m drawn with him. His rhythm and tim­ing seem to rub off on me. He flushes it.”

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