Ryder Cup talisman Poulter believes McIlroy can win at least one Major a year
Rory McIlroy is now so good he should be aiming to win at least one Major championship every year, according to Europe’s Ryder Cup talisman Ian Poulter.
The 23-year-old Northern Irishman already has two Majors to his name and cemented his status as world number one this season by becoming the second player to win the money-lists on both sides of the Atlantic, after Luke Donald achieved the feat in 2011.
“I certainly think Rory would expect to win at least one Major a year the way he has been playing,” Poulter said on the eve of the DP World Tour Championship, the final event on this season’s European circuit.
“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.”
Poulter, who led Europe to a remarkable Ryder Cup comeback win in Illinois in September with a spectacular exhibition of putting, said the emergence of McIlroy and players like American Keegan Bradley would make it hard for the rest to win Majors in the next few years.
“There are so many good players in the world right now, it’s very difficult to win a Major.
“When you’ve got players like Rory and Keegan and [Australian] Adam Scott that you would expect to be there or thereabouts, the Majors are going to be hard to win.”
Poulter was asked if he might consider consulting a mind guru.
“Do you honestly think I need a sports psychologist? Are you crazy?” said the 36-year-old, whose self-belief has been a distinguishing feature of his career since he turned professional with a handicap of four.
“Wow. I think people would pay me a fortune to be a sports psychologist. That’s incredible. I’d certainly like to help out little Luke Poulter and turn him into a little green monster.”
That was a follow-up remark to McIlroy describing his Medinah team-mate as “like the Hulk” that week. “He turned into this big, green putting machine,” said McIlroy, who was Poulter’s partner when he birdied the last five holes of their Saturday fourballs to inspire an incredible recovery from 10-4 down.
Another win this weekend would take Poulter back into the world’s top 10 for the first time in nearly two years and he has good memories of the Earth course.
Poulter was in a play-off with Robert Karlsson two years ago, losing it in bizarre circumstances after he dropped his ball on his marker and by moving it incurred a penalty.
It was in Dubai four years ago that Poulter caused a stir by saying he thought that when he hit his peak he could be the closest challenger to Woods. He is not risking saying the same thing about himself in relation to McIlroy, but this is another chance to move closer. They could finish 2012 as one and two on the European Tour money list.
The tournament is for the circuit’s top 60, but the field is down to 57 with Thomas Bjorn and Retief Goosen out injured and Ross Fisher preparing for the PGA Tour qualifying school next week.
Even though McIlroy has the Order of Merit crown in the bag there are other issues at stake. The top 30 on the final money list earn spots in next year’s British Open at Muirfield and those in the world’s top 50 on Sunday night will be a lot closer to securing places in the US Masters.
At 56th and 57th in the world, Scot Richie Ramsay and Ireland’s Shane Lowry have a chance of making it to the Masters. Ramsay was there as US amateur champion five years ago.
In all, six Irish players – McIlroy, Lowry, Graeme McDowell, Pádraig Harrington, Michael Hoey and Peter Lawrie – have made it to the desert.
McIlroy, however, has the comfort of knowing he can’t be overtaken for the number one spot on the money table.