Wednesday 13 December 2017

Forget the hype, Rory has what it takes to seal career 'Slam' at 25

Rory McIlroy after his victory. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy after his victory. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Ger Gilroy

May the fourth be with you. It's an old joke and not particularly good, but I get to roll it out here because Rory McIlroy was born on May 4, 1989.

It's important because next year's Masters at Augusta in April will allow McIlroy the chance to do the career-Slam before turning 26.

Tiger Woods was 24 and Jack Nicklaus was 26 when he completed his slam. Normally I'd be cribber-in-chief about the focus on some nebulous future achievements that don't allow us to breathe in the greatness we've just witnessed, but this time, by talking about Woods and Nicklaus, we illuminate McIlroy's achievements.

First on the list would be Tiger, second McIlroy and third Nicklaus. A good list to be on.

Granted the speed with which he's acquiring majors now doesn't really allow him to be considered – yet – in the conversation for who'll finish with the most. It looks like the Nicklaus target of 18 majors won't be reached by Woods, although he has plenty of time.

For Rory, the difficulty is that the Woods-effect on golf going ultra-mainstream means, every year, thousands of wannabes get belched into the system with one or two making it a deeper field.

Rory doesn't know the names yet of the kids who have him as their target the way Woods was the target for him as he sprayed the ball around Portrush as a kid.

Not that any of this bothers him. He is a bit of a conundrum.

On Saturday with his gargantuan lead and his capacity for destroying the field at Majors troubling the attendant journalists that he might turn Sunday into a meaningless procession, they were working the angles.

So Rory, a career Slam at age 25? You'd think he'd bat it away, talk about tempting fate or whatnot.

Not McIlroy, he was already looking forward to the hype at Augusta – before he'd won the British Open! That's balls. It's also a joyous disregard for the type of nonsensical superstition that dogs big-time sport.

His thinking must have been: "I can win this if I play well. Talking about playing well isn't going to harm me. I can talk about the inevitable."

As he told us last night on Off the Ball: "There's going to be a lot of hype and, you never know, I could be standing there at 25 years of age having completed the Grand Slam." The force is with him.

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