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Is Grand Slam unattainable?

Hank Gola New York Daily News

PINEHURST, N.C. – It has been 75 years since Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam and after watching what happened at the U.S. Open, it’s safe to say that it might be another 75 years before anyone – male that is – does it again.

Tiger Woods made his bid to get halfway there on Sunday and while he fell two shots short of Michael Campbell, the enormity of the task – and the luck involved – became clear.

In fact, it only gives you greater appreciation for the four major titles Woods held simultaneously in 2000-01. Back then, it seemed that the feat was taken for granted. And while Woods now has a first-place finish and a second-place in the first two majors of the year, his days of dominance, where he could scare people off the leaderboard, are gone.

Campbell, the latest in a series of major champs who have come out of nowhere, was a rock, especially when he birdied the par-3 17th to sew things up. Still it would have been interesting to see how Campbell would have responded had Woods put the pressure on by making it through 16 and 17 without bogeys on both.

You can say that Woods let this one get away, but you can also say he got a little lucky at Augusta. With so many capable players, and so many more emerging from overseas, the odds of everything coming together in all four majors in the same year have grown a lot since 2001.

Consider that Jack Nicklaus had 19 second-place finishes to go along with his 18 major titles and he came close to winning the Slam only once.

Woods will be the favorite at the British Open at St. Andrews, where he just about lapped the field while winning in 2000. But he did that with some precise shots off the tees, hitting stinger 2-irons to avoid the bunkers.

“It depends on the weather,” he said. “If you play difficult pin locations with no wind, like we did the last time, St. Andrews is really not that hard a golf course. If the wind blows, you have what John Daly ended up winning with (in 1995 at minus-6), and you hope to get under par. It’s kind of a crapshoot in the wind.”

Woods also made mention that he hit it “beautifully” all week and that his swing change was now vindicated.

Second place, however, is still no place for him.

“It depends on how you get there, you know?” he said. “If you back door it, then yeah (there’s a scrap of pride). But if you feel you had a chance to win and you didn’t take that opportunity, then it’s disappointing. The two seconds that I’ve had I’ve had wonderful opportunities to win both, the PGA at Hazeltine and now here. Two wonderful opportunities and I did not get it done coming down the stretch.”

It should be noted that none of Tiger’s nine major titles came after trailing through 54 holes.

Here’s a list of other winners and losers from the tournament:

Winner: The USGA. It got exactly what it wanted: a champion shooting even-par for 72 holes, without going nuts with the setup. There was plenty of complaining about the difficulty, but none about the setup itself.

Loser: The USGA. All of the above can make for boring golf at times. It’s only so much fun watching guys chip back and forth across greens.

Winner: Jason Gore. The obscure Nationwide Tour pro, who looks like Sign Boy from the FootJoy commercials, won over the galleries. They were dying to root him home.

Loser: Jason Gore. His Sunday collapse cost him automatic exemptions into next year’s Masters and U.S. Open.

Winner: The European Tour, with a member picking up the U.S. Open trophy for a second straight year.

Loser: Europe. That makes 35 straight years without a champion.

Winner: Callaway golf, Campbell’s equipment company. If Annika wins the U.S. Women’s Open this week, it will be a sweep.

Loser: TaylorMade, Callaway’s competitor, which went down with the R-7 swinging Retief Goosen.

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