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McIlroy has talent to emulate Nicklaus, says former Ryder Cup skipper

Forget Tiger’s 14, Brian Huggett reckons McIlory should aim for Nicklaus.

World number one Rory McIlroy.
World number one Rory McIlroy.
Image: Warren Little

FORMER RYDER CUP captain Brian Huggett believes Rory McIlroy has the “natural talent” to threaten Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major wins.

McIlroy has enjoyed a sensational run of form in recent weeks, claiming The Open Championship and US PGA Championship titles either side of a victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

The second of the 25-year-old’s three successive wins lifted him back to the top of the official world golf rankings.

And having seen McIlroy double his major tally in 2014, Huggett would not be surprised to see the Northern Irishman eventually get close to Nicklaus’ legendary mark.

Tiger Woods had been strongly tipped to one day surpass Nicklaus, but would appear to face a stiff challenge in adding to his 14 major successes.

Woods has been blighted by injuries in recent years and last triumphed in one of golf’s premier events back in 2008.

Huggett — Britain and Ireland’s Ryder Cup captain in 1977 after six appearances as a player — said: “I think we’ve definitely seen the best of Tiger, but he could still do well enough to maybe nick one more major.

“But I don’t think he’ll be able to get anywhere near Jack Nicklaus’ record now, [and that is] probably down to his fitness.

“I can definitely see McIlroy getting near Woods’ 14, where he stands at the moment. Because he started so young, winning his majors, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did maybe get near Jack Nicklaus also.

“I can’t see anybody else in the world at the moment even threatening 14. But I could see McIlroy, because he’s got such a natural talent, threatening Jack Nicklaus’ record one day - maybe in 10 or 15 years’ time.”

Woods ruled himself out of next month’s Ryder Cup on Wednesday in order to fully recover from back trouble.

Huggett believes Woods’ absence puts extra pressure on Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, McIlroy’s nearest challengers at Valhalla last week together with Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.

“Mickelson will have to have the lead role,” he added. And in the last three or four months Rickie has moved so far up the rankings [on the back of top-five finishes at every major in 2014].

“If America do win, it will because of those two. They will be pulling other people along and their own playing performances [will be crucial].

“They are definitely the two stars in the American team now.”

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