Fifth time unlucky, too, for McIlroy

A Masters victory continues to elude him

Rory McIlroy needed a low third round in the 83rd Masters
Rory McIlroy needed a low third round in the 83rd Masters (Chris Carlson/AP)

In other news from Augusta National, Rory McIlroy failed in his fifth attempt to complete the career professional Grand Slam. He has won the Open Championship, the US Open and the USPGA Championship (twice), but the Masters continues to elude him in his quest to join the five men who have achieved that goal – in order of accomplishing it, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. On Sunday McIlroy shot his best round of the week, a four-under-par 68, which gave him a share of 21st place – his worst finish since he first arrived in Georgia with the Slam on his mind.

A historical note. It completely hacks me off when people list the winners of the Grand Slam and mention just those five. Bobby Jones, who founded the Masters, won the Grand Slam – the original Grand Slam: the Open and US Open, the Amateur Championship and the US Amateur. He won all of them in 1930. It was only when Arnold Palmer headed to St Andrews for the 1960 Open, having won the Masters and the US Open, that talk of a ‘modern’ Grand Slam arose. The USPGA, reasonably enough, became regarded as the fourth. When Sarazen (in 1935) and Hogan (1953) completed theirs, the notion didn’t even exist.

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Palmer lost that Open by a shot. Although he ended up with seven majors, he never did win the USPGA. Among others currently keeping Rory company with three out of four are Jordan Spieth, who has won the other three once apiece and who will complete the set if he wins the USPGA next month, and Phil Mickelson, who’ll do likewise if he takes the US Open in June, which would make it six majors for him. From times past there are Tom Watson (eight majors but no USPGA), Sam Snead (seven but no US Open), Lee Trevino (six but no Masters) and Byron Nelson (five but no Open Championship). Above all there’s Walter Hagen, who won 11 majors (five USPGAs, four Opens and two US Opens), the last of them being the Open in 1929, five years before the Masters began.

The other day I was looking through an old Mark McCormack The World of Professional Golf Annual (I know; I need to get out more). This was about 1973. McCormack wrote of Jack Nicklaus that “with his victory in the PGA in August he had his 14th major championship, which put him one ahead of Bobby Jones”. He added: “But not in my time, and not in yours, dear reader, is any other man going to break that mark of Bobby Jones.”

Mmm, how did that prediction go? Jones won 13 majors. McCormack was at that point including Nicklaus’s two US Amateurs, which would mean he was counting five majors rather than four, which made matters a little unequal, but anyway McCormack was wrong. Tiger has since come along. Nicklaus won 18 professional majors plus his US Amateurs. Woods is on 14…er, sorry, he’s now on 15 – plus three US Amateurs if you want to play it that way. And for him, the calendar-year Grand Slam is on!!

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