Tom Watson impressed with Rory McIlroy's stunning winning run
Last Updated: 11/08/14 5:55pm
Tom Watson believes Rory McIlroy’s stunning form over the last month could lead to him dominating golf for years to come.
McIlroy followed up his Open Championship triumph with victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship to consolidate his position at the top of the world rankings.
The 25-year-old also won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May to spark a return to form after being hampered by issues both on and off the course in 2013.
Watson insisted it is too early to tell if McIlroy can dominate the game in the way Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have done, but he heaped praise on the four-time major winner for his resurgence this summer.
“It’s sensational what he’s done over the last three weeks, winning three weeks in a row,” the American Ryder Cup captain told Sky Sports.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the problems he had with his game last year, and dealing with all the negative parts of how the game of golf can go.
“The main thing is that he’s recovered from that and learned from it and it makes you a stronger golfer. He has run the tables over the last three weeks.
“The way he handles himself, his humour and how nice he is to people, I admire him greatly for that.
“I certainly think he can dominate the game, but time will tell. Let’s see what he’s like in five years and then we can really look back and say that was the beginning of the real Rory McIlroy era.
“He would be a nice one to have on my Ryder Cup team,” added Watson, whose preparations for Gleneagles next month have been severely disrupted by injuries and the withdrawal of Dustin Johnson.
Matt Kuchar was forced to pull out of the PGA Championship before teeing off due to back spasms, while Jason Dufner withdrew after nine holes of the first round at Valhalla with a neck problem.
Johnson, who had qualified for the American team on merit, recently announced that he was taking a six-month break from all golf to deal with unspecified personal issues.
I have talked with Tiger and the main thing about him is that if he’s healthy and playing well I will definitely pick him.
Watson admitted he did not know the extent of the injuries to Kuchar and Dufner, but he remains hopeful that both will be on the plane to Scotland.
“I know that Jason Dufner looked in worse shape than Matt Kuchar at Valhalla. I know a little bit about neck issues having had them myself, and I hope he can recover and give me the opportunity to pick him.
“Matt Kuchar is on the team and, as I understand it, his back problem is only minor and should rectify itself.
“As for Dustin, he won all three of his matches in 2012 and what he brought to the table was his length and his ability to overpower a golf course. He will be missed.”
But Watson was encouraged by the form of Phil Mickelson at Valhalla as the six-time major champion produced his best performance of the season to finish just a shot behind McIlroy.
Mickelson has now qualified outright for the Ryder Cup, and Watson added: “Phil brings a lot to the table. I love the way he plays the game. He plays with the find of passion and focus I love to see in a player.
“You never know quite what you’re going to get with Phil, but that’s the beauty of him and why people watch him.
“But he brings a great enthusiasm to the Ryder Cup team that really helps and I’m looking forward to having him on my team. His experience is also vital – Phil has been on the American team 10 times in a row now.”
But Watson admits the chances of Tiger Woods making the team as a captain’s pick are “up in the air” after he missed the cut at Valhalla.
Woods has yet to recapture form and fitness since returning to action after almost four months out following back surgery in March, and he is not eligible to play in the FedEx Cup play-offs which start on Thursday.
“I have talked with Tiger and the main thing about him is that if he’s healthy and playing well I will definitely pick him,” Watson said.
“But right now that’s up in the air and he has a very short period of time to prove to me that he’s healthy and playing well. Time will tell on that particular issue.
“The main thing right now is how players are going to be playing over the next three weeks. This will be the true decider on who I pick on September 2.
“If players start to get into form and maybe win a tournament, I would have to seriously consider them to be my picks.”