The last man to win The Open at Royal St George’s is backing one of his compatriots to lift the Claret Jug on Sunday night.
Darren Clarke, who sealed his maiden major victory at Sandwich a decade ago, is confident that fellow Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy can emulate him this week and, in so doing, end a major drought that stretches back almost seven years.
Ranked 111th in the world when he came to Royal St George’s in 2011, Clarke finally bagged his long awaited first major as a 200-1 outsider.
The odds are not quite so long for McIlroy, of course, who comes into the final men’s major 2021 in somewhat indifferent form. Despite that, Clarke believes this can be the 32-year-old’s week.
“Rory is so gifted and talented that [it might just be that] just one little thing that clicks in his head and it works for him and he gets out there and he frees up and goes,” he said. “He tried to do it at the US Open for a while. I think those were his words. Didn’t he said he was trying to free things up and go and play?
“He was doing great until Sunday on the 11th when I think he three-whacked the par-3. His mindset was a lot freer there, and let's hope it's the same Rory McIlroy that's here this week and frees up and keeps on doing it.”
Clarke got to see McIlroy’s game at close quarters today as they played an early morning practice round together.
He stopped short, though, of giving him any pointers.
“Who am I to give Rory McIlroy suggestions on what he should be and shouldn't be doing?” he added.
“He's one of the best players 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 in the world.
“At the end of the day you've just got to believe in your own ability and believe to your own talent and trust that it's going to happen, and that's the bottom line.
“Believe me, I spoke to Rory many times when we were playing, and his desire is incredible. He wants to win major tournaments. He wants to perform and he wants to play well.
“If I was him, with his amount of talent, hell yeah I'd be frustrated with not winning tournaments. But with that being said, as I just said there, the flip-side of that is because of the talent that he does have, it's only a question of time before he starts winning.”