Rory McIlroy Joins 9 Others With 3 Legs of Career Grand Slam

By Matthew Castonguay
Sunday July 20th, 2014 6:41 pm EDT

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Gene Sarazen, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Tiger Woods – the only five players to win golf’s modern-era career grand slam. Which means there are a bunch of big names who enjoyed great careers but were unable to join this illustrious list.

With his win at the 143rd Open Championship, Rory McIlroy added his name to mix — though at 25 years of age, McIlroy has more than enough time to join Sarazen, Nicklaus, Hogan, Player and Woods. Having already held a 54-hole lead and notched a T-8 finish at the Masters, it seems like a matter of time before the Northern Irishman collects the final leg of his career grand slam. Then again, we all kind of figured Mickelson would’ve won a U.S. Open by now.

Here are the 10 men who missed or are missing one leg of the modern career grand slam:

Rory McIlroy – At just 25 years old, Rory McIlroy sits just a Masters shy of completing the career grand slam. The only two players to collect three legs faster were Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. McIlroy won his first major title at the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional. He trounced the field, winning by eight shots. In 2012 at Kiawah Island, McIlroy again put on a clinic, adding another eight-shot victory at the PGA Championship to his resume. In 2014, McIlroy held off Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia to hoist the claret jug at Hoylake. Now, all eyes will be on McIlroy next April at Augusta. 

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Phil Mickelson – The player who makes this list in the cruelest fashion is Phil Mickelson. The legendary Lefty has claimed five major titles in his career but agonizingly placed second in the U.S. Open a record six times, most recently last year at Merion. Mickelson has lost in nearly every fashion imaginable. His most famous defeats came in 1999, when he gave up the lead late to Payne Stewart at Pinehurst, and in 2006, when Mickelson hit a miserable drive and ended up making double-bogey on 18 to fall to Geoff Ogilvy.

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Arnold Palmer – He may be the King of golf but there was one major of which Arnie was never crowned champion. Over the course of his illustrious career, Palmer collected seven major titles: four Masters, two Open Championships and a U.S. Open. Despite coming close in 1964, 1968 and 1970, Palmer never won the PGA Championship, leaving him one shy of joining the other two-thirds of the “big three” (Nicklaus and Player) as winners of the career grand slam. 

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Sam Snead – Similar to Mickelson’s plight, the great Sam Snead went his entire career without winning the U.S. Open. Snead claimed a record 82 PGA Tour victories, seven of them major titles, but he never won the U.S. Open. Four times, Snead finished runner-up in the tournament. In 1947, he lost in an 18-hole playoff to Lew Worshm. In 1953, Snead trailed Ben Hogan by a single stroke to start the day on Sunday, but shot a 6-over 76 to fall by six shots.

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Tommy Armour – Scotland’s answer to Gene Sarazen and the other Americans of the late 20s and 30s in professional golf, Armour collected three major championships: one each at the U.S. and British Opens, and the PGA Championship. He appeared in the Masters seven times but never captured a green jacket. His best effort came in 1937 when he finished T-8. 

Walter Hagen – Hagen is officially credited with winning 11 major championships in his career, though some people think that number should be higher. Either way, he wouldn’t have won a Masters. Hagen won five PGA Championships (all during the match-play era), four Open Championships and two U.S. Open titles. His best finish in the Masters came in 1936 when he tied for 11th.

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Byron Nelson – Few people have ever dominated the game during an era like Byron Nelson did in his prime. Retiring at 34, Nelson didn’t have the longevity that many players did, but he did have the success. He is credited with having the best single season in PGA Tour history in 1945, when he won 18 times, 11 of those coming consecutively. Nelson collected five major championships overall, but never the Open Championship. His best finish there came in 1937, when he tied for fifth.

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Lee Trevino – Trevino put together one of the greatest professional careers the game has ever seen. The six-time major champion went toe-to-toe with Jack Nicklaus, and won four times. The “Merry Mex,” as he was often called, won the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open and Open Championships twice each, failing only to win a Masters. His best finish at Augusta was a T-10, which happened twice, in 1975 and again 10 years later.

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Raymond Floyd – Floyd is one of the unsung greats in golf’s history. Winning 22 times on the PGA Tour, four of those coming in majors, Floyd was also the second man in history to win tournaments in four decades (joining Snead). Floyd won the Masters in 1976, the U.S. Open in 1986 and the PGA Championship in 1969 and 1982, missing out on the Open Championship. His best finish in The Open came at St. Andrews in 1978, when he finished runner-up to Nicklaus.

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Tom Watson – Watson won 39 times on the PGA Tour, including eight major championships. However, the man who won five Open Championships, two Masters Tournaments and the U.S. Open in 1981 failed to win the PGA Championship. His closest call came in 1978 at Oakmont, where he and Jerry Pate lost in a sudden-death playoff to John Mahaffey.

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