NINE-TIME Major winner Gary Player insists it is a matter of time before Open champion Rory McIlroy joins him in a select band of players to have won a career grand slam.
But the South African believes Germany’s Martin Kaymer could beat the Northern Irishman to it, and warns that talk of an era of McIlroy dominance following his Hoylake on Sunday triumph is premature.
McIlroy, 25, just needs the Masters to complete a grand slam of golf’s four Majors, a feat only ever achieved by Player, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.
Kaymer’s US Open victory last month means he has two Majors to McIlroy’s three, yet Player says he could beat him to the punch – and expects Woods to end his six-year Major drought.
“Martin and Rory are going to have a battle to see who wins the grand slam, and he [Kaymer] might just surprise people. One of them is going to do it very shortly,” Player told City A.M. yesterday at his Golf Invitational pro-am tournament at Wentworth, sponsored by German bank Berenberg.
“Rory is the most talented I’ve seen of all the young players today. But there is always very, very severe competition. If you go back 100 years in golf, there has always been fierce competition. To say one man will dominate, I can’t see that happening.
“Nobody has more respect for Rory than I do. He is, I would say, naturally talented, if there is such a thing, to such a degree, and I’ve always said he or Martin Kaymer will be the next winners of the grand slam. Rory’s got the edge on Martin at the moment, though Martin’s got the [US] PGA to play still this year.”
Player is dismissive of suggestions that McIlroy’s infamous 2011 collapse at Augusta, or his recent habit of shooting dreadful second rounds could harm his chances of completing the grand slam.
“That’s a coincidence. That happens to happen,” he added. “Augusta? In this game you learn to have punishment and enjoyment. You don’t go there thinking about how I blew a Masters lead – that’s part of the game. Everybody does something like that in their careers. You don’t think about that, you think ‘I’ve got to win this to win the grand slam, and I’m going to win it’. He’s going to do it. You’ve never seen a golf course suit anybody better than Rory.”
Woods would easily surpass Nicklaus’s record of 18 Majors if he had not continued to tweak his game, Player says, though he still expects the American former world No1 to add to his tally of 14.
“In my humble opinion I still think he’ll win some more,” he said. “I was shocked when I saw him win the US Open by 15 shots [in 2000], having lessons after that, which I think had a great effect on his career, to the detriment of winning Majors.
“And it’s true, because he hasn’t won one in six years.
“Had he not, in my opinion, had lessons, and just went on – because he had this swing of perfection – he would have won 20 to 24 Majors.”
RORY V MARTIN
Birthplace: Holywood, County Down, N Ireland
European and PGA Tour titles: 11
Highest ranking: 1
Approximate career prize money: £21m
Birthplace: Dusseldorf, Germany
European and PGA Tour titles: 12
Highest ranking: 1
Approximate career prize money: £16m