McIlroy the key to Europe's Ryder Cup hopes

TONY JIMENEZ
Last updated 10:55 18/08/2012
Rory McIlroy
Getty Images
RORY MCILROY: Will be the key to Europe's Ryder Cup hopes.

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Twice major winner Rory McIlroy is a "very special" talent and will lift many championship trophies if he carries on the way he is going, said European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal.

The 23-year-old Northern Irishman climbed to the top of the world rankings after following up his runaway eight-shot victory at the 2011 US Open by winning last week's US PGA Championship by the same emphatic margin.

"Rory's performance at (the PGA on) Kiawah Island was outstanding," Olazabal told Reuters in an interview.

"His focus and passion are very special. It is great to see a young man of his age with two majors under his belt and such a strong mind.

"If he continues his work ethic and his love for the game he will achieve more major victories."

It is just over a month before the European holders take on Davis Love III's United States team in the Ryder Cup in Illinois.

Olazabal is busy finalising his plans for the biennial team event and declined to confirm whether McIlroy would reprise his successful 2010 pairing with fellow countryman Graeme McDowell at the Medinah Country Club from September 28-30.

"It is too early to say anything about pairings yet," said the 46-year-old Spaniard. "When we are all in the team room we will do our pairings and have our conversations.

"One thing's for sure though and that is Rory's passion and emotions will be part of the team spirit for sure," added Olazabal, who is also an ambassador for the Nespresso Trophy UK Challenge finals for amateurs at Archerfield Links in Scotland from September 26-28.

EUROPEAN WAIT

McIlroy's victory at Kiawah Island ended a 13-month wait for a European major winner.

Since Darren Clarke's victory at the 2011 British Open, the big four titles had gone to American trio Keegan Bradley (2011 US PGA), Bubba Watson (US Masters) and Webb Simpson (US Open) and to South African Ernie Els at this year's British Open.

Olazabal, however, is not too worried about the strong recent form shown by the Americans at the majors.

"If we were to be concerned that would be the wrong mindset going to Medinah," said the Spaniard.

"I am confident we will have a strong team especially with a number of players finishing among the top 10 on the leaderboard at the British Open and at the US PGA.

"I am not worried about anything... I know how good my players are," he said referring to the likes of McIlroy, world number two Luke Donald, fourth-ranked Lee Westwood, number seven Justin Rose and 13th-ranked McDowell.

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Olazabal, who had a proud Ryder Cup record as a player and formed the most successful partnership in the competition alongside his close friend Seve Ballesteros, said he was particularly pleased at last week's showing by Rose, Ian Poulter and Peter Hanson.

Poulter, who reeled off five birdies in as many holes at the start of his final round on Sunday, fellow Englishman Rose and Swede Hanson all finished in the top 10 at Medinah.

"It was a great performance coming down the stretch by those guys," said Olazabal. "It shows you how good these players are under pressure when it comes to performance at the highest level."

English journeyman David Lynn caused the biggest surprise at the PGA Championship by finishing second in his first tournament appearance in the US.

Olazabal will have two wildcard players to select for his 12-man team after the final Ryder Cup points-counting event, next week's Johnnie Walker Championship in Scotland, but he was reluctant to share too much information on his plans.

"David Lynn performed great last week," said the 1994 and 1999 US Masters champion.

"I have a list of players that I watch closely and it is too early to give any (wildcard) indications now." 

- Reuters

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