Here's a date to save: Sunday, Aug. 18. That afternoon--on the
18th green of Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., in
the final round of the PGA Championship--Tiger Woods will become
the first player to complete the modern Grand Slam by winning the
four major championships in a calendar year. Nobody has ever done
it. But nobody has ever been as good as this guy.
Woods has already won the four majors in a row: the 2000 U.S.
Open at Pebble Beach, the 2000 British Open at St. Andrews, the
2000 PGA at Valhalla and the 2001 Masters. He was the first to do
that. After Augusta last year he seemed to kick back. He rested
his head. Didn't win another major all year. He was recharging,
waiting for last week to finally arrive.
When it did, he won the first major of the year without breaking
a sweat. Now his year is made. He has something to play for. "The
Grand Slam was my goal at the start of every year," Jack Nicklaus
once said. "I always felt my year was over when I didn't win at
Augusta." Tiger's year is now beginning.
He won his first Masters in 1997, but that year his game wasn't
tight enough to win the U.S. Open on the narrow fairways of
Congressional. After winning his second Masters last
year--completing the Tiger Slam and making history, golf
division--he was too tired to win the U.S. Open at steamy Southern
Hills. The third time will be the charm.
First stop: the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black in June. He wins by a
shot over Vijay. Second stop: the British Open at Muirfield in
July. By two over Sergio. Third stop: Hazeltine in August. In a
playoff over a stand-in for Bob May. The single-year slam. In
other words, the Grand Slam.
He's already thinking about it. "I've done four in a row before,"
Woods said on Sunday night, before the first member's toast to
the champ was made. "It would be nice to do four in a row in one
"I'd say his chances at Bethpage are great," Rees Jones, the
architect who reworked the course for the Open, said on Sunday.
"It's the longest U.S. Open course in history--7,214 yards,
par-70. The 10th is a 492-yard par-4. The 12th is a 499-yard
par-4. It has one par-5 on each side, both of which he'll be able
to reach in two. With his length, you'd have to say the course
suits his game." Two down, two to go.
Then comes Muirfield. Paul McGinley, an Irish golfer who will be
on the European Ryder Cup team this year, has played the course
often, and he says it's made for Woods. "Tiger has the strength
to hit it out of the rough there," McGinley said on Sunday after
completing his first Masters. "Few do. He has the discipline to
avoid the bunkers, as he did when he won at St. Andrews, and he
has the intelligence to play the wind properly, to understand
that it blows in a different direction on every hole there."
Three down, one to go.
Then comes Hazeltine. The course doesn't have a special place in
the game, although it once produced a memorable quote. (At the
1970 U.S. Open there, Tour veteran Dave Hill was asked what the
course lacked. "Eighty acres of corn and a few cows," he said.
"They ruined a good farm when they built this course.") Hazeltine
will never be Merion, where Bobby Jones completed the original
Grand Slam in 1930. (He won the U.S. Open, the British Open, the
British Amateur and the U.S. Amateur in a single year.) But after
Woods marches through Hazeltine's green fields in the dog days of
a Midwestern summer, its name will have a little more majesty
You ask: Why will Woods win at Hazeltine, a course seemingly
named for a sitcom housekeeper? Because whenever he has a chance
to make history, golf division, he does what he has to do to get
the job done. After winning two consecutive U.S. Amateurs, he
made it a trifecta in 1995, mostly, it seemed, because nobody had
ever done it before. He's been leaving his spike marks all over
the record book since then. During that amateur run his father,
the sage Earl, told Woods, "Let the legend grow." The kid has
been exceedingly obedient.
"You'd have to say his chances of winning all four are pretty
good because he's so good at keeping momentum going," Charles
Howell said on Sunday afternoon at Augusta, as the roars for
Woods rose in the distance. "I'm going to do what I can to stop
him, and I'm sure a lot of other guys feel the same way."
You're tempted to say good luck to all those other guys, but you
know it will take much more than that.
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER No sweat The other three major venues this year set up perfectly for Woods's game.
Jack Nicklaus once said, "I always felt my year was over when I
didn't win at Augusta." Tiger's year is now beginning.