McIlroy eyeing Grand Slam 'bragging rights' ahead of Spieth and Mickelson
Rory McIlroy said it would be nice to get one over on Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson in achieving the career Grand Slam this year before his rivals are offered the opportunity.
The trio have all won three of golf's premier four honours, although McIlroy - who is only missing the green jacket that comes with Masters glory - will have the first chance to complete the set at Augusta next month.
Mickelson, who has five majors but not the U.S. Open, has shown excellent early season form and at 47 became the oldest WGC winner last week by clinching victory over Justin Thomas in a play-off at the WGC-Mexico Championship.
Of the three, Spieth must wait the longest for his chance at finalising his clean sweep with just the US PGA Championship - the final major of the year - missing from his collection.
McIlroy, who famously imploded at the 2011 Masters to blow a four-shot lead in the final round, is getting ready to tee it up at the Valspar Championship this week and questions inevitably turned to the opening major of 2018, which gets under way on April 5.
"I've got the first chance!" McIlroy said when asked about beating Spieth and Mickelson to the Grand Slam. "It's not as if you're thinking about it all the time, but there are three guys that have the chance to do it this year.
"I've got the first opportunity but I just want to win the tournament. It's not as if I want to do it ahead of those guys or whatever. It would be nice bragging rights but apart from that, no.
"It was good to see Phil win last week. He's trending in the right direction. I said yesterday I was amazed more people weren't talking about him going into this stage of the season, because he's been top-fiving it for fun.
"He's been flying under the radar a little bit and all that great golf culminated in a great win in Mexico. He'll be a great storyline going into Augusta, having won there three times.
"Golf is really healthy at the moment with three of us looking for the Slam, Tiger [Woods] coming back, Justin Thomas playing really well, DJ [Dustin Johnson] being number one in the world, Jon Rahm... the pool of talent out there is so good and I'm glad to be somewhat in the conversation."
When asked if Woods should be considered as a serious contender at Augusta as he continues his comeback from chronic back problems, McIlroy replied of the four-time Masters champion: "You'd be silly not to, just because of what he's done.
"He knows how to get himself around there, so you'd be pretty silly not to put him among the people I just mentioned."