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WHEN A GRAND SLAM IS NOT A GRAND SLAM.
April 6, 2001

by Bill Hogan

 

 
 

If Tiger wins the Masters this weekend, does it constitute the Grand Slam?

Why do the sports media insist on creating controversy where none should exist. Isn't it newsworthy enough that a Tiger win would give him four straight majors? That feat in and of itself is amazing to say the least.

 
 


There should be no question, no debate, no controversy and no Grand Slam. Let's go to the record books to clear up this issue. The 2001 ESPN Sports Almanac defines golf's Grand Slam as winning "four major championships in a single season". And that the only winner of a "recognized Grand Slam" is Bobby Jones in 1930.

'Nuff said. The potential feat that Tiger has an opportunity to accomplish this weekend is awesome. "FOUR STRAIGHT MAJORS" does a lot more to define Tiger's greatness and validate his accomplishments than to arbitrarily call it a "Grand Slam" with an asterisk.

What's in a label, anyway? Is a base's loaded home run worth less than four runs if it's not called a "Grand Slam"?

Does the bacon, sausage, ham, egg and hashbrown breakfast at Denny's contain less cholesterol or pose less of a danger of heart attack if it's not called the "Grand Slam"?

I don't like contrived controversy interfering with a sporting event that has possible historic significance. When I feel the need to witness heated debate or over-opinionated discussion, I prefer to watch Bill O'Reilly go at it with Barney Franks.

There are hundreds of sports channels, sports papers, sports magazines and sports radio stations jockeying for an audience, and it seems like they're all in a hurry to be the first to crown Tiger King of the golf world. We all saw the danger of the media jumping the gun in the last presidential election.

In 1971, Jack Nicklaus won the final major of the year, the PGA. In 1972, he won the first two majors, The Masters and the U.S. Open. By his own account, there was no talk of a Grand Slam when the British Open started, even though a victory would have given Jack four straight major titles. There was no need, nor any desire on the part of the media to try and sensationalize what would clearly be a tremendous accomplishment.

Only time and titles will make Tiger the greatest golfer ever. Until then, Jack is King.

Of course, there is always the possibility that someone else will win the Masters, and I will have climbed all the way up to the top of my soap box for nothing.

I'm going with Phil Mickelson. Which is the kiss of death for Phil Mickelson.

I'll be rooting hard for Jack to make the cut. How great would it be to see him string together three improbable rounds and wind up in the final group with Tiger on Sunday?

Speaking of senior golfers, there was an incident that occurred during NBC's coverage of 2001 Players Championship that really ticked me off.

Tom Kite is 51 years old and a recent member of the senior tour. During the course of play, he missed a 3-foot par putt prompting the announcer to remark that it looked like a Senior Tour putt.

I could only infer from his statement that it was typical for a Senior Tour player to miss a 3-footer. There's no way a PGA player would have missed that putt, right? Tom Kite only started missing those putts in 2000 when he was a Senior Tour rookie.

The statement left me wondering how Lee Trevino, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and the rest of the over-50 crowd - who still play wonderful, very competitive golf - would react to such an asinine statement.

I think it would have made for great drama had, during the awkward moment of silence that followed the remark, Chi-Chi Rodriguez stormed the broadcasting booth and opened up a big ol' can of Senior Tour whoopass on that announcer. Then take out his putter and do that Zorro thing he does.

I'm curious why fellow broadcaster Johnny Miller, who will be 54 on April 29th, did not have anything to say to his partner.

It just occurred to me that the phrase "Senior Tour rookie" (four paragraphs up) might be considered an oxymoron.

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