A Bold Statement

By David Climer
Updated: April 7, 2008

TENNESSEE — Sorry, Tiger. It’s not going to happen. Not this year. Not ever.

I’m not talking about the Masters here. I might be a fool but I’m not an idiot. Picking against Tiger Woods at Augusta National is a combination of heresy and lunacy.

The longer and tougher they make the course, the more they thin the herd of contenders. They’re playing right into Tiger’s paws.

No, the subject here is the Grand Slam. The modern Grand Slam. The real Grand Slam.

No one ever has won the four major professional tournaments in one calendar year — the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA.

Yes, there was a Tiger Slam. In 2000-01, Woods held all four major titles at one time … but not in the same calendar year.

It was a remarkable feat. It just wasn’t a true Grand Slam.

Now, with the dawning of Masters week, all eyes are on Tiger. Rightfully so.

A few months ago, Woods wrote on his own Web site that the Grand Slam was “within reach.” Obviously, he’s setting the bar pretty high.

Playing a different game

For the rest of the golf universe, talk of a Grand Slam begins after the Masters, not before. If Phil Mickelson wins this week, we will start analyzing how his game fits the South Course at Torrey Pines, site of the U.S. Open two months hence.

Then if Mickelson wins at Torrey Pines, we’d dissect his 0-for-career record in the British Open.

That’s how it works. You wait for the trophy ceremony before you look at the next challenge.

But it’s different with Tiger. Given his track record, you start thinking before the fact, not after. That’s how dominant he is.

Woods has long since become the transcendent figure in golf, if not in all of sport. Going back to the start of the 2007 season, he has played in 44 tournaments worldwide and won 23 of them.

Consider: You could have taken the field against him and Woods would have won more than half the time. Not even tennis great Roger Federer can match his record over that period of time.

Golf’s grand quest

Woods is 32, which is regarded as the peak age for golfers. But we’re talking about Tiger here. With him, 52 might be the new 32. He’s managed to balance marriage and fatherhood while further refining his swing. Frightening as it sounds, he says he’s playing the best golf of his life.

All of which brings us back around to golf’s Holy Grail — the Grand Slam. As good as Woods is, this is just beyond his reach.

He remains the best player in the game but the field has closed the gap.

There is no longer a sense of fear and loathing when he arrives at the course Sunday. Some players say they actually embrace the challenge of going head-to-head with him in the final round, whether it is at Amen Corner at Augusta National or on the coastal bluffs of Torrey Pines.

For these and other reasons, the Grand Slam remains out of reach.

Even for Tiger.