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FOCUS ON GOLF: PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

Palmer Came Up With Grand Idea

History: Arnie, who never won a Grand Slam, concocted the concept with a Pittsburgh sportswriter friend in 1960 after he had won the Masters and the U.S. Open.

August 17, 2000|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — All right, so Tiger Woods already has a career Grand Slam at age 24. What does that mean?

Actually, golf's Grand Slam wasn't grand until Arnold Palmer made it so.

Never before had there been a Grand Slam, although the U.S. Amateur and the British Amateur had been regarded as "majors" until the professional tour took over as the primary influence on golf worldwide.

Some background: In 1960, Palmer won the Masters by one shot over Ken Venturi, then won the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills by two shots over an amateur named Jack Nicklaus.

So Palmer had won the first two famous tournaments of the year, a fact that was not missed by sportswriter Bob Drum of the Pittsburgh Press. Drum was Palmer's Boswell and the guy who inspired Palmer to come back to win at Cherry Hills.

According to legend, Palmer had asked his buddy, Drum, during the last round, "What are my chances here?"

Drum reportedly said, "Go away, I'm eating my lunch and you're bothering me."

Of course, Palmer stormed back to win.

Anyway, Drum decided to cook something up with Palmer before the British Open, the third big event of the year. With Drum providing the idea and Palmer the publicity, they came up with the Grand Slam concept of four major championships. The British Open would be the third. And the PGA Championship the fourth.

In 1953, Ben Hogan won the Masters, the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club and the British Open at Carnoustie, but he didn't enter the PGA. He was on a boat home from England at the time. Hogan simply couldn't stand up to the rigors of a 36-hole final day.

Snead won the British Open in 1946 and didn't return to defend it. Hogan's victory at the British Open in 1953 was the only time he played the tournament.

Not until Palmer came to St. Andrews for the 1960 British Open was the event recognized as an important tournament in places besides Europe. Palmer, by the way, was second to Tony Lema in 1960 at St. Andrews.

And he never won the PGA, either.

While Palmer did not win the Grand Slam, such an omission wasn't a total loss for him.

Sure, Palmer never won the Grand Slam, but he did invent it.

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