Rory McIlroy: One step away from a Grand SlamJuly, 2014
In winning the Open Championship, the 25-year-old is lacking only a Green Jacket to complete golf's ultimate collection
Speaking to NCG last November, Rory McIlroy reflected on his ongoing Major quest.
“The PGA is the one that I always felt like I had a good chance because it’s one of the fairest ones and 12 under par usually, somewhere around there, usually wins,” he said.
“The US Open, I actually felt like that would be the toughest one for me to win but it wasn’t really playing like a US Open. So, obviously, the Masters and the Open the two that I’d love to win obviously,” he said.
The collection is now 75 per cent complete and the only ingredient missing is the one you would most obviously match his game to – namely the Masters, where long-hitting, charismatic stars of the game have so often prospered.
It leaves McIlroy in elite company. Since the Masters began in 1934 and unoffically created the modern four Majors by which all great players since have benchmarked their achievements, only five men have accumulated all four titles: they are Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. In fact, the latter two have managed the feat in triplicate.
In winning his third Major, each a different variety, McIlroy has joined an elite group.
"In winning his third Major, each a different variety, McIlroy has joined an elite group."
In the 2011 US Open at Congressional he won by eight shots, wire to wire. The final total was 16 under, 268. He led by three shots after the first round, six after the second and eight after the third.
A year later at Kiawah Island in the PGA Championship he again won by eight shots. This time he was second after the first round, fifth at halfway and three clear going into the final round. His aggregate was 275, 13 under par.
At the Open, he again went wire to wire. A shot clear after Thursday, he was four clear going into the weekenbd and took a six-shot lead into the final day.
What was different this time was that he had to work for his third Major. Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler made sure of that. The winning margin was two.
They never caught him in the final round – Fowler, for 10 minutes on Saturday, was the only man to draw level with McIlroy after Thursday morning – but they did get near enough to exert some pressure. The Northern Irishman had all the answers.
McIlroy is now one of five men to be a Green Jacket short of a career Grand Slam. The others are Walter Hagen, Jim Barnes, Tommy Armour and Lee Trevino. With the exception of Trevino, the others were all past their best by the mid 1930s when the Masters began. McIlroy can look forward to countless visits back to Augusta before he thinks about hanging up his Nikes.
For the record, the others to have won three different Majors are Sam Snead, and Phil Mickelson, who both lack a US Open, while Byron Nelson and Ray Floyd are missing a Claret Jug and Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer never managed a PGA.
It is elite company, and the best news for McIlroy is that Augusta suits his game perfectly.
There may well be Opens in the future when the conditions are not conducive to his game. That will most likely frustrate him. But not nearly as much as it did before he conquered Hoylake because his name will forever more be on the famous old Jug no matter what happens in the future.