Brian Keogh is a golf correspondent for The Irish Sun and a contributor to The Irish Times, Golf Digest Ireland and other golf publications. The following excerpt from Brian’s Irish Golf Desk is used with permission.
The 18-time major winner insisted last week that McIlroy had the game to win between 15 and 20 majors, if he had the inclination. And he saw nothing in the final round of the US PGA to dissuade him from that view as McIlroy came from three shots behind with nine holes to play to win by a stroke from Phil Mickelson. Nicklaus was hugely entertained by the great “theatre” of the final day that saw up to five players share the lead at one stage before McIlroy got back in the mix with that eagle three at the 10th and then put his foot on the accelerator over the closing holes.
“Fantastic,” Nicklaus said of the final round. “It was really a great tournament. It was great theatre. Great golf, actually. It was one of the best tournaments to watch—because of such good play—that I have seen in a long, long time.
“Henrik Stenson played fantastic… Phil Mickelson was unbelievable. Just pure guts and really great golf. And Rickie Fowler was simply terrific. He played well all the way down the stretch, until he couldn’t see at 18. No one could. So let’s just discount what happened at 18, because I just thought Rickie was terrific.
“Then Rory, who got three shots down, showed so much poise, confidence and determination coming down the stretch. The tee shots he hit today, wow. Early on, Rory was just playing along and couldn’t get anything going (2 over after six holes). All of a sudden, everybody else was getting something going. Then Rory got the right break at the 10th hole with a great shot—he made the right break at 10 with that second shot (to set up eagle). He was off and running from there.”
Nicklaus has become something of a mentor to McIlroy in recent years and sees no limits to the young Ulsterman’s potential.
“I think Rory is an unbelievable talent,” said the Golden Bear, who holds the all-time record with 18 majors. “It depends on what he feels his priorities are but I think he has the opportunity to win 15 or 20 majors if he wants to keep on playing.”
McIlroy has tried to flee from high expectations and said earlier in the week at Valhalla that his ambition was simply to get to four majors.
“If that’s Jack’s opinion of me, he has a high opinion of me. I’ve always said I’m on three, and I want to get to four. Hopefully I can get to four this week and then keep going from there,” he said.
Brian Keogh covers golf for The Irish Sun and contributes to a variety of golf publications. Pay him a visit at Irish Golf Desk.