By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
The 2011 PGA Grand Slam of Golf will tee off on Oct. 18 at the breathtaking Port Royal Golf Course in Bermuda. Four major champions will be grinding it out in an effort to claim the majestic Grand Slam trophy.
Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, Open Champion Darren Clarke and PGA Champion Keegan Bradley will make up the foursome set to compete over 36 holes in paradise.
Here's a closer look at each of the participants.
Charl Schwartzel is a 27-year-old from South Africa who provided one of the most unlikely and unbelievable endings to a Masters Tournament, making birdies on each of the final four holes to slip into his Green Jacket.
That’s unheard of at Augusta National, and along that amazing stretch, Schwartzel never seemed fazed.
The young Schwartzel – while not necessarily well-known in the United States before his Masters victory – has enjoyed a very successful European Tour career. Since joining the European Tour in 2002, he’s racked up an impressive seven victories on that side of the Atlantic.
While Schwartzel hasn’t contended for a win on the PGA Tour much since his Masters victory, it should be noted that he’s made the cut in all of his 15 starts this season, leading to 10 top-25 finishes.
This is his first start in the PGA Grand Slam of Golf.
With some players, it’s not a question of, “if they’re going to win a major,” but rather “when they’re going to win a major.”
Rory McIlroy was at the very top of the list for the latter.
McIlroy, a 22-year-old from Holywood, Northern Ireland (a fitting place to call home for a superstar), absolutely demolished the field in the U.S. Open at Congressional, winning by a whopping eight shots.
McIlroy’s U.S. Open triumph made it back-to-back U.S. Open victories for Northern Ireland, joining good friend and 2010 winner Graeme McDowell.
Few players have been as heralded as McIlroy since such a young age and actually lived up to the hype. With his win at Congressional, McIlroy never has to worry about that “best-player-never-to-have-won-a-major” moniker.
This is McIlroy’s first start in the PGA Grand Slam of Golf.
Better late than never, right? No doubt for Darren Clarke, the charismatic 43-year-old Ulsterman who made it three major victories in six tries for tiny Northern Ireland when he claimed the Open Championship at Royal St. George’s in July.
The major win was Clarke’s first in 51 attempts.
For nearly two decades, Clarke has been one of world golf’s most beloved players. Aside from his incredible ability to strike a golf ball – evidenced by his 22 worldwide wins – everything about Clarke screams “Regular Joe.”
Clarke has always been a fan favorite, but until the victory at Royal St. George’s, his star was never brighter than when he helped lead the Europeans to a Ryder Cup victory in 2006 at the K Club in Ireland, just weeks after his wife, Heather, lost a long, hard-fought battle with cancer.
Following Clarke’s Open win, McIlroy joked that Northern Ireland is “the Golf Capital of the World.”
This is Clarke’s first start in the PGA Grand Slam of Golf.
Experience wins majors. At least that’s what most people will tell you.
Keegan Bradley, a 25-year-old from Woodstock, Vt., either never heard that, or didn’t care. In the sweltering August Atlanta heat, Bradley was the exception to the rule, winning a scintillating PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club in a three-hole playoff over Jason Dufner.
Experience? It was Bradley’s very first start in a major championship.
Bradley joined Ben Curtis (2003 Open Championship) and Francis Ouimet (1913 U.S. Open) as the only players ever to win a major championship in their debut.
It was Bradley’s second win in his 2011 rookie campaign and one that he will never forget.
Late in the final round at AAC, Bradley triple-bogeyed the 15th hole to fall five shots behind Dufner with three holes to play before recovering with back-to-back birdies on 16 and 17 which, combined with three consecutive bogeys for Dufner, left Dufner and Bradley tied after 72 holes of regulation play.
Bradley won the three-hole playoff with a birdie and two pars, while Dufner went par-bogey-birdie to finish one stroke behind.
Bradley is making his first PGA Grand Slam of Golf start.