Golf's professional Grand Slam has developed over time
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Unlike the man who first made this Georgia dateline famous, Tiger Woods openly embraced the idea of capturing all four major championships in a single year. A simple comment on his Web site near the end of 2007 took life and grew into non-stop chatter about the Grand Slam, with Woods doing nothing to quiet the talk, either with his words or his clubs.That discussion will only intensify if Woods is able to win this week's Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, the place co-founded by amateur golfer Bobby Jones -- the only player to win golf's Grand Slam. The differences, of course, start with Jones' accomplishing a different version of the feat, with victories in the U.S. and British Opens as well as the U.S. and British Amateurs in 1930. He then retired from competitive golf and, among other things, helped start Augusta National and the Masters.
Jones, however, never openly embraced the idea of winning all four tournaments in the same year."Jones first conceived the notion of winning the Grand slam in 1926, four years before he did it," said golf historian Sidney Matthew, who has written several books about Jones. "That year, he won the double [the British and U.S. Opens] and that was the first time he thought he might be able to win all four in one year." Jones finished runner-up at the 1926 U.S. Amateur, but lost in the sixth round of the British Amateur, a tournament he believed might have been the hardest to win because of its seven 18-hole matches in five days that preceded the 36-hole final. And he would not compete in that tournament again until 1930, when he could play it along with the British Open and the Walker Cup, where his expenses could be picked up by the United States Golf Association for the trip overseas. Even after winning both tournaments in Britain, the idea of winning all four stayed with Jones, who confided only in his wife, Mary. "He kept it quiet for years, even from [O.B.] Keeler," said Matthew, referring to the Atlanta-Journal columnist who chronicled all of Jones' exploits. "He never told Keeler until Interlachen [site of the 1930 U.S. Open]. Once he won at St. Andrews [the British Amateur] and Hoylake [British Open], it was pretty obvious. The question became could he win at Interlachen and that was really the time that he confessed to Keeler that he had planned it all along." When Jones won the fourth of four major championships by winning the U.S. Amateur at Merion, Keeler referred to it as the "Grand Slam," borrowing the bridge term used when a player wins all the tricks in a hand. Grand Slam had also been used to describe a bases-loaded home run in baseball and would later be used in relation to the four biggest tournaments in tennis. But in golf, the calendar year Grand Slam would never occur again.
Can Tiger do it?Tiger Woods has already stated that winning all four majors during this calendar year is "easily within reason." The Tiger Watch begins at this week's Masters Tournament, where some of the game's all-time greats will be keeping a close eye on Woods' pursuits. Here's how some notable former champions handicap his chances: Jack Nicklaus: "Realistically, the Grand Slam was possible, but not likely. It was my goal to start every year. ... I think Tiger looks at it much the same way. Tiger probably even more because he has held all four of them at one time. So that's a pretty lofty goal. But for a guy like Tiger, I wouldn't put it past him." Arnold Palmer: "I got halfway there, felt like I got a little further than halfway. I can see Tiger doing it. Since I created it about 1960, we really haven't had many people come close, except Tiger. Jack did a pretty good job of it and Gary ... but Tiger is by far the most advanced into that situation. I think a lot of that depends on just how determined he is to win the four events in one year. And of course, I think that is pretty damn exciting myself. It's something that should stimulate the golf world and certainly should stimulate Tiger because he's the guy who's on the hot spot right now." Gary Player: "Tiger can do it. If you look at the [world ranking] system, Tiger is twice as good as anybody else. ... I've always said the word luck is the residue of design. And the harder you work, the luckier you get. And you do have to have luck." Tom Watson: "I used to say that about Nicklaus' championship record: Nobody will surpass it. And I remember a few people saying, 'Well, the competition is so tough, nobody will ever get to there.' Well, you were wrong! I always said it's improbable that somebody is going to match [Nicklaus], but not impossible. To win four major championships, it's not impossible, but it's improbable. Well, Tiger has proved that improbable wasn't the right term, and it is possible."
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2008 MASTERS TOURNAMENT
When: Thursday-Sunday, April 10-13
Where: Augusta National Golf Club
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