Rory McIlroy admits a fifth major title is long overdue as he seeks a third US PGA victory with the added incentive of preventing Jordan Spieth from beating him to a career grand slam.
Spieth’s dramatic Open Championship victory at Royal Birkdale saw him join Jack Nicklaus in winning three different majors before the age of 24 and he can surpass Tiger Woods as the youngest winner of all four of the game’s biggest prizes at Quail Hollow.
Woods was 24 years, seven months and 25 days old when he won the 2000 Open at St Andrews by eight shots, part of the ‘Tiger Slam’ of the US Open, Open and US PGA that year and the 2001 Masters.
Spieth, who celebrated his 24th birthday just four days after lifting the Claret Jug, was a distant 36th when McIlroy won the Open at Hoylake in 2014 and missed the cut in the US PGA at Valhalla when McIlroy won by a shot from Phil Mickelson.
But while McIlroy has failed to truly contend for another major title since, Spieth won the Masters and US Open in 2015, missed out on a play-off for the Open at St Andrews by a single shot and then finished second to Jason Day in the US PGA.
Spieth also squandered a five-shot lead with nine holes to play in the defence of his Masters title, but successfully avoided a similar meltdown at Birkdale thanks to a run of birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie from the 14th in the final round.
A closing 67 saw McIlroy finish in a tie for fourth, albeit seven shots behind Spieth, meaning a third season without a major beckons unless he can taste more success at one of his favourite venues.
“I feel like I’ve been going for a fifth major for a long time,” the 28-year-old Northern Irishman said on a conference call to promote the Dell Technologies Championship, which he won last year.
“I think it’s about time I stepped up and won one.
“I’m excited to go back to Quail Hollow. Quail Hollow is one of those courses that I’ve had a lot of success on in the past. I’ve played well there basically every time I’ve went.
“I’ve had a couple of wins in Charlotte and a few other top 10s. I’ve been beaten in a play-off once before, also. Obviously they’ve redone a couple of the holes and the layout is a little bit different, but I’m excited to get back.
“To turn up to major championships knowing that you have a chance to win and to already have a couple of Wanamaker trophies... it would be nice to make that a hat-trick.”
In contrast to McIlroy, Spieth has played Quail Hollow just once before and finished in a tie for 32nd in 2013, when McIlroy slipped to a share of 10th after two closing rounds of 73.
But having played with Spieth in the first two rounds of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, McIlroy is well aware of what Spieth can do. He would just like him to wait a year to do it.
“Obviously Jordan has a great chance at completing a career grand slam, which would be huge for the game,” McIlroy said. “Tiger was able to do it at 24. Jordan has a great chance to do it at the same age, which is historic in itself.
“My chance doesn’t come until April next year in the Masters, so I can play well but if Jordan plays better, then Jordan plays better and I take my hat off to him.
“Again, it would be great for the sport. He is great for the sport and I sent him a text after he won The Open telling him that. But obviously he can wait until 2018 to do it!
“It would be nice if both of us did it in 2018, but we’ll see how it goes.”