Clarke backs McIlroy for golfing domination

Next stop the Augusta Masters for Rory McIlroy
Next stop the Augusta Masters for Rory McIlroy

Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke believes it is just a matter of time before Rory McIlroy completes the career grand slam by winning the Masters.

McIlroy is aiming to claim his third major in succession at Augusta next month and become only the sixth player to have won all four major titles after Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

And while Clarke is focused mainly on the part McIlroy can play in helping Europe win an unprecedented fourth straight Ryder Cup at Hazeltine next year, the former Open champion hopes his fellow Northern Irishman can do so as the proud owner of a green jacket.

"He is such a talented young kid I'm sure he will be on the team," Clarke told BBC Radio 5 Live. "In a couple of weeks' time he is going for the career grand slam and I think if he doesn't win it this time, he will win it next time. Or the time after that.

"His game is ideally suited to Augusta, a high soft draw, and as we have all seen, he's got every shot in the bag so there is no reason why he's not going to win around there sooner rather than later.

"He is so much more comfortable in his world number one position this time around than he was the last time. He is a good role model, he works hard, practices hard, he does everything right. I just hope to see him keep on going from strength to strength.

"He was always destined to be where he is at the moment. He's got it all. He had it all from a young age."

One player not certain of being at Augusta is four-time champion Woods, who has been working on his game since shooting a career-worst 82 in Phoenix and then withdrawing injured from the Farmers Insurance Open.

But Clarke (above) hopes the 14-time major winner will be in the United States team next year as they look to end a run of six defeats in the last seven biennial contests.

"I for one hope he is part of their team," Clarke added. "He's a very old friend of mine. I've seen Tiger at his absolute best and it would be great to see him get back to his best again, or somewhere near, because any event with Tiger in it is that little bit more special than when he's not in it.

"If anybody can Tiger Woods can, (because) he's that good. He's gone through a tough time, he's trying to change his golf swing because of his mechanics in his body through his injuries and it's not always that easy to adapt that quickly. But a fit Tiger Woods, people still want to see him play."

Clarke believes he has got "everything he wanted" in terms of the captaincy, with his opposite number confirmed as good friend and 2012 captain Davis Love.

"The more I played in the Ryder Cup, the more I wanted to become captain and, to be honest, if I could have chosen where and when, then it would have been America and now," the 46-year-old said.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed playing there and I have always felt very welcome, so I am particularly delighted that everything I wanted has come to fruition.

"Europe has a chance to make history by winning the Ryder Cup for the fourth time in succession and I am absolutely thrilled to have that opportunity.

"But, whatever happens, I will also do everything in my power to ensure the good name of the game and the true spirit of this incredible match is carried forward.

"What made this honour even more amazing is that Davis Love has been elected American captain. We have been very good friends ever since I first started playing in America and I have the utmost respect for him as both a player and a person.

"It won't stop me doing everything I possibly can to ensure the European team beats his, but whatever the result, we will remain friends first and foremost."