Rory McIlroy’s inner steel is transforming him into one of golf’s greats, says Paul McGinley.
The World No 1 birdied three of the last four holes to card a third round 67 in the PGA Championship at Valhalla – a run that gives him a one-shot advantage over Austria's Bernd Wiesberger.
Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day are a further shot back – while a further four players are just four shots off the lead.
But European Ryder Cup captain McGinley told Sky Sports that McIlroy’s late charge on Saturday proves he has the toughness to close out victory and claim back-to-back Majors.
“We all know how great a golfer he is but what we are really seeing is a steely edge coming to his competitiveness,” McGinley said of The Open champion.
“That’s what Tiger had and that’s what made Tiger so incredibly good. If you put Rory’s game and add that extra flavour of steeliness that is starting to emerge – that ability to just push away, to not play on his game and still push 67 – that’s what is going to make him great.
“The birdie putt on 15 was a very big putt. As he said, there were birdies going in all around him at that stage – they seemed to be hitting it to a foot on every single hole.
“That was a good birdie for him and then he went on to have a great finish on 18 as well; that was an important putt for him to just pull away again.
“He seems to have that extra gear. When somebody gets close, he can just move ahead. Tiger, at his best, had that. Very few people in the game of golf have that ability to push the button when they really need to and it looks like Rory really has that.”
McGinley’s fellow Sky Sports expert Butch Harmon, who coaches final-day contenders Mickelson and Fowler, also paid tribute to McIlroy’s resolve.
He said: “I asked the question at the start of the round ‘Rory McIlroy has played so beautifully for so long, what’s going to happen when he doesn’t have his best stuff?’
“He didn’t have his best stuff out there but what happened? He played fantastic anyway. He’s leading this Championship; it’s unbelievable to me. This is Rory McIlroy’s tournament to win.
“Wiesberger was unbelievable – I never thought he could play that well alongside Phil Mickelson. Now we are going to see if he can hold up playing with Rory.
“Just look at the scores we saw. Everybody on that leaderboard was shooting in the high 60s. It was fantastic golf. Paul McGinley has got to be loving it, because his guys are playing fantastically well.
Can McIlroy win back-to-back Majors? Find out from 4pm on Sky Sports 4, with McIlroy teeing off at 7.55pm.