At least Tiger Woods managed to play in one golf tournament between major championships this time, unlike in between the Masters and the USPGA Championship. Yesterday at the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village in Ohio (an event created by Jack Nicklaus, of whom more in a moment), Woods closed with a five-under-par 67 to finish tied ninth (albeit 10 shots behind the winner, Patrick Cantlay) before teeing it up in the US Open on Thursday week.
Phil Mickelson will head to Pebble Beach seeking to complete the career Grand Slam – victory in the Masters, USPGA Championship, US Open and the Open Championship. Clear enough; no problem or dispute there. We all know what we’re talking about. Only Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Nicklaus and Woods have accomplished that.
But when looking at the achievements of great golfers across the ages, very often one finds oneself in an apples-and-pears situation. It is not always straightforward to compare all-time records. For example, in his prime Walter Hagen didn’t have a Masters to play in. Sarazen’s best years were behind him when it began, in 1934. Bobby Jones won the original Grand Slam – the Open and Amateur Championships of the United States and Britain, all of them, in 1930 – but that was a different age in more ways than one. In 1953, Hogan couldn’t have played in the PGA if he’d wanted to because the dates clashed with the Open, which he was busy winning at Carnoustie.
But while I figure Mickelson’s bid for golfing immortality will be the focus of more media attention next week, there is certainly something very specific for Woods to target. At present he has won six R&A/USGA major championships: three Opens and three US Opens. On the same mark are Hagen (respectively, four and two) and Tom Watson (five and one). Three men lie ahead of them.
Harry Vardon won six Opens and one US Open. Jones won four US Opens and three Opens. Nicklaus did the same. (Coincidentally, both Nicklaus and Woods won a US Open at Pebble and won two of their three Opens over the Old Course at St Andrews.)
FedEx Cup Standings
With 81 PGA Tour victories, Woods is one short of Sam Snead’s record. With 15 majors, he’s three behind Nicklaus’s tally. Next week he could catch Snead and draw closer to Nicklaus. He could also become only the fourth man to win seven R&A/USGA majors, the definitive record of greatness that spans the ages, the continents and both the professional and amateur games. Even amid the illustrious career Tiger has enjoyed, it would be quite some achievement. As, to be fair, it would be if Phil came through to the delight of his fans. Or, indeed, if Brooks Koepka should become the first man since Willie Anderson in 1905 to win three US Opens in succession…
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