POIPU – Tiger Woods marches into this year’s PGA Grand Slam with half a Slam, but his performance throughout the 2002 season makes it almost feel like he achieved golf’s penultimate feat of four major championships in one year.
In the course of this most entertaining season of professional golf, Woods proved once again that golf success demands as much fortunate timing and bounces as it does exemplary skill.
Woods’ spectacular season by all counts – except by his own high standards – featured struggles that everyone has not come to expect from him. He recorded an 81 in a gale and rain in the third round of the British Open, and there were back-to-back bogeys to spoil four finishing birdies in the final round of the PGA Championship. Otherwise, Woods was making headlines for his run at the first ever modern Grand Slam.
He came close.
Woods captured his third Masters title in April on an Augusta National layout that was lengthened but didn’t erase the creativity that is just as much a part of his game as his prodigious length off the tee.
In June, he won his second U.S. Open Championship, this time by three strokes at devilishly difficult Bethpage State Park’s Black Course in Farmingdale, NY.
The only player under-par on the longest course in Open history, Woods notched his eighth overall major title. He became the first player since Jack Nicklaus in 1972 to win the first two major championships of the year.
Woods enters the PGA Grand Slam of Golf with 34 PGA tour titles, tying him for 11th with Tom Watson on the all time victory list.
With his three U.S. Amateur titles, Woods has now won 11 major events and is tied with Walter Hagen for third on the all-time major list behind Nicklaus (20) and Masters founder Bobby Jones (13). With eight professional majors, he shares fifth with Watson.
Woods has already won his own version of the Slam. A year ago, he became the first person to win four straight professional majors – the US. Open, British Open, Masters and PGA Championship – although purists contend a real Grand Slam is winning all four in the same year.
“I had all four trophies on my mantle at the same time, and no one else has ever done that,” Woods said. “Call it what you want. This will be a different type of Slam, I guess.”