Rory McIlroy: Is Grand Slam Next? His Golf Plan for Rest of Season and 2015

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Rory McIlroy: Is Grand Slam Next? His Golf Plan for Rest of Season and 2015
Associated Press
Rory McIlroy, No. 1 and four-time major champ

Let's see. Rory McIlroy has already won the U.S. Open, The British Open and two PGA Championships. That's three-fourths of a Grand Slam. What else could Rory McIlroy possibly want in golf?

"To be one ( major championship) behind Phil, one behind Seve, level with Ernie, level with Raymond Floyd, I mean, I never thought I'd get this far at 25 years of age," McIlroy said after his victory.

"I was happy being a two‑time major champion coming into this year, and all of a sudden I'm a four‑time major champion and going for the career Grand Slam at Augusta in 292 days, 291 days or whatever it is, not that I'm counting."

He smiled when he said the last part. He may not say he has an eye on the history books, but when he can rattle off who has won how many majors, that means he knows where he sits in the annals of golf.

What's incredible is that with four majors on the trophy shelf, McIlroy could retire right now and still be considered a great player. Only 28 golfers in the history of the game have won four or more majors of any kind, whether it's Jack Nicklaus with 18 and multiple Grand Slams or Bobby Locke winning four British Opens.

In fact, only 19 men in history have won more majors than McIlroy in their careers, and only two of them are still active PGA Tour players: Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. Only nine of them are still alive: Nicklaus, Woods, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo, Mickelson and Peter Thomson.

This time, McIlroy learned he could win not just pretty but ugly. In a way, that is what made this year's PGA Championship so exciting.

"To win it in this fashion and this style, it means a lot," McIlroy explained. "I know that I can come from behind. I know that I can mix it up with the best players in the world down the stretch in a major and come out on top." He cited beating Mickelson, who he called the second-best player of his generation, as proof.

Now, McIlroy's trying to carve out a special niche for himself that he believes he can achieve.

"The two next realistic goals are the career Grand Slam and trying to become the most successful European player ever," McIlroy said, making it clear that he's using major championships as the measuring stick.

There are only five golfers who have won the professional Grand Slam: Woods, Nicklaus, Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.

There are only three European players who have won more majors than McIlroy: Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros and the illustrious Harry Vardon, for whom the Vardon grip and Vardon Trophy are named.

CURTIS COMPTON/Associated Press
Nick Faldo getting green jacket from Sandy Lyle

"Nick Faldo has six. Seve has five," he explained. "Obviously the career Grand Slam coming up at Augusta in eight months time or whatever it is, they are the next goals. And hopefully, when I achieve those, I can start to think about other things. But right now, that's what my focus is. 

"My focus is trying to complete this year, the Grand Slam and then move forward and try and become the most successful European ever, and hopefully in time, if I can do that, then I can move on and set different goals."

Vardon won seven major championships, six British Opens and the U.S. Open in 1900. He's the No. 1 European major winner.

Most great players after the mid-1930s have won the Masters, but there were great players prior to the 1930s who didn't win it because it wasn't invented until 1934.

However, there are great players who never won the Masters, such as Lee Trevino and Ernie Elsso far and Greg Norman.

However, since 1934, Hogan, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Palmer, Player, Nicklaus, Ray Floyd, Watson, Ballesteros and Mickelson, to name some of the legends of the game, have all won at Augusta National. 

Several great players did not win the Grand Slam. Snead never won a U.S. Open. Palmer nor Watson never won the PGA Championship.

There are some golfers who won multiple majors all at the same event, as Bobby Locke (four) and Peter Thomson (five) did at the British Open. Hale Irwin won three U.S. Opens. Jimmy Demaret won three Masters.

In terms of where we'll see McIlroy playing golf, he's focused on the FedEx Cup in the immediate future.

"I came close a couple of years ago. Didn't quite get the job done. But I feel like my game's in good enough shape that I can keep this run of golf going and try and win that," he said.

He's hoping to be in good form for the Ryder Cup matches in Scotland, and then he will finish off the 2014 year with the Race to Dubai and defense of the Australian Open.  

"I'll turn my attention to Augusta at the start of the 2015 season," McIlroy explained. "I don't have to think about it that much until then. And the body of work that I try and do between sort of January and March of each season is all geared towards getting myself ready for Augusta.

"By the time January 2015 rolls around, I'll be thinking of Magnolia Lane, and I'll be thinking about trying to slip on a green jacket for that fifth major."

Will he get his career Grand Slam at the Masters in 2015? If he does, what do we call winning three majors in a row? The Big Mac? The Triple Decker? The Mac and Pimento Cheese? And if he wins the Masters, is he headed for the McIl-Slam at the U.S. Open next spring? We have eight months to consider those options.  

Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour, R&A or PGA of America.

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