World Number two Rory McIlroy will be hoping to complete the career Grand Slam at this year’s 87th Masters at Augusta National from April 6-9.
The Northern Irishman is bidding to join the likes of Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods as winners of golf’s all four majors.
His last major victories were in 2014 when he claimed the Open Championship and PGA Championship, but since then it has been a case of near misses for McIlroy at majors.
However, the three-time PGA Tour Player of the Year has started the 2023 season in promising form with a victory at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour. He birdied the final two holes to narrowly beat Patrick Reed by one shot in a thrilling climax.
McIlroy will be further buoyed after his promising final round at Augusta in 2022 when a bogey-free score of 64 saw him jump from ninth to finish as runner-up in the Masters – he’ll be hoping to go one step further this year.
In 2022 the green jacket was won by American Scottie Scheffler, and the 26-year-old World Number one has carried his good form over into 2023. In February, Scheffler successfully defended his title at the WM Phoenix Open – he shot a final round 6-under 65 to beat Nick Taylor by two strokes.
Scheffler followed the Phoenix Open with victory at The Players Championship by five strokes, and, in doing so joined Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win the Masters Tournament and The Players Championship in a 12-month span.
Joining McIlroy and Scheffler as Masters contenders is former US Open champion Jon Rahm. In February Rahm won the Genesis Invitational, his fifth title in his last nine tournaments worldwide solidifying him as one of the most in-form golfers in the lead-up to Augusta. Last year, Rahm finished the Masters tied for 27th place, bringing a run of four consecutive top-10 finishes to an end.
McIlroy has enjoyed a storybook career so far, one that started when he was just 7 years old when he was the youngest member at the Holywood Golf Club. A decade later he was top of the World Amateur rankings and by 2009, he was winning tournaments on the European Tour.
Before he claimed a Major title, McIlroy’s crowning glory on the world stage was at the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales. With the U.S. as the defending champions, Europe won by a score of 14.5 to 13.5 and won the Cup. The 21-year-old contributed two points for the Europeans, most notably in the foursomes when he was partnered with fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell.
A year later McIlroy won his first Major – the U.S. Open, finishing ahead of Jason Day by eight strokes. McIlroy set several records with his victory, most notably, his 72-hole aggregate score of 268 (16-under) was a new U.S. Open record.
In 2012, McIlroy was a key part of arguably the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history. At the start of the final day’s play, the U.S. led 10–6 and required 4.5 points to win; Europe required 8 points to retain the cup and 8.5 to win it outright. Europe won eight and tied one of their remaining 12 singles matches, including McIlroy’s victory over Keegan Bradley.
Two years later, McIlroy achieved the highlight of his career so far, by winning the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. He defeated Rickie Fowler and Sergio García by two strokes to claim his third Major title. In doing so, McIlroy became the third European to win three different Majors and joined Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as one of three golfers since the first Masters Tournament in 1934 to win three majors by the age of 25.
Undoubtedly, McIlroy is one of Northern Ireland’s greatest exports, and he will have the backing of an entire nation from the first tee to the final putt at this year’s Augusta.
It has been a good year for Irish sport so far, most notably in Rugby Union, with Ireland winning the Six Nations with a Grand Slam. Andy Farrell’s side are the number-one ranked nation in the world and are hotly tipped to win the World Cup in France this Autumn.
Meanwhile, the Irish dominated once again at the Cheltenham Festival with 18 wins over the course of the week, compared to just 10 from the UK.
And, in the world of boxing, Ireland’s Katie Taylor will look to become a two-weight world champion when she takes on the light-welterweight champion, England’s Chantelle Cameron, at the 3Arena in Dublin on May 20 for her first professional fight in Ireland.
However, McIlroy will surely top the list of Irish success stories with a victory at Augusta, and in doing so, cap off a glorious career with a career Grand Slam.
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