Rory McIlroy has career Grand Slam in his sights after British Open win

Hype expected ahead of US Masters at Augusta next April is already palpable

Tue, Jul 22, 2014, 01:00

In looking down the line to the Masters next April, McIlroy revealed he would be making contact with Jeff Knox, the local amateur who acted as his marker on the third round of this year’s tournament when he survived the cut on the mark. “He’s the best I’ve ever seen on Augusta’s greens,” said McIlroy, who plans on making a couple of trips there and using Knox’s knowledge in advance of chasing that final leg of the Slam.

‘Doubters’

McIlroy’s three Major wins – including the 2011 US Open and the 2012 US PGA – have been, as he puts if, “different”. He explained: “Congressional was maybe silencing the doubters and battling some of the demons I had in my own head. Kiawah was coming off a bit of a slump in form but still having a good year. I felt like in 2012 the only thing my year needed was a Major.

“It has been a difficult 18 months at times since the start of 2013. Winning the Claret Jug makes it all worthwhile. It is maybe like Congressional because I had to silence a few doubters about how I could play links golf, how I could handle a lead, how I would play on a Friday. Winning the Open Championship, the home Major for guys like myself, it is a very special championship and I am very honoured.”

To put some perspective on where McIlroy has graduated to in the great scheme of things, he has now won more Majors than Greg Norman, Jose Maria Olazabal and Bernhard Langer. And, as he eyes that final leg of the Slam, it should be noted that the legendary players like Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino and Walter Hagen who all finished up their careers one short of the mark.

Only five players – Nicklaus, Woods, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen – have actually managed to win the Grand Slam. That is the territory that McIlroy is on the verge of joining and which he is targeting.

Nicklaus, the greatest player of all time, has taken to McIlroy. Recently, he welcomed the Ulster man into his office in West Palm Beach to provide him with some words of wisdom. In a message posted on Facebook after McIlroy’s win, Nicklaus noted; “I like his swagger. I like the way he handles himself. I like his desire to be great. I like his desire to do the things he needs to do. It like that in a young guy. He’s cocky in a nice way.”

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