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CBS Was Not About to Slam Tiger

April 09, 2001|Mike Penner

Softly, the sound of muted horns floated in the background. Piano keys tinkled, orchestral strings lilted. Cameras zoomed in on the pink azaleas rustling in the Georgia breeze, on the water gently rippling in the creek. From inside the wood-lined cabin, its hues dark and warm, solemn voices whispered.

So soothing.

So calming.

So . . .



Or the Consecutive Slam.

Or the Simultaneous Slam.

Or the Tiger Slam.

Or the Play It Again Slam.

Or the Slam I Am I Do Not Like Green Eggs And Slam.

Although not quite the Calendar Slam, the 2001 equivalent of the Bobby Jones Slam.

Something important was happening Sunday on CBS, since its fired-up crew of golf announcers kept reminding us, in hushed tones, that history was at hand and that history was on the march--and, if that's really the case, doesn't that actually mean that history is on foot?

"It's vibrating, it's vibrating," Dick Enberg told Jim Nantz in front of potted plants and overflowing flower arrangements, the rough inside the Butler Cabin at Augusta National Golf Club.

"When you think about the history we're talking about and the fact that there are men [among the leaders] who are the best players not to have won the major, Mickelson and Duvall, who are looking for the green jacket. And now they go to the second nine. Can Tiger Woods accomplish something that has never been achieved in the history of this game--four major professional titles at the same time?"

Which is a fine way to try to stir interest in the final round of the Masters, except Jones already won a Grand Slam in 1930, although the four legs were different then. Jones didn't win the Masters in 1930 because there wasn't a Masters in 1930. Not his fault; Jones hadn't invented it yet. Still, he won the four biggest tournaments available to him then, and he did it in the same calendar year--which is more than Woods has done, at least to this point.

Some golf historians would prefer to wait five more months and three more majors before moving Woods onto the same pedestal as Jones. Not CBS. For CBS and Woods, Sunday was moving day. Caught up in the frenzy, or as much of it as Masters officials would permit, CBS laid down the ground rules as soon as it picked up the action, with the leader on the sixth hole: Tiger, you do the glistening, we'll do the christening.

Saturday, before the adrenaline started flowing, CBS looked at the matter from a relatively detached point of view. Nantz alluded to "the debate" over whether Tiger winning this tournament would constitute a Grand Slam or not, since three of the four victories would have occurred in 2000. CBS posed the question on camera to several golfers. Greg Norman said it would be a Grand Slam, Tom Lehman said he wasn't sure, Fred Couples said, "Obviously, it would not be in the same year . . . but in my opinion, it would count."

Nantz, seeking a compromise solution, then wondered, "What's wrong with calling it the Tiger Slam?"

Nothing about that debate changed during the next 24 hours, except that Tiger winning the 2001 Masters moved from the abstract to the concrete.

As soon as Woods sank his birdie putt on 18 and pumped his clenched fist in the air, CBS declared the debate over.

"There it is!" Nantz proclaimed. "As good as it gets! Tiger has his Slam!"

Added Ken Venturi: "Something I never dreamt that I would ever see, or anyone could ever do. I think that's the greatest feat I've ever known in all of sports."

Nantz, a few moments later: "An historic day. And again it belongs to Tiger."

Venturi: "I thought I'd never see this. I thought owning three, like [Ben] Hogan did at that time, was unbelievable. But owning all four, at the same time, I'm just amazed. One of the greatest feats I've ever seen."

Nantz: "Again, this is a young man who is only 25. Not even in what is considered to be the prime in a golf professional's career. And someone who as a youngster grew up with an encyclopedic memory of all of Jack Nicklaus' accomplishments. And now he has done something . . . that even the great Jack Nicklaus never accomplished."

Venturi: "Nor could anyone before him."

Not counting Jones and 1930. Or as Nantz intoned during an opening montage that took away even more golf action from the television viewer: "Through the tapestry of time, a champion is now poised to link his achievements with Jones' most hallowed record: the Grand Slam."

When it was over, when Woods had finished off the first major championship of 2001 after winning the last three major championships of 2000, Venturi announced, "We just witnessed a miracle."

Yes, we did--a grand slam that might not have been a grand slam suddenly becoming a grand slam, right before our very eyes.

"And there's more to come," Nantz said. "That's the only thing you can think."

Meaning that if Woods wins the British Open and the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship this summer, we can do this all over again.

The Grand Slam is complete, bring on the Grand Slam.

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