Gary Player is praying and hoping for both Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth to win the elusive major missing from their collections in 2018 so that both men can join him in an illustrious club of golfers who have achieved a career Grand Slam.
Player is one of only five players in the sport’s history to have won all four major titles – the Masters, US Open, The Open Championship and PGA Championship.
The 82-year-old South African is also the only non-American in the group of five, along with the legendary Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.
Spieth, 24, would be the fifth American to enter the sacred circle were he to win the PGA title, the final major of the year, in August. Northern Irishman McIlroy, 28, needs to win April’s Masters to become the first British or Irishman to enter.
And Player admits the famous five are in need of some more company.
Ahead of McIlroy’s return to action at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in Abu Dhabi following a three-month break, Player told Sport360°: “I always have high expectations for Rory. He has a magnificent swing and I like him so much. I’m pulling for him or Jordan Spieth to win a major this year and join the five of us on a Grand Slam.”
In his press conference on Tuesday, McIlroy had spoken of the hope his extended lay-off would set him up for the next 10 years of his career, having already played 10 since turning professional in 2007.
And Player, who completed the career Grand Slam inside seven years after winning the 1965 US Open, believes the break will have done the four-time major winner the world of good.
“He’s got tremendous talent and I’m absolutely convinced he’ll win the grand slam,” added Player, a nine-time major winner.
“I can’t answer that (how many he can win). The world is at his feet, it just depends on him.
“But he has the talent to get back to winning majors and being among the most elite golfers in the world, no question. He’s a tremendous talent. It’s all up to him now, and how he applies himself. We’re all pulling for him.”
As one star returns to action following injury in Abu Dhabi this week, a living legend of the game is also once again on lips of every golf fan and pundit.
Woods returned to action at the Hero World Challenge last month, causing a stir as he finished in a tie for ninth in the Bahamas. He is also expected to feature in his first PGA Tour event in a year at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines next month.
And Player still believes golf needs its fallen, former hero.
“He was swinging much better in the Bahamas than I’ve seen him swinging for years, and again I think we’re all pulling for him to come back and win a tournament and hopefully a major,” said Player of a man who is second to Nicklaus’ 18 major wins, with 14.
“We all need him in the game because, well, he was on his way to being the best golfer that’s ever lived.
“Nobody playing golf today can play like Tiger did at his best. He was on his way to being the best ever, I don’t know if that will happen now, but he was certainly on the way. He brought golf to another level.
“I don’t know if he can win another major, let alone getting near Jack’s record. These are very difficult questions to answer. All I can say is we’re pulling for him, he has the ability, he’s swinging better and the game needs him.”
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