The Bacon Mailbag: Who gets the Grand Slam first, Rory or Phil?

Shane Bacon
July 23, 2014
Rory Phil
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Which of these two will complete the career Grand Slam first? — Getty Images

Each week for the remainder of the golf season we will be rolling out a mailbag, with any and all questions invited from readers and fans around the world. Have a good question you want answered? Hit me up on Twitter at @shanebacon or e-mail me at and we will try to get to it in the coming weeks. Here we go ...

Bacon: A great start to the post-Rory McIlroy win questions, and a great one considering both players.

For those that don't know, Rory, 25, has won three of the four legs of the Grand Slam, needing only the Masters to complete something only five modern players have ever done (Sarazen, Hogan, Player, Nicklaus, and Tiger).

Mickelson, who recently turned 44, has won five majors including three of the legs of the Grand Slam, needing the U.S. Open, a tournament he has finished in second place a record six times, to join that same list above.

Instead of comparing them at first, why don't we look at the stats. Rory has only finished in the top-10 once at Augusta National, a self-proclaimed "back-door top-10" this year at the Masters. While that is surprising, he did take a four-shot lead into the final day at the 2011 Masters, only to fall flat on his face with a final round 80 to finish T-15.

A lot of people say they think the Masters is Rory's best major chance for years to come, because he can hit the ball a country kilometer and loves to work the ball right to left (something that is a common theme amongst Masters winners ... see Watson, Bubba).

So, if Rory can curb the distractions off the golf course for the next decade, I think he will win the Masters at least once before he turns 35.

As for Phil, this is a man that won the British Open in dramatic fashion a year ago to snag the third leg of his Grand Slam chances, but hasn't been in form since basically that Sunday. No top-10s on the PGA Tour, no top-25s in a major this season, and the older he gets, the less he is going to care about winning and playing, much like what we've seen with Steve Stricker (this isn't a knock on Phil, it's more of a compliment to his family-first mentality).

I had to take some time to think about this one, because it's easy to say Rory after the way he played at Royal Liverpool, but I think you have to go McIlroy. Since he's only 25, and has two decades until he's Mickelson's age right now, I think he will have at least two green jackets, meaning the Grand Slam is complete, and while I'd love to say I think Phil will finally win the U.S. Open, I see another Masters and possibly one more PGA before I see him winning the U.S. Open.

So, my answer is Rory, but I genuinely hope both get there, because I think Mickelson deserves to be on that list considering how he has played in the majors the last 10 years.

Bacon: Honestly, I think I'll go Tiger.

People have overreacted tremendously about "what is wrong with Woods" with his recent play at Congressional at Hoylake, but the guy just came off 4 months of not playing competitive golf.

Somehow, every golf fan needs to pull out that Nintendo cartridge in their brain where they keep all the old Tiger memories and give it a good, hard blow, because we need a reset.

Everyone say this with me — "Tiger Woods is not the same guy as the Tiger Woods from 2001." Say it again! And again!

This isn't the same guy that is going to win three or four majors in a row, but Woods is still the type of player that can win multiple times on tour, and if you need an example of this, go all the way back to 2013 (he won five times, in case you forgot, and three times the year before that).

He hurt himself, had surgery, and is slowly coming back to form, much like any near-40-year-old would. He played loose golf at the Quicken Loans, had a good first round at Liverpool and then couldn't keep it going.

This isn't the obituary part of Woods' career, just another bump in the road caused by some health issues that he's recovering from.

Woods gets Valhalla next month, a place he has won at before, followed by Augusta National again and then St. Andrews for the Open next year. If he's in form for any of those, he will be in the hunt, and while I think what Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, and even Sergio Garcia are doing right now is great, I think Woods is eventually going to close out a major on a Sunday and I like his chances on those golf courses over anyone else on that list.

Bacon: It's an interesting question, because the person has changed so many times.

Early in his career, it was his buddy Mark O'Meara (if you doubt that, remember, he won two majors in 1998, at a time when Woods finished T-8 and third at both, so O'Meara was his closest "rival").

That turned into David Duval, then Sergio Garcia, then Ernie Els, and then Vijay Singh.

Since Singh, we've seen Tiger go up against Phil Mickelson (not enough for my liking during their primes, but they battled) a few times and now we've got Rory McIlroy.

But Tiger's biggest rival? I would say it's "PGA Flavor of the Week." Why? Because the flavor of the week was who pushed Woods the hardest at majors.

Woods had to beat Bob May in a playoff that saw May pull off gritty shot after gritty shot, face off against Chris DiMarco twice, and lose to Rich Beem and Y.E. Yang at random majors. Shaun Micheel was Tiger's closest competitor at the '06 PGA, and Woody Austin finished two shots behind Woods at the '07 PGA.

And his biggest challenger ever? That Rocco Mediate performance at Torrey Pines, where Rocco basically went shot for shot against Tiger for 90 holes with Tiger eventually beating him on the 91st.

So to me, there isn't a singular player that Tiger has had epic battles against. No one name comes to mind when you think about the legacy of Tiger, more the long list of guys that have had epic weeks only to fall to Woods (or beat him, in the Beem-Yang cases).

I guess the only way we can really cement an answer here is for someone to throw a rubber snake at Tiger the next time he gets in a playoff at a major.

Bacon: Tom Watson made the British Open what it is for American fans, and he should be able to play in that tournament until he can't walk anymore, so yes, extend him an invite for as long as he wants to play.

That's the least you can do for a man with 5.5 Claret Jugs.

Bacon: According to Tiger's website, he will be at the Bridgestone, a tournament he's won eight times including last season. The week after is the PGA Championship, so starting next week we will get two straight weeks of Woods.

How can he make the Ryder Cup team? I think he just needs to show signs of improvement. Say Woods finishing in the top-20 at Firestone, and follows it up with a top-10 at Valhalla. That's a step in the right direction, and something that Tom Watson can look at and justify with a pick (the American team needs Tiger Woods on that team, if for nothing else, some interest in a watered-down USA team that is going up against a superstar squad of Europeans).

Watson has two years of play to see who he wants to take with his captain's picks, but I think Woods will be the most important of his selections, and if Tiger can show that his game is on the up-and-up these next two weeks, he has a chance to wear red, white and blue once again.

On the flip side, if he plays Firestone like he did in 2010, and then has another disappointing week at the PGA, I don't see how Watson can pick him for the team.

So, a lot riding on the next few weeks for Tiger, Watson and the entire Ryder Cup team for the United States.

Bacon: A fun question considering both won over the weekend. Rory, as we've mentioned already, is 25 with three major wins. Ko is just 17 and already has four LPGA wins (two as a pro). 

The issue, of course, is longevity, and I see McIlroy competing well into his 40s while a lot of the LPGA players don't tend to play as long professionally.

Also, Rory has three majors on Ko, and while she might be eight years younger, winning three by the time she is 25 would be quite the accomplishment.

For now, I'm going with McIlroy, but I think Ko is the type of special talent that can not only dominate the LPGA, but do it at a young age. The good news for golf fans is that we will have both in our lives for a long, long time. 

Bacon: Some of my best rounds ever have came when I made sure to distract myself between shots. Golf takes 4-5 hours, and staying in the zone for that long is nearly impossible, especially for someone that doesn't do it professionally.

I make sure to go through my routine during the shots, and I try to stay as focused as possible about the golf shot, but I also take time between shots to look around, chat with buddies, joke around and just take my mind off the game.

I also make sure to eat a lot during the round. I always take a bag of almonds, some beef jerky or even a turkey sandwich with me on the course. Getting hungry, and losing energy, is a quick way to let a good round go bad, so staying on top of your energy level is important (there is energy in beer, right?).