Rory McIlroy handed Masters warning from legend moments before opening round

Photo showing Rory McIlroy with Jack Nicklaus
Rory McIlroy with Jack Nicklaus -Credit:Getty

Golf legend Jack Nicklaus issued a stern warning to Rory McIlroy ahead of his Masters tee-off on Thursday, stating that completing his career Grand Slam will only become "tougher" as he gets older. He cited the examples of Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer, both great players who never joined the exclusive club.

Only five men have managed to win all four Majors, with three - Gene Sarazen (1935), Ben Hogan (1953) and Tiger Woods - achieving this feat at their first attempt after winning their third Major. Woods accomplished this at the 2000 Open when he was just 24 years old.

Both Nicklaus (1966) and Gary Player (1965) won on their third attempts.

Read more: How to watch the Masters: TV and live stream info for first major of 2024

World No. 2 McIlroy is making his 10th attempt to claim the Masters - the only Major he has yet to win - just a month shy of his 35th birthday.

Woods expressed confidence earlier this week that it's only a matter of time before the Ulsterman secures a Green Jacket, reports the Mirror.

When asked the same question at a press conference for the honorary starters, Nicklaus responded affirmatively. The Golden Bear, now 84, said: "The answer to that I think is yes," but added: "I closed the deal when I was 26 years old. And Tiger closed it when he was probably younger than I, and Gary, who was 29. As he gets older, he gets tougher because all of a sudden it's a conversation, the talk."

Eight-time Major champion Watson, who also attended the press conference, opened up about how he never won the US PGA even when he held a significant five-shot lead at Oakmont back in 1978 before conceding to John Mahaffey. He said: "Is it something that I regret? No, not really. If I were destined to win the tournament, I would have won it."

The legendary Palmer, who clinched seven Majors but ended as runner-up thrice in the US PGA, was acknowledged by Nicklaus, a winner of eighteen Majors himself, who added: "Is Tom Watson good enough to win the Grand Slam? Absolutely. Was Arnold Palmer good enough to win the Grand Slam? Absolutely.

"Is Rory McIlroy good enough to win the Grand Slam? Absolutely, but they have got to do it, and they all know that, and do I think Rory will win here? Yeah. He could win this year. He could win next year. He's just too talented not to. But then again, they were too talented not to win those, too. You just never know."

Ahead of his 16th appearance, McIlroy announced plans to opt for a rather "boring" casting at Augusta to minimise errors.

Subsequently, Nicklaus told Golf Channel that his sole gripe with Rory is: "He has to concentrate 100% of the time. He has lapses where he makes double or triple bogeys. I don't know why it happens but it happens. But I love him. I root for him every week. I would love to see him do it."

Woods confidently stated on Tuesday that he still has the ability to match Nicklaus' record of six Masters victories this weekend, despite not having completed 72 holes in competition for 15 months.

"The proof is in the pudding," Nicklaus remarked. "Tiger is quite capable of winning. I said in here 20 years ago, Tiger had a chance to win more than Arnold and I had put together, and that would have been ten. And he probably would have if he had not been injured."

"I think he's got a tough way to go to win. I think he'll certainly hit the ball well enough to do so. Whether he physically can handle what has to happen with it, and he's also got to be able to score better than everybody else, too. That's part of the deal. But anyway, he's a very special, talented athlete, and I wish him well."

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