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Is Harrington right? Will Tiger's absence pile pressure on Rory?

The eyes of the golfing world will be on one young Hollywood native at next week’s British Open. Pádraig Harrington reckons McIlroy he would have welcomed Woods’ presence.

PÁDRAIG HARRINGTON SAYS the eyes of the golfing world will be on Rory McIlroy at the Open Championship in Sandwich, now that Tiger Woods has pulled out. Is he right?

- NO

I don’t think it makes the slightest bit of difference.

McIlroy is no shrinking violet at the best of times but his confidence will be sky high after beating one record after another at Congressional.

The 22-year-old finally managed to add skilful calculation to the showier elements of his brilliant game, clinically seeing out his final round in a two-under 69. Gone was the flashiness of his earlier rounds but in its place came a determination not to replicate his breakdown at the US Masters in April.

The manner in which he immediately shrugged that catastrophic final round off was impressive, but to put his words into action at the next available Major shows that McIlroy has what it takes to correct his mistakes and become one of the greats of the game.

The Holywood man does not need Harrington to tell him the level of focus he is facing next weekend, he will know that himself.

Should he fail to replicate his Congressional form at Sandwich, detractors will echo Colin Montgomerie’s stance that McIlroy should have played some competitive golf between the two Majors. His appearances at Haye v Klitschko, at Wimbledon and at the openings of several envelopes will be used as a stick to beat him with.

However, the man himself knows that a top-10 finish, or better, is the best way to silence the doubters and prove that a well-earned rest does not mean the loss of focus.

Expect Rory McIlroy to shrug off any Tiger comparisons, or any words of wisdom from the likes of Harrington and Montgomerie, and just play to win.

- Tony Cuddihy


RORY MCILOY’S LAST competitive golf shot came on Congressional’s 18th hole. His next will come next Thursday on Sandwich’s first tee-box when he is introduced to the gallery for the first time as the 2011 US Open Champion.

A quick look at the calendar tells us that Rors has been out of action for about three-and-a-half weeks, hardly an excessive amount of time. But in that very short period, the world of golf has changed dramatically, and that is a reality which the 22-year-old will have to adjust to very quickly.

Rory hasn’t been living in a bubble since his stunning US Open success. In fact, he’s probably gotten more attention from both media and public over the past few weeks than he has in the rest of his life.

Thus far, he appears to be handling the limelight in the mature and unassuming manner which makes him so likable. But the fact remains that he is yet to carry his “golden boy” tag through a tournament, with all of the pressure and fanfare which that will entail.

I don’t doubt that Rory has prepared for The Open as he sees fit, but Harrington’s comments serve as a timely reminder that next week will not be business as usual.

It will be anything but.

We all know the stats about Rory’s performances in Majors over the past 12 months. On each occasion though, he has crept in slightly under the radar – hardly a shock for a youngster with only two Tour victories to his name.

Next week, there will be no chance of that happening. The Holywood kid would have dominated the headlines even if Tiger had been fit to compete. Now, with Woods deciding to give the Sandwich jamboree a miss, there will be nobody to share the spotlight, nobody to deflect a little bit of the media glare.

Next week, Rory is the story – the only story. Between now and then, he’ll do very well to consider exactly what that means.

- Niall Kelly

 The bookies have McIlroy as 6-1 favourite to win his second Major on the bounce. Will you be backing him?

READ - In the swing: Comparing Ricky and Rory is a dangerous game

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