Player tips McIlroy

Golf legend Gary Player has tipped world number two Rory McIlroy to claim the Green Jacket ahead of the start of the Masters at Augusta on Thursday.

The 22-year-old Northern Irishman fell apart in the final round of last year’s championship having looked well set for victory – shooting a triple-bogey, bogey and double bogey on the back nine to card a round of 80 and finish four under.

Player, who will hit the ceremonial opening drives along with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer on Thursday morning, believes the memory of 2011 can spur McIlroy on to success at this year’s Masters.

“I think Rory has a little revenge in his heart for the golf course. You remember last year he was playing so well and was leading and he had that collapse in the final round with an 80,” said the 76-year-old.

“The way he recovered from that upset at the US Open a couple of months later showed what maturity he has. The disappointment might have seriously affected a less mentally strong young man.”

Player also expects Tiger Woods to be in the running for his 15th major title after an encouraging start to the 2012 season.

The four-time Masters winner ended a drought of more than two years without a PGA Tour victory when he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at the end of March and is in good form as he seeks a first major since 2008.

Player believes a confident Woods will be “very, very tough at Augusta” and has the ability to overhaul Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championship wins in the coming years.

“He is a man with such focus and dedication and hunger, I don’t see anyone else quite like that in the game of golf today,” added Player.

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