Woods didnt win a major when he was 22. Jones won the U.S. Amateur, which was considered a major in those days. When Tiger was 23, he won his second major, the PGA Championship. Jones at 23 won his third, the U.S. Am.
At age 24, Woods won three legs to the Slam ' the U.S. Open, the British Open and again the PGA. By then he had caught up with Jones at five majors apiece. Jones at 24 won the U.S. Open and the British Opens.
At age 25, Tiger has just won the Masters, his sixth major and the one that completes the Straight Slam. The six jewels put him one ahead of Jones, who before the end of his 25th year would win two more, the U.S. Amateur and the British Open.
The similarities between Jones career and that of Woods are eerie. Of course, by the time Jones was 28, it was all over. He won the Grand Slam in 1930 and retired at a very young age with 13 majors. He couldnt afford to travel after 1930, since he insisted upon remaining an amateur.
But by 1930, he had decided to give the Grand Slam one big try. The USGA helped by picking up his ship fare to Great Britain ' he was playing in the Walker Cup the week before the British Amateur. Charles Price covered the details in A Golf Story.
The first two legs of the Slam, the British Amateur and the British Open, were the most difficult for Jones. Woods breezed in the first two, the U.S. Open and the British Open, winning by 15 shots and eight shots, respectively. Tigers last two have been tighter. Jones last two were a little looser.
Jones had to compete in seven matches to win the British Amateur that May at St. Andrews and only his finale, against Roger Wethered, was a breather. That one ended 7 and 6 in the 36-hole competition.
However, in the fourth round he played defending champion Cyril Tolley and went to the 18th and final green before he won, 1-up. Jones placed a stymie inches in front of the cup and Tolley couldnt negotiate it. He won the fifth and sixth rounds on the 18th greens, also.
The British Open was two weeks later and Jones broke the Royal Liverpool course record by 10 strokes in winning.
Jones played the U.S. Open in June in 100-degree temperatures in Minneapolis and was rolling along until he reached the 71st hole. Ahead by three strokes, he came to a long par-3 with perhaps 15,000 fans watching ' and lost his tee shot.
He suffered a double bogey and went into the 72nd hole ahead by just one. Groans were audible in the gallery when he left his approach some 40 feet short of the hole. In danger of going into an 18-hole playoff the next day with Macdonald Smith if he three-putted, Jones stroked a roller toward the cup ' and it went in for birdie!
The U.S. Amateur was next, and Jones was never in trouble, defeating Gene Homans in the final, 8 and 7 at Merion. Jones had had enough. He put down his clubs and walked away, two years before his 30th birthday.
In 1930, Arnold Palmer was an infant in a little coal-mining town in Pennsylvania. Gary Player wouldnt be born for five years, Jack Nicklaus 10. Tiger Woods wouldnt be born for 45 years and it would be 71 years before anyone would win four straight majors.
Is the feat more difficult today? Yes, probably so. Amateurs of 70 years ago are much better than what amateurs are today, but in two of the four majors, Jones didnt have to face Walter Hagen or Gene Sarazen or Paul Runyan or Tommy Armour or Leo Diegel. They were professionals. Competition didnt come from around the world as it does today, only then from the U.S. and Britain. And there were much fewer golfers, only three million then as opposed to perhaps 10 times that much today.
Still, Jones did everything that he was asked. He won his four straight majors, and he did it in one year.
That is considered more difficult than Woods feat of winning four straight in two calendar years, but I think the opposite. You can easily lose the edge in the long layoff between the PGA and the Masters. To win four straight in the same year requires getting on a hot streak and riding it out for five months.
Of course, they both are superhuman feats, done by two superhuman people. Was Jones the best? Was Woods?
Well never know. The games are only vaguely similar. Woods accomplished a more spectacular feat, but how can we not say that Jones would have done it also, had golf been the same in that era?
At any rate, we know Tiger has done something that will live through the ages. No less a luminary than Byron Nelson said so, intimating that this was the greatest feat ever in golfing history.
'It's at the top of golf accomplishments - absolutely,' Nelson told The Dallas Morning News. 'From my standpoint, it is more unbelievable than winning 11 in a row.'
Nelson, of course, won those 11 straight in 1945, by far the longest win streak in history. His career was just beginning as Jones' was coming to a close.
'I never thought I would ever see anybody win four straight majors,' he continued. 'It is remarkable.'
Age 25, and neck-and-neck, Jones against Woods. We, my friends, are on the verge of something spectacular.