Padraig Harrington, back during the 2011 U.S. Open, remarked that Rory McIlroy, and not Tiger Woods, would break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships.
While he may have seemed prescient, if not just a tad premature, after the young Northern Irishman romped to an eight-stroke rout at Congressional Country Club on the way to his first major, Paddy recently suggested that McIlroy reminded him more of Phil Mickelson than Eldrick Tont.
“Rory is compared to Tiger a lot, but maybe he's more like Phil Mickelson: very talented, very streaky,” Harrington said in a recent extensive interview with Golf Magazine.
“Hot and cold spells,” including several missed cuts and multiple victories in 2012, a season in which Rory won his second major by the same eight-shot margin, led Harrington to conclude that McIlroy bore more of a resemblance to four-time major winner Mickelson. Indeed, Lefty’s 2013 season is something of a microcosm of his distinguished career, with a win and four additional top-5 finishes amid some lackluster results, including two MCs.
“That’s who Rory is,” said Harrington, who overlooked the fact that McIlroy had not come close to a tour victory since last September at the BMW Championship. “And as Rory accepts that that's his style -- and he's starting to -- he'll start to peak more every week, because he won't push to make things happen.
“He'll relax, press less, let his game come to him,” said Harrington about McIlroy, who conceded earlier this week that expectations from friendly crowds at the Irish Open “suffocated” him with over-the-top expectations. “When he pushes for those results every week, he gets frustrated and it knocks his confidence back.”
One player to whom McIlroy bears no likeness these days is his 2012 world-beating, dual-money-title, player-of-the-year self. Since his very public equipment change, which may or may not be coincidental with his poor play, the 24-year-old from Holywood whom countryman Graeme McDowell dubbed Woods’ heir apparent has struggled mightily. There was the season-opening missed cut in Abu Dhabi, the controversial withdrawal from the Honda Classic, and most recently, a 2-over 74 start to this week’s Irish Open.
"At the moment, no aspects of my game are strong and I'm just feeling a bit lost at the moment," McIlroy told reporters after his less-than-stellar round. "It feels good on the range and I can hit all the shots but when I get out on the course it really does not seem to be there.”
At even-par through five holes of his second round at Carton House GC, McIlroy was in danger of missing another weekend, with the projected cut line at even-par.
Harrington, by the way, also changed his tune about Woods, who, the three-time major winner now believes, will eventually overtake Nicklaus.
"I think he passes Jack for 19 major wins. Time is on his side. He's still the best player in the world," Harrington said. "His game is suited to winning majors, and if he plays great, he definitely wins. The difference today is that his ‘B’ game doesn't win majors anymore. Other players have improved."