Is Woods on fringe of mastering Slam?

Augusta: As the winner of the past three majors gets ready to tee it up in the 65th Masters, the debate ensues: Can a Grand Slam be accomplished only within a calendar year?

April 04, 2001|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tiger Woods has always been a traditionalist in a game where the rules are as important as the results. It means being respectful of your elders and their accomplishments while obliterating their records and overshadowing their legends.

In the eight months since he won his third straight major with a scintillating playoff victory over journeyman Bob May in the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., Woods has given second thought to his position about what constitutes winning golf's Grand Slam.

"I'm not going to deny this, it's probably the hardest - it is the hardest way to accomplish a Grand Slam in one year," Woods said yesterday at Augusta National. "But I think if you can put all four trophies on your coffee table [at the same time], I think you can make a pretty good case for that, too."

Woods, 25, has the most crowded coffee table of any player since the legendary Ben Hogan won three of the four majors in 1953. With the start of the 65th Masters tomorrow, Woods would like to add another to a matching set that includes last year's U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship.

It would mean that Woods has won the past three tournaments in which he has played, following the win at Bay Hill that broke a six-month drought for the world's best player and his victory at The Players Championship two weeks ago at Sawgrass.

It would give Woods his second green jacket, following his record-setting, history-making victory here four years ago when he broke 20 tournament records, including those for being the youngest champion in history and, at 18-under-par 270, for shooting the lowest 72-hole score.

But would it give him the Grand Slam?

"Whether it is or it isn't, it's not something I'm really concerned about," said Woods. "I guess the best way to answer that is back in the summer of last year when I had an opportunity to complete the career Grand Slam, people were saying that if I win the tournament, I would complete the career Grand Slam.

"My goal was to win the tournament and if I win the tournament, that's completing a career Grand Slam. So that is my mindset this week. I'm going to go out there just like I do every week and hopefully compete and win the championship. If I do, people will say what it is."

While legends such as Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer have been quoted as saying it would not constitute a true Grand Slam - it was Palmer who first coined the phrase back in 1960 - Woods is careful not to create too many waves. His image isn't everything, but it's close.

"There's no denying I've always been respectful of them," Woods said of the game's elders. "But everyone is entitled to their opinion and their own views upon life, and obviously my views are slightly different than theirs, which in no means will ever have any kind of disrespect connotation to it."

It would be a moot issue had Woods not shot an opening-round 75 last year, winding up in fifth place, six shots behind Vijay Singh on Sunday.

His opening-round score was three stokes higher than any other round he shot in the Masters, four higher than in the U.S. Open, six higher than in the British Open and five higher than in the PGA. Woods will be cognizant of that when he tees off tomorrow.

"I think in any tournament it is extremely important to get off to a good solid start," he said. "But there are certain tournaments where you can actually get away with getting off to a bad start, and that is generally in some of the tougher majors."

Though not coming into this year's Masters with the same kind of intimidation he brought with him to Pebble Beach, St. Andrews and Valhalla, the recent victories have quieted any talk of a slump. Woods now leads the PGA Tour money list this season with $2,255,857.

Woods blamed his slow start this year on playing in too many events around the world at the end of last season.

"I traveled more than 27,000 miles on four different continents and that put a toll on my body," he said. "When I came out, I didn't feel as if I was appreciative enough. I didn't take enough of a break. I wasn't as energetic as I should have been. That's not saying I wasn't trying. I had a lot of defending [tournaments] to do at the end of last year."

Many believe that Woods is not shooting for a Grand Slam, just another leg on his second career Slam. But there are some players who feel that the modern-day version is much different than the one Bobby Jones accomplished in 1930, when he won the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, British Open and British Amateur.

"Four in a row is four in a row, whether it's in 2000 or in 2000 and 2001," said Greg Norman.

Said David Duval: "My opinion was all in the same year, but I thought Tiger would have agreed with that. But I guess he doesn't. So I guess if he wins, it would be a Grand Slam, because he's the one who does it."

One thing is certain: Woods is the only one who has a chance, now and probably forever.

One more thing: Does he really keep the trophies on his coffee table?

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