If Rory McIlroy hopes to leapfrog Tiger Woods and surpass Jack Nicklaus’ achievement of 18 major championships, he should simply follow the advice of his anticipated future equipment supplier and "Just Do It."
It’s that simple, according to the most recent Rory rooters to go on record predicting that Woods’ presumptive heir apparent will be the one to notch major title No. 19. Forget about Woods’ 12-major advantage over his BFF; the kid from Northern Ireland is a sure-fire, lead-pipe cinch to clinch the record, according to countryman Darren Clarke.
"Tiger in his heyday was incredible to behold, but Rory does possess, as far as I'm concerned and from what I've seen, almost as much talent as Tiger did," Clarke told ESPN UK on Wednesday after receiving an Order of the British Empire honor from the Queen of England. "It will be very interesting, as Rory matures and gets older and he starts racking up those majors, how far he goes."
Clarke, the 2011 British Open winner, added his vote for the world No. 1 to overtake Woods on the majors leaderboard and eventually topple Nicklaus from his throne to those of Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell. Paddy and G-Mac were not shy about predicting other-worldly feats for McIlroy, who, at the time of their forecasts, was lapping them and the rest of the field on his way to his record-breaking first major triumph, the 2011 U.S. Open.
In the meantime, European Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter provided an easy recipe for his teammate and imminent Nike stablemate of Woods to follow on his way to total world domination: capture a grand slam event each season.
"I certainly think Rory would expect to win at least one major a year the way he has been playing," Poulter said during a press conference on Wednesday, ahead of this week’s European Tour season finale, the World Tour Championship in Dubai. "The guy is seriously good. You would expect him to be on the leaderboard come Sunday at most of the majors next year -- I think everybody's impressed by him."
While Poulter stopped short of proclaiming McIlroy the next Tiger or Jack, his formula would indicated that the 23-year-old, who wrapped up his second major in August, would own Nicklaus’ record by the time he turns 40.
Of course, until life, injuries, and his choices caught up with him, Woods was the punditry’s favorite to seize Nicklaus’ crown. The 36-year-old former No. 1, who will be 37 when the 2013 PGA Tour season begins, has not won a major since the U.S. Open in 2008, but claims he has time.
"Well, Jack did it at 46, right?" Woods asked reporters on the eve of this year’s U.S. Open about Nicklaus’ age when the Golden Bear nailed down his 18th major. "So I’ve got 10."