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The Masters 2016: Icons Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player can still Slam it at Augusta

By Liam Kelly

Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, two of the greatest golfers of all time, have different opinions on the relevance of achieving a career Grand Slam which Rory McIlroy faces in the Masters over the next few days.

Nicklaus harked back to his first bank of winning the four Majors which he achieved between 1962 and 1966, starting with the US Open, and completing the quartet with the Open Championship

For him, it was no big deal, largely due to the almost negligible publicity his version of the Slam generated in the media.

Player, the first to win a career Slam since Ben Hogan, thought it was something special. Indeed, he felt it was so special, that he couldn't see it being repeated.

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The South African powerhouse started with the 1959 Open Championship, and when he nailed the 1965 US Open, he was delighted.

The pressure for Mcilroy is, Nicklaus believes, enhanced by the modern publicity machine, and the worldwide popularity of professional golf.

"When I finished the career Grand Slam, I don't think there was one word even written about it. It was never publicised. I never even thought about it. I still haven't thought much about it.," said Nicklaus.

Player was unequivocal about his view of the Slam.

"I was very much aware of it, because Ben Hogan was my golf idol as a young man growing up and I followed his record and I watched what he had done.

"And Gene Sarazen, I had played golf with him in 1955, and he was telling me about it, so I was aware of it.

"But the thing is, I won the Grand Slam, and you're correct in saying in our 20s.

"I won it at 29, and I said to my wife, I said, 'nobody will ever do that again. Jack came along and won it at 26. Now here is the greatest feat ever accomplished in golf: Tiger won it at 24. How many pros have played in the four majors at 24? I mean, it's phenomenal," said Player.

The two legends of golf would happily welcome McIlroy (26), to the exclusive 'Slam Club' they inhabit with Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, and Tiger Woods.

Nicklaus and Player entertained, informed, and impressed the watching media at their conference following the ceremonial drive off the first tee shortly after 8am. Around 2,000 early arrivals gathered around the tee box and lined the fairways to share in a special moment. Player (80), Nicklaus (76), were joined by the great Arnold Palmer (86), and received a huge ovation.

Palmer declined to play a shot, leaving the stage to Player to hit first. His drive was long, straight and true, and with a touch of draw, his ball landed in the middle of the fairway to thunderous applause. Nicklaus' shot finished on the left side and shorter than Player's, but still received an ovation fit for a king.

Belfast Telegraph


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