Graeme McDowell and Jack Nicklaus have hailed the genius that is Rory McIlroy after he broke his Major duck at the US Open –  and McDowell predicts that his fellow Ulsterman can surpass Tiger Woods as the greatest golfer of the modern era.

McDowell , who won in 2010 at Pebble Beach, was delighted to pass his trophy onto  22-year-old McIlroy whom he described as the greatest golfer he has ever seen.

“My hat’s off to Rory this week,” said McDowell after he watched McIlroy wrap up a sweet victory from the side of the 18th green at Congressional. “It’s been waiting to happen. He’s been this good for a long time, and it’s great to see him fulfill his potential. He’s an awesome player.

“He’s the best player I’ve ever seen and he’s going to be a great ambassador for the sport.

“Will he achieve what Tiger has? Can he be that good? Yeah. He’s got that potential.”

Rory already huge star in States

McIlroy is now up to fourth in the world rankings and McDowell added:  “It’s just phenomenal – you run out of superlatives to describe what he’s doing this week. He’s decimating a field.

“I’ve been waiting for this to happen. He’s that good, there’s no doubt about it.

“I first heard about him when he shot that 61 at my home course in Portrush. You hear rumors about people and good players come and go, but this kid was something a bit special.

“He’s potentially the next Tiger Woods – he’s that good. It’s great to see him out there fulfilling his potential. He’s been like an accident waiting to happen.”

Nicklaus – who holds the record of 18 Major wins – was a few months older than McIlroy when he claimed his first in 1962.

“Rory’s ahead of already – and his score is way ahead of my pace,” said Nicklaus.

“I think this kid’s going to have a great career – I don’t think there’s any question about it.

“He’s humble when he needs to be humble and confident when he needs to be confident. I like his moxie – he’s cocksure and I like that. You’ve got to have that.

“He obviously had a couple if disappointments at The Masters and last year’s Open but I didn’t think that was going to happen again and it hasn’t.”

Rafa Nadal says Rory McIroy has inspired him as he prepares his Wimbledon defence. “For sure, Rory is an inspiration. I admire him a lot,” said Nadal. “I love watching Rory. What he’s doing is really something unbelievable. I met him in New York last year. I love golf and follow almost every week the tour. He has probably one of the nicest swings in the world, if not the nicest. ”