50 years later, Gary Player winning the career Grand Slam is still pretty incredible
In a sport that's centuries old, the history that matters can be measured in increments of time as prolonged as an entire era or as quick as a single shot. And then there's the landmark, milestone-type historical moment that for several months has been part of the mainstream golf conversation for two present stars and, this week, celebrates a 50th anniversary for Gary Player.
Like baseball's Triple Crown achievers, which total 17 but just one in the last 47 years, golf's Grand Slam players were busy early and quiet lately. Four players completed the Slam from 1935 to 1966 but just one since then. Completing the Grand Slam can take several years to do, but the week that it happens, the focal point becomes the winning moment and celebration, the zenith of all the effort and buildup. The first to do it, Gene Sarazen, nailed it down after a 36-hole Masters playoff with Craig Wood on April 8, 1935, accompanied by rain and cold.
With the Masters being so new, Sarazen's Grand Slam took awhile to be appreciated. Player, however, was the third to accomplish the feat, and recognition of his sweep of the four majors was immediate. He, too, did it in a playoff, with Kel Nagle, at the U.S. Open. The playoff at Bellerive in St. Louis started at 1:15 p.m on June 21, 1965. (Player will officially mark the 50th anniversary Sunday at Chambers Bay.) The '65 Open was also the first National Open televised in color and first to go to four days of play rather than three with a double-round on Day 3.
Here is a Grand Slam primer, with dates when Grand Slam history was made, in the order they happened, with feat details. Interestingly, Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Player won their clinching major just once; Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods won their clinching major, the British Open, three times. Sarazen and Hogan did not win another major after their Slams were done.
April 8, 1935: Gene Sarazen (two months past age 33) wins the Masters, beating Craig Wood, 144-149, in a 36-hole playoff. Sarazen clinched the Slam on his first try (he did not play the 1934 Masters). Three years passed from his No. 3 major (1932 British Open). Grand Slam span: 13 years; 1922 first, 1935 fourth (the Masters did not start until 1934). Won Masters once. Seven total majors won at time of completion.
July 10, 1953: Ben Hogan (one month shy of 41) wins the British Open by four. Hogan clinched the Slam on his first try (he only played the British Open once). Two years passed from his No. 3 major (1951 Masters). Grand Slam span: seven years; 1946 first, 1953 fourth. Won British Open once. Nine total majors won at time of completion.
July 9, 1966: Jack Nicklaus (age 26 and a half) wins the British Open by one. Nicklaus clinched on his third try and his fifth time to play the Open. Three years passed from his No. 3 major (1963 PGA). Grand Slam span: four years; 1962 first, 1966 fourth. Won British Open three times. Six total majors won at time of completion.
____ July 23, 2000:__ Tiger Woods (age 24 years 7 months) wins the British Open by eight. Woods clinched on his first try and his sixth time in the British Open. One month passed from his No. 3 major (2000 U.S. Open). Grand Slam span: three years; 1997 first, 2000 fourth. Won British Open three times. Four total majors won at time of completion.