Well, that’s the Rory-Masters-Slam hype over for one more year (and what a mess he made of it). Now the spotlight turns on the next superstar who could complete the full set of Majors in 2023 - Jordan Spieth.
And the one still missing from the Texan’s CV as he bids to join the five musketeers who achieved Mission Improbable - Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods - tees off this week in upstate New York at Oak Hill, fondly remembered as the scene of Europe’s famous triumph in the 1995 Ryder Cup.
Curiously, the USPGA Championship was never the one to complete the job for those five career Slammers - or what one scribe from a bygone age called “the Impregnable Quadrilateral of Golf, that granite fortress that he alone could take by escalade and that others may attack in vain, forever”.
That flowery reporter, O B Keeler, of course was eulogising Bobby Jones on achieving what was in those far-off days, before the Masters was even a glint in his eye, the 1930 version of the same-year Grand Slam - the two Opens and their two national amateur championships.
Nobody has ever invited comparison with Jones by landing the modern version of the Slam although we did have the ‘Tiger Slam’ when Woods captured four Majors in a row, the last three of 2000 and the 2001 Masters, but not in the same calendar year.
The game is so competitive nowadays it’s highly unlikely anyone will ever get closer than that. The Majors are now closer together but it still requires someone to maintain his game at peak in April, May, June and July. It’s still quite a stretch.
Ever since I started writing golf for The Sporting Life more than half a century ago, mug punters have fallen for the fat quotes about the ‘name’ player of the day, whether it was Nicklaus, Woods or whoever, doing ‘Mission Impossible’.
The only time the ‘enemy’ looked remotely worried was Muirfield 1972 when the Golden Bear arrived for the Open having won at Augusta and Pebble Beach. Two down, two to go. But Lee Trevino came to their rescue (someone always does), Jack could do no better than second and down went all those 1000/1 dreams. Collective sighs of relief from Ladbrokes and others.
There were no fancy four-figure quotes in 2002, the year Tiger emulated Nicklaus by snapping up the first two, because they were genuinely scared of Woods, such a charismatic golfer they knew the betting public at large would take whatever was offered, however poor the value.
My hero was Tom Watson - “Bet Watson in Scotland” went the cry every time the Open went north of the border and how the Scots adored saluting this champion golfer of the year four times in their midst and how we all felt his pain when, in 2009 at 59 years of age, he fell one par short of making it five at Turnberry, the Ayrshire links where 32 years earlier he had come out on top against Nicklaus in the legendary Duel in the Sun.
The PGA Championship was Watson’s stumbling block to the Slam he so deserved, as it was for Arnold Palmer. Tom’s big chance came at Oakmont in 1978 when he led every day and by five going into Sunday. A feeble final 73 allowed John Mahaffey and Jerry Pate to catch him and it was Mahaffey who went away with the massive Wanamaker Trophy, all 27 pounds of it, after the playoff.
Tom had won only two of the four Majors before that disaster - his US Open didn’t come till four years later - so while you could say he blew the PGA, the regret over the Slam that got away came later.
So can Spieth go where greater men have not? The omens aren’t great. He hasn’t won a Major for six years and the PGA has been his worst-performing Major. Ten attempts and, despite a second (three adrift of Jason Day in 2015) and a third (six behind Brooks Koepka in 2019), never really close to cracking it.
He missed the cut by a country mile the last time he played. And he withdrew from last week’s Byron Nelson, citing a wrist injury. Hardly the ideal prep but with the unpredictable Jordan you just never know.
Maybe Jon Rahm, the only one who can now do the same-year Slam, can show them all how it’s done. But I wouldn’t bet on it …
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