Grand Slam, Anyone? It's Tiger's To Take
It was not only the largest crowd in Open history, it was also the loudest, even though beer sales were shut off
When Tiger Woods three-putted the first two greens in the final round of the U.S. Open, it quickly brought to mind Bye, Slamma Jamma. But Tiger had found his swing after three days at Bethpage Black, and that's all he needed to continue his Grand Slam attempt and his battle against his main adversaries -- Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus.
There are a handful of guys who keep telling themselves they have a chance to duke it out with Tiger, but so far it's only wishful thinking. Two of them this time were Phil (I'm proud of myself again) Mickelson and Sergio (Mommy likes Tiger best) Garcia, but they couldn't take advantage of Tiger playing less than magnificently.
So now Tiger heads to Muirfield in Scotland for the British Open as only the fourth player to seek a slice of immortality. Hogan won the Masters and Open in '53, went to Carnoustie and brought back a Triple Crown, the only other jewel available to him. Arnold Palmer invented the modern Grand Slam in '60 when he went to St. Andrews after winning at Augusta and Cherry Hills, but he lost by a stroke to the unlikely Kel Nagle. Then came Nicklaus in '72. Jack won at Augusta and Pebble Beach and appeared on the brink of keeping the Slam alive at Muirfield until Lee Trevino chipped in at the 71st and nailed him by a shot.
Should Tiger win at the very same Muirfield, where the ghosts will have become even more suffocating, it's safe to say that the PGA at Hazeltine outside Minneapolis in August will be one of the toughest tickets in the history of sports.
Jones won the Grand Slam of British and U.S. Open/Amateur titles in 1930, and Tiger has already won the Tiger Slam -- four consecutive majors over two seasons. He says that might have been tougher than a Calendar Slam because of the seven-month hype between the 2000 PGA and the 2001 Masters. "It's certainly doable," he says, "because I've done it before. I had all four trophies on my mantle at the same time."
Sorry, Tiger. Doesn't count.
It's hard to imagine what can stop him, though, other than some guy lapsing into a putting trance. Mind you, there's still a Jack Fleck somewhere in Tiger's future, but when he might reveal himself is impossible to say.
Tiger's putter carried him along through the first two rounds of 67-68. He one-putted 17 times in those 36 holes, and that doesn't count the numerous times he holed five- and six-footers for par to avoid three-putts. On Thursday alone he made a 20-footer, an 18-footer, two 15-footers, a 12-footer, two 10-footers and an eight-footer. It had a bunch of us math majors trying to figure out the last time we made 108 feet worth of putts in a round.
Tiger led by four strokes after three rounds, but he worked until dark Saturday evening, spending the better part of 45 minutes on the range with nobody but swing coach Butch Harmon and caddie Steve Williams -- and a bleacher full of fans. After getting up early all week, Tiger stayed up late watching TV to force himself into sacking in for the final tee time at 3:30 the next afternoon.
The opening three-putt greens showed that even Tiger Woods gets nervous. But he was well aware that the wind was finally blowing, and what with such other elements as the rough and Sunday being the final round of a major, a 72 would be a good enough score to bring him home. It was, by three strokes, his three-under total of 277 making him the only player under par. Without any real drama at the finish --
Tiger bogeyed two of the last three -- it was still the most watched Open in history.
It was Tiger's 11th major in all (counting the three U.S. Amateurs, certainly), but maybe it's more impressive that it was his sixth major out of the last nine and seventh out of the last 11. That ranks with Jones' 13 in eight years and Hogan's eight out of 12 from '48 through '53.