Major champs set for battle

2011-10-17 21:54

Southampton - Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke, South African Charl Schwartzel and American Keegan Bradley will battle for bragging rights starting on Tuesday in the PGA Grand Slam of Golf.

The $1.35 million event at Port Royal Golf Course is the 29th showcase of a season's four major champions, with those unable to participate replaced by the top combined finisher from all four of a year's major championships.

McIlroy made a late arrival on Monday afternoon after flying from Hong Kong following an exhibition event in China, but joined his fellow 2011 major winners, all first-time major champions, in time for a youth clinic.

McIlroy will play events later this year in China, Dubai and Thailand and would like to add more triumphs to an already impressive campaign that included a US Open victory at Congressional Country club near Washington.

"That's what I'm really pushing for," McIlroy said. "I've got a few more tournaments left this year to try to get a win or two."

Clarke, however, is somewhat content after claiming the Claret Jug and his first major title at the British Open, the event he always dreamed about taking.

"I've managed to win the tournament I've wanted to win from when I started playing the game of golf, the biggest and best tournament in the world," Clarke said. "My difficulty since has been assessing some goals and fixing some goals.

"I've done what I always wanted to do, got to the top of the mountain. So what else can compare it to? Winning it again? What else is there to do?

"I'm sort of getting my head around it now. Trying to win another one if I can. But the struggle with it, how do you keep going, I have no idea.

"It's not as if I'm 21 or 22. I'm 43 now. Whether I get another chance or couple of chances to win majors, may not happen. But am I happy with the one that I've got? Of course I am. Would I like to win more? Yes.

"But I've got the biggest and the best one."

Schwartzel, who won the Masters in a last-round shootout, has been able to regain some of his normal lifestyle now that the season is nearly done.

"It has quieted down a little bit," Schwartzel said. "We now have four major champions this year, so the attention has moved around a bit, whereas the first few months before the US Open, that's when it was the most hectic."

Bradley booked his berth by beating Jason Dufner in a three-hole playoff to capture the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, becoming the first major winner to use a belly putter.

"With the belly putter, the distance from your body to the ball is consistent on every stroke. That's why I like it," Bradley said. "It’s the same every time, which wasn’t the case for me with a conventional putter."

The 6 845-yard, par-71 Caribbean layout is hosting the event for the third year in a row. American Lucas Glover won by five strokes in 2009 while South African Ernie Els edged fellow fill-in David Toms by a stroke last year.