LONDON (Reuters) - Twice major winner Tony Jacklin believes marriage would help Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler to settle down off the golf course and aid their bid to dominate the sport for the next decade.
Jacklin, who is also the most successful European Ryder Cup captain of all time, says the three young tyros should emulate Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player by finding a long-term partner early in their careers.
“I got married at 21, Gary was married at 20, Jack at 20, Arnold very early, it’s a lonely business winning golf tournaments and you need a companion to confide in,” the 70-year-old Englishman told Reuters in an interview.
”You can go off like a rocket and burn out very quickly. It soon gets boring unless you get support and have a balanced situation at home.
“Rory, Jordan and Rickie are all very young. None of them are married, none has a permanent partner right now and they need to find a companion who will support them in their efforts to be as good as they can be.”
Northern Irishman McIlroy, 26, underlined his status as world number one by winning the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship two weeks ago while American Spieth, 21, claimed an outstanding wire-to-wire victory at the U.S. Masters last month.
Spieth’s fellow countryman Fowler, 26, produced a stunning finish to land the Players Championship, golf’s unofficial fifth major, title in Florida last week.
The trio seem poised to carve out a rivalry for the game’s biggest prizes over the next 10 years but Jacklin said their dreams could be spoiled without a balanced life away from golf.
“I‘m asked all the time about Nicklaus and his 18 major wins and the one thing about Jack was that he managed his life beautifully,” added the 1969 British Open and 1970 U.S. Open champion.
”He had his golf, his family and his golf course design business and between those three things he maintained a tremendous drive over almost three decades. That’s the key to it.
“Young Jordan has been a dominant factor. To come to the fore the way he has in the last 12-14 months has been extraordinary,” said Jacklin who is an ambassador for Magnolia Park Hotel, Golf and Country Club in Oxfordshire (www.magnoliapark.co.uk).
“Rory continues to roar as well ... and to see young Rickie win the Players last week was terrific (but) for all of them it depends on how they balance their lives out.”
Four-times major winner McIlroy ended plans to marry tennis player Caroline Wozniacki 12 months ago but Jacklin, who led Europe to two wins and one tie in four matches in charge of the Ryder Cup team, said a stable partner was integral for his future.
”I think a long-term relationship is going to be very important for Rory to be totally stable,“ he added. ”A growing family, for instance, would keep him well grounded.
“He’s not going to be able to maintain the kind of standard he’s achieved for a long period of time on his own. The human element comes in.”
Jacklin, who is an in-demand after-dinner speaker these days and does occasional TV commentary work, is also concerned Tiger Woods will struggle to regain his pre-eminent position in the game, having gone seven years since winning his 14th major.
”I was pleased for him that he played all four rounds at the Masters and at the Players but he’s nowhere near the Tiger of old,“ said the Englishman. ”If his putting wasn’t brilliant he would have missed the cut at both places.
”Hitting three or four fairways around Augusta and managing to make the cut was nothing less than miraculous. He’s still got a way to go before he can challenge these young fellows.
“It’s great to see him out there but there’s so much pressure every time, so much attention, it’s not easy for him,” said Jacklin.
”I’d love to see him assert himself again ... but it’s going to take a tremendous amount of energy and effort on his part.
“With all he’s done, with all he’s had, why would he want to push himself that hard again? It’s total dedication that’s needed and he’s got a tremendous amount of distractions he needs to take care of.”
Editing by Toby Davis