Omega CEO Stephen Urquhart and Rory McIlroy at the announcement
of McIlroy’s new sponsorship deal.

A young man with golfing ambitions dropped into our house the other day on his way back from some practice on the range at the very fine establishment that is Killeen Castle golf club.

The Jack Nicklaus design, as my regular reader might already know, is a drive and a four iron from the front gate of our Meath home and readily accessible if golf weather ever returns to Ireland.

The young man, a close friend of one of the younger Dervans, is a very good golfer. So good that his handicap is neither negative nor positive, scratch for those who don’t follow the game as closely as I do.

His swing is the reason why he’s as good as he is, but I did tell my wife the other day that it is all down to the color of his white belt.

You see, on the day in question, the white belt didn’t really match any part of his golfing attire, quite a feat in a sport where zany color schemes are the norm, especially if your name is John Daly.

And my wife didn’t quite understand on the day in question -- a Sunday as it happens -- why this young fellow was wearing a white belt for no apparent reason other than my theory on its ability to improve your golf swing.

The next morning it suddenly became crystal clear why the white belt is mandatory for all aspiring Rory McIloys as a Sky Sports re-run on the living room TV set featured a galaxy of top golfers with white belts, some of which even matched the trousers they were wearing.

McIlroy will probably wear a white belt again this week. And it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to wear one on Sunday for the final round of the Masters, assuming he gets that far.

I suspect a white belt would match a green jacket as far as the fashion police – and my wife – are concerned. And, if my theory is correct, it might even help Rory’s game around Augusta this week. All white on the night perhaps!

Apologies for that one, but I make no apology for dedicating space to McIlroy this week simply because he deserves it after his performance at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio.

His 66 on Sunday should have been the route (apologies again) to a tournament win a week before the Masters, but it was only good enough for second place because the Scot Martin Laird produced a 63 out of nowhere to take first prize after a dismal start to 2013.

McIlroy wasn’t even meant to be in San Antonio for the first round of the Texas Open on Thursday, never mind be in contention on Sunday.

His plan last week was to spend some time in Haiti in his role as Unicef ambassador and relax ahead of the Masters with a trip to remind him how privileged he is to be one of the world’s top sportsmen.

That was the idea before the Nike Curse upset his form and his plans in the first three months of the biggest sponsorship deal in Irish sports history.

Half an hour before the entries closed for the Texas Open, Rory added his name to the list in an effort to find something approaching form before Augusta. That may yet prove to be one of the best decisions of his career.

The 66 on Sunday proved to Rory that his touch on the greens is coming back, a crucial component for any golfer with designs on the green jacket.

His competitive streak is also in fine fettle ahead of Amen Corner and the attention that will come his way this week.

And, most importantly, Rory’s head appears to be back on his shoulders.

There was no sign of the immaturity that saw him walk off the course in Florida earlier this year when Rory teed it up in Texas from Thursday to Sunday just gone.

He was calm and collected, decisive and disciplined.  All those characteristics will stand to him this coming week.

I am not sure that McIlroy will win the Masters. A well-documented collapse a couple of years back has removed that certainty forever.

But thanks to the decision to play in Texas last week he will certainly contend, and he is certainly well worth a bob or two at my local bookies.

If I see him walk out to the first tee on Sunday with a white belt on, I might even throw a bob or three on Rory for that green jacket. I’ll check the ensemble with the wife first though!

(Cathal Dervan is sports editor of the Irish Sun newspaper in Dublin)

Sideline Views

RUGBY: A 12-year-old Irish kid has earned a recommendation from All-Black legend Dan Carter no less after posting a video of his kicking skills on YouTube. Terenure College player George posted his video with the cheeky tag line “Hey All-Blacks, check this out.” Carter clearly did check it out and was impressed with George’s kicking and handling skills in the video, shot on the estate where he lives in Dublin. After watching the short film, Carter tweeted: “Just got sent this. Future AB??? Actually he is Irish so he might be wearing the Green Jersey one day #FutureStar.” George did tweet Carter back to say he’d love to meet up when the All-Blacks are in Dublin next November – but he had to use his aunt’s Twitter account!

SOCCER: Don’t get too excited about the Spain-Ireland game at Yankee Stadium in June. The Spanish will have a decent side with them ahead of the Confederations Cup in Brazil, but the Irish squad will be makeshift at best so late in the season. We don’t have many stars these days anyway, and I can’t see a lot of them going to New York that late in the season for a meaningless friendly. The scoreline from an Irish perspective could be worse than the 4-0 defeat at the Euros last summer.

GOLF: Speaking of Rory McIlroy, there was a great quote from the Ulsterman this week as he announced details of a new sponsorship agreement with the watchmakers Omega. “At least I’ll be on time for my tee-times now, I guess I won’t be late,” joked Rory in reference to his time-keeping problems at the Ryder Cup last September. If memory serves me right, Rory did enjoy a lucrative deal with another watchmaker back then and it didn’t do him much good.

GAA: It all happened in Donegal on Sunday when Dublin scored a last minute point to draw the game and relegate the All-Ireland champions to Division Two of the National Football League. Now a story has emerged that young Donegal star Paddy McBrearty was bitten on the shoulder during the game and required hospital treatment for the injury on Sunday night. And I thought Bernard Dunne was the boxer working with the Dubs, not Mike Tyson!

HURLING: There is something clearly wrong when Limerick can top Division 1A of the National Hurling League for two years in a row and still not win promotion to the top flight. The playoff between first and second, which Limerick lost to Dublin on Saturday, to decide who goes up has got to be changed.

SOCCER: You gotta love the name of the FAI’s new high performance director, a Dutchman called Ruud Doktor. Now that’s a headline writer’s dream come true.


IRISH rugby is in a bit of a state at international level right now, but the men of Munster offered some hope last weekend and not for the first time. Their Heineken Cup quarterfinal win away to Harlequins was a throwback to the old days, but one man in particular stood head and shoulders above the rest when push came to shove. Paul O’Connell was immense on his return to European action as he proved there is still life in the old dog. Hopefully he will prove that again in an Irish shirt next season.

THE Stade Francais number nine Jerome Fillol is likely to be punished by the rugby authorities after spitting into the face of Bath’s Irish scrum-half Peter Stringer in their Amlin Cup quarterfinal on Saturday. Fillol can be banned for a year at most, but that’s the least he deserves for a despicable act.