Rory McIlroy heads to Valhalla in search of back-to-back Majors in US PGA

That the 25-year-old is being mentioned in same company as Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods says it all

 Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy with the Claret Jug after his victory in the British Open at Hoylake.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy with the Claret Jug after his victory in the British Open at Hoylake.

Sat, Aug 2, 2014, 01:00

On a Sunday evening back in 2000, Tiger Woods, shortly after he had completed the career Grand Slam for the first time by winning the British Open at St Andrews, was asked how he felt. “Not too bad,” was the three-worded response from a player who, at 24 years of age, had become the youngest ever to achieve the feat of winning all four of golf’s Majors – the Masters, the US Open, the British Open and the US PGA. The Claret Jug was the last piece of the jigsaw to fall into place.

Woods had made it all look so easy, probably too easy. After all, only four players had managed the feat ahead of him. His eight-stroke-winning margin that day in July had come just a month after he had won the US Open at Pebble Beach by 15 strokes. “There’s no substitute for understanding what it takes to win,” Woods would later expand, in attempting to convey to us – mere mortals – what components, mental and physical, were possessed by those players who had it in them to attain greatness.

On that day, at the home of golf, Woods joined the most exclusive club in golf. In becoming just the fifth player in history to win the career Grand Slam (of the modern era, dating back to the creation of the Masters in 1934), Woods joined Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus of those players who achieved career Grand Slams. Sarazen, Hogan and Player managed the feat only once; Nicklaus, the greatest player the game has seen, achieved it three times. Woods, too, has won three career Grand Slams.

That Sunday was one of superlatives and hyperbole. “It wasn’t that long ago that I said there would not be another Jack Nicklaus but, in fact, we are looking at one. He is the chosen one,” said Mark Calcavecchia of Woods, who added: “Jack Nicklaus was the greatest player of all time, and when all is said and done, he might still have the greatest record. But if Jack was in his prime today, I don’t think he could keep up with Tiger.”

In mentioning the two men in the same breath, Calcavecchia, as it has turned out, wasn’t wrong. The two remain the only players to have won multiple career Grand Slams – three apiece – and, yet, it is the names of those who didn’t or haven’t achieved even one which underscores how difficult it is: count in Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Tom Watson among those who all came up a leg short of achieving the Slam.

Third fastest player

That Rory McIlroy is now being mentioned in the same company as Nicklaus and Woods says all that needs to be said about where and how far the 25-year-old Northern Irishman has come. The simple fact of the matter is that he is the third fastest player in the game to have won three Majors, after Nicklaus who was 23, and Woods who was 24.

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