Ain't It Grand!

April 15, 2001

A graybeard and a woman in a large red visor were under the old
oak tree at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday afternoon,
hoping to say hello to their hero, Tiger Woods, before the
biggest round of his life. Suddenly, the clubhouse door burst
open like a bad Western, and two security guards came barreling
out, hollering, "Make a hole!"

Behind them strode Woods, with a look in his eyes that could have
wilted titanium. He blew past the fans, not seeing the graybeard
stick out his hand or hearing the woman in the visor say, "Good
luck, Tiger!" They were a little disappointed, but no less in
love with him. They were Nike chairman Phil Knight and Tiger's
mother, Tida.

Hey, the man who's paying him $100 million and his own mother be
damned--Tiger had things to do, and he went straight from that
clubhouse door and did them, namely, making all our jaw muscles
lose their grip and knocking off the unthinkable Grand Slam.
O.K., you say it isn't the Grand Slam. But why whine about what
it isn't? Why not wallow for a while in what it is?

Woods's Sweet Sweep is the most amazing feat we've seen in sports
since 1920, when Babe Ruth hit more home runs than every American
League team except his New York Yankees. Woods's Mod Quad is the
single greatest achievement in golf history, and I don't want to
hear another word about Bobby Jones in 1930. You go over to
Haggis-on-Bumford and beat three sheep and two guys named Nigel
in the British Amateur, you ain't within 1,000 kilometers of
winning a fourth major in a row in 2001.

And don't give me any of that "the competition isn't as good
now" drivel. Do you realize that David Duval's 14-under-par 274
would've won 59 of the 65 Masters and put him in a playoff in
two others? Duval, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els are all part of
the Unlucky Sperm Club, born in the time of the man-eating,
trophy-swallowing Cablinasian. They may as well begin studying
to be CPAs. They have no chance. They'll never have a chance.
What's worse is they now realize that every time they think
Woods is slipping, it's only because he's up nights building
something even better in the garage.

Example: This year there was the so-called Tiger Slump. He
didn't win a tournament in January, in February and on into
March. NBC's Johnny Miller kept referring to the "awful" shots
Tiger was hitting. Golf World magazine ran a WHAT'S WRONG WITH
TIGER? cover. But what Woods was doing was playing the Masters
thousands of miles from the course.

"The West Coast, Florida, everything was geared to this," says
Woods's coach, Butch Harmon. Even during tournament rounds Woods
was working on shots that he would need only at Augusta. The big
sweeping draw. The high, soft arm shots with no spin. The
skip-and-spin chips.

How many did he use last week? "All of 'em," Woods said after
finishing 16 under par. The big sweeping draw set up three
birdies on number 13. The soft shots led the tournament in greens
hit in regulation. The skip-and-spinners saved pars all week,
including a crucial one on number 9 on Sunday.

Of course, you knew it was over on Saturday night, when Mickelson
was about to be lowered into a lion's den wearing a hamburger
suit. "I want this desperately," he said. "I want to be part of
the history of the game." When we asked Woods if he was thinking
of history that night, he only glared and said, "I'm thinking
about my swing."

Now one man in the world can put his feet up on a coffee table
that has all four major trophies on it. (There's a downside, too:
A meteor hits his house, and golf as we know it is extinct.) So,
what do we call this run of four straight majors? "To me," said
Tiger's father, Earl, on Sunday, "it's like when a scientist
discovers a star. He discovers it, he gets his name on it.
Nobody's ever done this before, so Tiger should get his name on
it."

A star is born: the Tiger Slam.

About five minutes after the Tiger Slam was a reality,
google-eyed fans were coming up to his parents and congratulating
them on the marvel they'd begot 25 years and three months before.
The two of them had tears in their eyes and, though they have
long since split, looked warmly at each other. Earl said, "I
guess that was one lucky night, huh?"

For all of us.

You knew the Masters was over on Saturday night when Mickelson
was about to be lowered into a lion's den wearing a hamburger
suit.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)