Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Grand Slam for Tiger Woods? I doubt it.

OK -- Tiger Woods, arguably the best golfer of all-time (though I think Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus might have something to say about that), won The Masters, his first major victory in recent memory.
So what's a sports writer to do? Well, apparently write that Tiger Woods is now enroute to winning the Grand Slam, something that has never been accomplished in modern golf.
Sports writers love hyperbole. They are always saying so-and-so is the new Mickey Mantle, the new Michael Jordan or the new Tiger Woods. They also love to take a singular event, like Woods' win at the Masters, and speculate that he's now on the way to winning the Grand Slam.
I typically like Golfobserver.com's Art Spander, but he's way off base in his latest column when he says that Tiger should have an easier time winning the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 than he did at Augusta. I don't see it -- and I think Phil Mickelson or Ernie Els will have something to say about it -- and the British Open at St. Andrews, with its lack of rough and random bunkering, will be a long hitter's delight, bringing a lot of players into the mix. Who knows about the PGA Championship at Baltrusol -- anyone can win a PGA and many have.

To Spander's credit, he isn't the only one pumping up Tiger following the Masters. There's a story in the Atlanta Constitution Journal that essentially says the same thing.
You'd think experienced golf writers would think this one through. Sure, Woods' shot at a Grand Slam is great copy. But don't they always talk this way after a great player wins The Masters? If Nicklaus couldn't do it, I doubt Tiger Woods, who is still struggling to hit his driver straight, is up to the task. Besides, the pressure would be intense and the competition is better than ever.
If there is one truth in golf, it is that even the best only win 9 or 10 times a year. Most of those are events like this week's MCI Heritage Classic at Harbour Town -- fairly anonymous, with marginal fields. No one -- and that includes Tiger Woods at his best -- wins four majors in a single year. Like a ball player who is a star by hitting three out of every ten, golfers become huge by winning a major tournament every other year.

* There's a couple of other good stories out there today, including the USA Today that discusses how the TV networks are trying to discount the rise in ratings that came with Tiger's win at Augusta.
In another interesting piece, this time in the London Times, Johan Lindeberg, who dresses Jesper Parnevik, talks about how he's the only golf clothing designer that matters. Probably is -- but you have to be impossibly thin to wear anything he designs.

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