Rory McIlroy’s accomplishments this season have helped him join Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Seve Ballesteros among the pantheon of golfing greats, according to former European Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance.
Torrance, who was able to get a close-up view of the way the world No 1 operates when he worked as a deputy to victorious captain Paul McGinley in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles last month, said he was mesmerised by what he saw.
“Rory is as good as I’ve seen in a long, long time,” the 61-year-old Scot said. “He’s got everything. Butch Harmon did an analysis of his swing and every single pinpoint part was in a perfect position,” added Torrance, referring to one of the game’s leading coaches. “I don’t think Rory can get much better and I fancy him to win any tournament he plays in.
“Every ten or 20 years someone like him comes along. Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Seve Ballesteros, Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo, these guys only come along every once in a while and Rory has now arrived and is here to stay.”
McIlroy won this year’s Open and US PGA Championship, taking his total of major victories to four, and was an integral member of the European team that beat the US by 16½ points to 11½ at the Ryder Cup.
The 25-year-old Northern Irishman was the star of the show in the final-day singles, firing seven birdies and an eagle in a spectacular 14-hole burst to dispatch Rickie Fowler 5 & 4.
“His start on the Sunday, 3-3-3-3-3, to go five up on one of the young American lions was extraordinary,” said Torrance, a representative of Standard Life Investments, worldwide partner of the Ryder Cup. “That’s something Rory has got, the ability to turn it on. I watched him up close at Gleneagles and it was like something I’ve never seen before.”
Torrance, who has a proud Ryder Cup history having captained Europe to victory at The Belfry in 2002 and holed the winning putt as a player at the same venue 17 years earlier, said it was a real eye-opener to be back inside the ropes last month. “It’s been a long time, 12 years, since I was last in the team room and to be invited back was a huge honour,” said the 21-times European Tour winner.
“The highlight for me was to be able to watch the way the players these days hit the golf ball. It’s a game I’m unfamiliar with, the distance they hit it, the clubs they hit for their irons, and it’s wonderful to watch.
“Everything about the European team was exceptional. The team effort, the way the players gelled, the way they looked after each other and the companionship in the team room.”
Torrance also said Irishman McGinley’s leadership skills were exceptional. “He was as good a captain as there has ever been,” he explained. “Paul was meticulous in everything he did… it was a different style to anything I’ve ever seen.
“The team meetings every night, his involvement with the caddies, the people he got to come in and talk in the team room. He was positive, he was vocal, he spoke to everybody. His involvement with the caddies was special, he gave them a very high position that week, they had lunch with us in the team room all the time and it led to a great atmosphere.
“His speeches at night, in the team meetings, were extraordinary, and for me it was just great to be a part of.”
Meanwhile, Ryder Cup winner Lee Westwood has criticised the United States team for airing “dirty laundry in public” after their defeat at Gleneagles, where American veteran Phil Mickelson openly criticised the captaincy of Tom Watson, sat a few feet away from him, at the post-tournament press conference.
“I think it’s a little bit disappointing to see the dirty laundry being out in public,” said Westwood. “I’m just pleased that I don’t have to sort it all out because I don’t like to see people’s great reputations being brought down by something that shouldn’t really happen in public.”