SAM Torrance once came close to winning a Rolls-Royce at Dalmahoy. Back paying a visit to the Kirknewton venue before the Scottish Golf Awards, the Largs man hailed Rory McIlroy as the golfing equivalent of the best car in the world.
“My dad [the late Bob] was the coach in our family, but I do watch and I do listen,” said Torrance. “Butch Harmon did an analysis of McIlroy’s swing last year and every point was perfect – address, ball position, takeaway, halfway back, top of the swing, downswing and follow through.”
Even when McIlroy was struggling a bit with his game in the recent WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral, Torrance found himself purring as he watched the world No 1 unleashing shots. “That was as good as I’ve ever seen a golf club swung,” he added. “Every time I watched him, you felt, yes, it was just beautiful. It couldn’t be better.
“I thought Tiger [Woods] in the 90s was just about as good as it gets, while Adam Scott has the same sort of swing and won The Masters, but I think McIlroy has the best swing. Most golfers, they’re either great drivers or great iron players. Greg Norman, for example, was the best driver I ever saw. But McIlroy’s both.”
In just over a fortnight’s time, McIlroy will set out in a bid to try to cement his place among the sport’s pantheon of greats by becoming, at the age of 25, just the sixth player to complete a career Grand Slam. “For him to do that would be extraordinary, but, really, I’m not that bothered whether he wins it or not,” declared Torrance, making it clear that whatever happens at Augusta National in this season’s first major won’t necessarily be a defining moment in McIlroy’s career.
As far as his own career is concerned, Torrance is embarking on his 46th season in the paid ranks. He’s recovering from a recent knee operation but is hoping to be firing on all cylinders again before too long. “It was just clearing out,” he said of the surgery. “I had a wee slip in Mauritius towards the end of the year. I was a wee bit exuberant on the dance floor and fell. That didn’t do the damage, it just unsettled it. It was always going to have to get done. I’ve had both knees done and both ankles done. Hope it’s not making its way upwards!”
He’s particularly excited about the Senior Open Championship visiting Sunningdale, his home club, this summer. Later in the season, he is also looking forward to the Scottish Senior Open’s first staging at Archerfield Links, although he understandably has mixed feelings about that event no longer being held on the course bearing his name at Fairmont St Andrews.
“It’s a shame we won’t be at Fairmont again because it’s such a beautiful spot, but Archerfield is magnificent so I have no qualms about going there. Also, I’ve always played rubbish at Fairmont, so maybe I’ll have better luck at Archerfield.”
Woods, of course, hasn’t had much luck in anything he’s done over the past few months – a dose of the chipping yips forced him into an enforced hibernation – and Torrance rates the 14-times major winner as being “doubtful” for The Masters.
“I’d love him to be there, but he won’t do anything unless he’s right,” he said, before questioning whether Woods still had the hunger to win titles. “I wonder if they took away all Tiger’s money and possessions, how quickly his game would come back?” he added. “I hope to God he isn’t burned out, but he’s had a hectic career, really, as 14 majors is quite substantial.
“Tiger is 40 next birthday. I can’t compare myself with Tiger, but I had my best year when I was 43. So there could be plenty left in Tiger. I’d love to see it.”
Like many, Torrance is puzzled as to why Woods has become so horrific with a lob wedge in his hands close to the green, pointing out that Augusta National, with its run offs and tight lies, is not the place to be playing if you are struggling in that department.
“Five yards from the green, it’s a simple shot,” said the 61-year-old. “It’s a natural thing, just sweep it up on to the green. But, when you start thinking about method, well. Maybe he has become too analytical in the last four or five years, changing coaches. He’s started to think about everything in the game.”
Being back at Dalmahoy, where he won the 1985 Scottish PGA Championship and the Scottish Senior Open in 2006, certainly got Torrance thinking about one that got away in his career. “I had a putt for a Rolls-Royce here once,” he recalled with a smile. “That was the prize for making a two on the 18th and in those days, the 17th and 18th at Dalmahoy were driveable, they were great finishing holes. It was a two-tier green and I drove it to the front of it and had a putt for an effin’ Rolls-Royce. I putted it off the back of the green… there was no way I was going to be short.”