5 Golfers Chasing Major History
Despite the huge wealth and riches available on tour these days, what truly define greatness in the game hasn't changed. Major Championships are the keys to immortality within golf, and those four titles remain distinct from the rest. However, for several players this summer and beyond, who have already achieved more than most could imagine, there remains a carat of potential history that they can etch for themselves.
1. Phil Mickelson
Each U.S. Open. Phil Mickelson is a compelling story. Missing last year's Championship to attend his daughter's high school graduation, the big American would so dearly love to claim his national trophy, the one that has proven elusive. Incredibly, the five-time major champion has been runner-up on six occasions, including at Shinnecock Hills in 2004, the 2018 venue in the New York area, where he remains widely popular.
Turning 48 on the Saturday of the Championship, Mickelson has another chance to complete the Career Grand Slam, and he would also be the second oldest golfer to have won a major, being four months shy of Julius Boros when he won the PGA Championship in 1968. Despite the seemingly unlikely nature of success, the Californian illustrated that he is still a contender, winning the WGC Mexico Championship back in the Spring. Who loves a fairytale?
2. Jordan Spieth
When he secured the Claret Jug in dramatic fashion last July at Royal Birkdale, the young Texan joined esteemed company in winning three different majors so early in his career. Incredibly, he won't turn 25 until after this year's Open at Carnoustie. Should he win another major, Spieth will match the record of Raymond Floyd, Ernie Els, and Rory McIlroy, not to mention the historic duo of Old and Young Tom Morris.
However, more specifically, when the PGA Championship rolls around in August - the 100th playing of that event - the former runner-up will have a golden opportunity to complete the Career Grand Slam, following in the footsteps of Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods. Now, THAT is making history.
3. Rory McIlroy
Winning the Open and PGA Championships within weeks of each other in 2014, many believed that Rory McIlroy was about to embark on a dominant era. Four years on, that may not have happened, but he's remained a major threat despite some inconsistency, including securing the FedEx Cup in 2016. The Masters is the one barrier between the Northern Irishman and the Career Grand Slam, which he shall once again attempt to complete in April, following his crushingly disappointing final round at Augusta National earlier this year.
That Green Jacket is his main target, but in the other majors, the 29-year-old can further write his name into the realms of history. Winning a fifth major would tie him with the legendary Seve Ballesteros, and place the former world number one within just one of the European record held by Sir Nick Faldo and Harry Vardon. Indeed, by winning three different majors, McIlroy has already surpassed those iconic figures, and there is surely more to come.
4. Tiger Woods
Incredibly, this year's U.S. Open will mark the tenth anniversary of Tiger's 14th and most recent major championship victory. Will it be his last? For several years, that had seemed to be the likely outcome, but it's clear from his latest comeback that Woods has the potential to be a contender in the biggest events again. Should the 42-year-old win a 15th major, that reflects be a stratospheric event for the game, and would take him within three of Jack Nicklaus' seemingly unobtainable record.
Breaking down each major, any victory from here would be historic. Should he win a fourth U.S. Open, Woods would join Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones and Willie Anderson with the most national titles. A fourth Claret Jug moves Tiger to within one of Tom Watson and Peter Thomson's Post-WW2 Record. A fifth PGA ties him with Nicklaus and Walter Hagen, and a fifth Green Jacket edges him ahead of Arnold Palmer and within one of the Golden Bear.
It's been a decade since his last major, and the record gap between successes in the biggest championships is 11 years, recorded by Henry Cotton, Julius Boros, Hale Irwin, and Ben Crenshaw. Tiger's achieved many great things, but should he claim another major, it would arguably be the most significant.
5. Justin Rose
Justin Rose has been playing some of the best golf of his career and verges on topping the Official World Golf Ranking, but the 37-year-old is seeking further major glory this summer, following his U.S. Open triumph in 2013 at Merion. Should he win America's national title for a second time, he would be the first European to do so in over a century, joining the early exploits of Scots Alex Smith and Willie Anderson.
And were he to win the Open Championship at Carnoustie, he would be the first Englishman to win both 'Opens' since Tony Jacklin, and the first player representing the St. George's Cross to secure the Claret Jug since Sir Nick Faldo in 1992. Even more notably, should he win the PGA, Rose would be the first English winner of that Championship since the trail-blazing Jim Barnes in 1919. It may prove to be a memorable summer for the 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist.
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