Delicious, isn't it? Just to be able to say, "Tiger Woods could
win the Grand Slam this year." Not since Jack Nicklaus has
Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold up a second, Golf Boy! Are you actually
going to try to convince these people that a 21-year-old rookie
is going to win the Grand damned Slam? Let me give you some
advice: Don't go there.
O.K., it's a long shot. But not that long. Before the Masters,
British oddsmakers had him at 5,000 to 1 to do it. Now they're
down to 25 to 1 and not sleeping very well.
The guy won the Masters, the first major of the year. Big
freaking deal! Last I checked, genius, you had to win all four!
June 8, 1997
True. But look at it this way: Since he's been a pro, he's never
lost a major.
Cute. You heard of Byron Nelson, am I right? Well, Byron Nelson
says guys like you ought to lay off the airplane glue.
"You might be the best player in the world and not win the Grand
Slam," Byron says. "Some of the greatest players I've ever
seen--Sam Snead, Tom Watson--never even won the four Grand Slam
tournaments in a lifetime, much less in a single year." In fact,
only four guys ever did win it in a lifetime: Sarazen, Hogan,
Nicklaus and Player. I mean, Tiger Woods has a better chance of
his caddie, Fluff, standing up and singing the entire works of
Puccini than winning the Slam. Nice try, though.
Ididn't say it was going to be easy. But for once, we have
someone who's not afraid of it. Other guys, they'd roll their
eyes and say stuff like "It's preposterous even to think about
it in this day and age." This kid, though, is looking right into
the Slam's dental work and not even blinking. He's coming at it
in a whole new way. "I think it's possible," he says. He figures
Phil Mickelsen won four times last year; why couldn't they have
been the four majors? "It may be just that realistic," Tiger
says. "Just that simple."
Because he doesn't know how freaking hard it is!
Have you seen the courses where the three remaining majors will
be played? Start with the U.S. Open...
...which Tiger led near the end of the first round last year.
...but he ended up 82nd ...
...as a college sophomore.
Can I finish?
Start with the U.S. Open next week at Congressional, outside
Washington. It has only two par-5s. It's not like the kid starts
the week 16 under as he does at every other Tour stop. And
Congressional isn't some TPC at Lob Wedges, either. It doesn't
have ridiculously wide Augusta National fairways, where you
could parallel park the Spruce Goose.
Hello? Congressional has only two par-5s because the USGA took
two par-5s and called them par-4s. One of them, the 6th, is 475
yards with a lake in front of the green. Does that sound like a
par-4 to you? You want to know how mean that hole is? Mike Tyson
has a house on it, that's how mean. Not only that, but there are
also seven other par-4s that are longer than 430 yards. In fact,
at 7,213 yards, Congressional is the longest Open course in
history. You don't think that has young Tiger written all over
it? It's as his mom, Tida, said when she heard how long the
place is: "Oh, that fits Tiger."
Yeah? Does his mom know who won on the next four longest Open
courses? Hale Irwin at Medinah in 1990, Gary Player at Bellerive
in '65, Lee Janzen at Baltusrol in '93 and Tony Jacklin at
Hazeltine in '70. That's not exactly Murderers' Row. Every one
of them is a dink hitter. Tiger may be long, but he's 44th on
the Tour in driving accuracy, and every time you miss a fairway
at Congressional, you're in deep, deep yogurt.
Let me tell you some of the guys who won at Congressional when
it was the site of the Kemper Open on the Tour: Greg Norman, who
did it twice, and Fred Couples and Bill Glasson. All of 'em are
longer than your neighbor's vacation slide show.
It's not the same course now. Rees Jones redid it in 1990.
Right. And the members all say it plays 500 yards longer now.
Remember, whenever I say the word longer, Tiger is thinking,
Better for me. I figure Tiger swings driver on as many as 10
holes--4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17.
Have you ever heard the phrase Open rough? The rough at
Congressional is going to be as long and nasty as the Paula
Jones trial. This is the same twig of a kid who practically
snapped off his wrist in the rough at Shinnecock and withdrew.
No problem. On the other holes, he hits his one-iron, which only
goes 265 right down the sprinklers. He won three USGA
titles--the 1993 Junior at Waverly in Portland; the '92 Junior
at Wollaston in Milton, Mass.; and his third Amateur at Pumpkin
Ridge near Portland last year--by hitting almost nothing but
one-irons. It's like his dad always told him, "Tiger, the
one-iron is your friend."
Then, in July, Tiger goes to Troon for the British, which is
nothing but wind and bump-and-runs and sheep--not exactly what
he grew up with in Orange County. Do you remember the 81 he shot
on the first round of the Scottish Open at Carnoustie last year?
I mean, Colin Montgomerie's dad, James, is the secretary at
Troon! You don't think Colin, the sixth-ranked player in the
world, might feel pretty cozy at his home crib?
Maybe, but first, Montgomerie has missed the cut at four of the
last five British Opens; second, Tiger was 68th in his first
British two years ago and 22nd last year, and we know from the
Masters that he's a quick study; third, Tiger won his second
Amateur at Newport Country Club, up in Rhode Island, which is as
linksy as haggis; four, Troon now has a watering system, so the
course will be much more lush and will play longer, which is
just plain valet service for Tiger; and fifth, Tiger's swing
coach, Butch Harmon, thinks Tiger can win there because, with
his length, he could conceivably be putting for eagle on four of
the first six holes, which are all downwind. As for playing into
a headwind, Harmon says Tiger is the best in the world because
of "the way his ball just tears through the wind."
Gee. Imagine that, Butch thinking Tiger would win. What did you
think he'd say, "I figure the kid'll blow like a bagpiper and
catch the first Concorde home on Saturday morning?"
Then, in August, Tiger goes to Winged Foot outside of New York
City for the PGA, which is trickier than three-card monte. It's
the ultimate local-knowledge track, and he's never played it.
You're right. That's a terrible disadvantage. Except for the
fact that Harmon grew up at Winged Foot as the son of the
longtime pro there, Claude Harmon. You think Butch might be
willing to share a few secrets? They're already working on it.
Winged Foot is known for some of the deepest bunkers in the
world, so lately Butch has been putting Tiger in a bunker,
standing on the green right in front of him, holding a bunker
rake as high as he can and saying, "Hit it over the rake." Tiger
goes, "You're kidding me." And Butch just laughs.
Let me ask you something. Do you remember reading Norman's obit?
Because I sure don't. Not only has Norman won at Congressional,
but he also finished second the last time the British was at
Troon, in 1989, and second at Winged Foot when the Open was held
there in '84. You think he's going to all these places just to
help the engraver spell Tiger's name? Remember, while Tiger is
in the center of a giant Metallica concert every week, Norman is
getting rested, focused and pumped. I even talked to him about
it. Norman said, "Tiger has got a roll going right now, but guys
have been talking about winning the Slam for decades. Every time
somebody comes along with charisma and a game, people start
talking about the Slam. Tiger is no different than Arnold was,
than Jack was or than Seve was. I can remember that being
written about me. Tiger could be the One, and he may not be the
One. Tiger is just as capable of winning the Slam as Watson was,
as Nicklaus was, but no more capable. And I'm not just going to
give up the rest of the year to him." So, you see what I mean?
Forget about a shark and you're bound to get bit.
Yeah. And listen to what Tom Watson said.
When he heard about the odds, Watson said, "Twenty-five to one?
I'd like some of that."
Do you have any idea how crazy the U.S. Open is going to be?
They're making security plans as if President Clinton were
coming every day. And he won't be coming to see Omar Uresti,
pal. And then, if the kid wins there, what do you think Troon
will be like? You know they don't cap attendance there, don't
you? You know that kids under 18 get in free with a paying
adult, don't you? You think that might be a little bonkers,
50,000 little Nigels running around, going, "Mumsy, I'll simply
die if Tiger won't come to tea!" Then, should Tiger somehow win
at Troon, can you imagine what New York City, the center of the
free world, will be like with the Grand Slam on the line? You'll
have guys pole-vaulting fences, parachuting onto the practice
range and burrowing up into the 3rd green. As Pat Collins, the
caddiemaster at Winged Foot, says, "We'd need the Army, Navy,
Air Force and the Marines." Try playing golf with that on your
Wait a second. Just think about it. If you're in the middle of a
forest, does it matter if you're surrounded by a thousand trees
or a million? Either way, all you see are trees. Tiger has been
in this vortex for almost a year now. He's used to it. He's got
three cops with him everywhere. He's got more marshals than Miss
Kitty. He's got agents and no-men and a very protective
entourage. And he's smart. You ask him if he reads coverage of
himself, he goes, "Why should I? I was there." If anything,
Tiger is the only guy who might be able to handle modern Grand
Slam pressure, because he's used to it. Every day is like the
last day of Saigon.
Forget it. This isn't a kids' movie: Tiger and Fluff's Big
Adventure. There's no way. Winning golf's Grand Slam is the
hardest feat in sports. The Triple Crown has been won 11 times
in horse racing and 16 times in baseball. Tennis's Grand Slam
has been achieved six times. But nobody's ever won the modern
Grand Slam of golf, and nobody ever will.
I guess Bobby Jones in 1930 was a publicist's hoax?
Please. The guy wins the U.S. and British Opens and the U.S. and
British Amateurs. You don't get credit for jayvee games.
And Hogan in 1953 with the near Slam?
He didn't win the PGA.
He didn't play in it!
So blame his agent!
They played the PGA and the British at almost the same time that
Which only goes to show how many people cared about the Grand
Slam then. Today, winning the Slam would come with so much
pressure and attention you wouldn't wish it on the DMV. Sorry,
winning the Slam can't be done.
Which is exactly what they said about somebody winning three
straight U.S. Juniors, three consecutive U.S. Amateurs and five
tournaments in his first nine months on the Tour. Listen, this
kid is like nobody who's come along. His insides are galvanized
steel. In the last six years he has won his season's biggest
USGA championship, and in each one of those six he was behind in
the final match. Is that XXL stones or what? And each year they
said he wouldn't do it the next year. It's like Butch says: "The
biggest strength of Tiger Woods you can't see. It's his mind."
What makes you think he can't make it seven in a row?
Just the normal allotment of brain cells and a sense of history.
Something Tiger has no sense of yet.
History is what the kid is making! Where have you been,
Reykjavik? Here's how his last four starts have gone: first,
first, fourth and...
...barely made the cut at Memorial.
Even Wolfgang Puck burns a souffle once in a while. The
important thing is, this kid knows what he's trying to achieve.
He's constantly down at the Golf Channel in Orlando, bugging the
folks there for tapes of old tournaments. Right now he's got all
their Congressional tapes. The other night he was on the
Internet, checking out Nicklaus's record in the majors. When he
saw it, it blew him away. He called Butch and said, "Can you
believe it. Nineteen seconds! Nine thirds! Seventy-two top 10s!"
And Butch said, "See? You got a long way to go, don't you?"
Bingo. And Jack never really sniffed the Slam.
First at the Masters, first at the Open, second at the British
in '72? That's not a sniff?
That's a half sniff. The greatest player in history could only
get halfway there. Case closed, balata brain.
Listen, all I know is there's only one guy this year with a
chance to do it, and I think we've got the right one. The kid
doesn't set limits on himself, so why should we? Dreamless
buzzkills like you can go pound divot mix. And that's the last
Says who, tough guy?
Says the little black box just to the right of this period.