So what are we calling Inbee Park’s remarkable quest to become the first man or woman to win four professional major championships in a single season?
Is she going for the Grand Slam or not at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at St. Andrews this week?
Winning four majors in a row in a calendar year is pretty much what we’ve all understood a Grand Slam to be, but Park’s quest has grown complicated with the LPGA declaring that the Evian Masters will be its fifth major this year. It’s problematic, because while we always thought winning four majors in a season constitutes a Grand Slam, the origin of the concept isn’t based on that number.
According to golf historian Martin Davis, a Grand Slam as originally conceived for golf would require winning all the majors played in a single season.
“The term Grand Slam came about in Bobby Jones’ time,” Davis says. “It’s actually a term from the card game bridge. A Grand Slam is when you take all 13 tricks. It means you sweep the table, you win everything.”
Given that definition, Park would have to win the Women’s British Open this week and the Evian Masters next month to win the Grand Slam.
Except there’s a problem with that, too.
If four isn’t the magical number, if sweeping all the majors offered in a single season constitutes a Grand Slam, then Babe Zaharias ought to get credit for becoming the first player to win the Grand Slam six decades ago. She swept all three majors in 1950, back when only three women’s majors were staged. And then shouldn’t Sandra Haynie get credit for a Grand Slam, too? Huh? Sandra Haynie? Yes, she won the LPGA Championship and the U.S. Open back in ’74, when those were the only majors on the women’s schedule.
If Park wins this week, what will she call it?
“I think I can treat it like a Grand Slam,” she said.
Who can blame her? It’s the grandest feat in the history of golf, whether it’s officially a slam or not.
LPGA commissioner Mike Whan will be calling it a Grand Slam, too.
“I’ll call her a Grand Slam winner if she wins four,” Whan said. “I think we’ll have created a Super Slam with five.”
OK, but that’s also complicated. What if a player misses the cut at the season’s first major, the Kraft Nabisco, but then wins the last four majors of the year. Is that a Grand Slam? Or what if a player wins the Kraft Nabisco, fails to win the LPGA Championship, and then wins the final three majors of the year. Is that a Grand Slam?
If Park wins the Women’s British Open, maybe it doesn’t really matter what we call it, besides fantastic and remarkable. Maybe it’s a silly, overblown question. And yet people care because we’re so invested in the concept as devoted followers of the game. We’ve waited so long for somebody to come along and win the Grand Slam that the very idea has become the Holy Grail of golf.
And so now here we are with Park on the threshold, and it’s aggravating and annoying we can’t definitively call her quest a bid to win the Grand Slam.
“At the end of the day, the media will call it what they want to call it,” Whan said.
OK, but what if Reuters calls it a Grand Slam but The Associated Press doesn’t?
Golf Channel won’t be calling it a Grand Slam. What about ESPN, which is broadcasting the Women’s British?
The whole thing’s annoyingly muddled with the LPGA unilaterally declaring the Evian Masters a major.
That’s problematic, too, because the idea a governing body in golf can just “declare” an event a major also aggravates some folks. There will be golf fans that will refuse to recognize the Evian Masters as a major on the principle that tradition determines that, not commissioners and title sponsors. If Park wins at St. Andrews, those folks will have no problem calling her feat a Grand Slam.
This whole thing is muddled for the women who made history, too.
Even Hall of Famers can’t agree on what to call Park’s quest.
“In my eyes, if Inbee wins the Women’s British Open, it’s the Grand Slam,” Hall of Famer Pat Bradley said. “And then, oh, by the way, there’s another major in a month.”
Annika Sorenstam isn’t so sure what it ought to be called.
“I think the Grand Slam has always been all of them, and now we have five,” Annika Sorenstam said. “But it’s also always been four. So do you call it a Super Slam if you win five? I really don’t know. I guess I really don’t have an answer because we’ve never been in this situation.”
Whatever it is Park is pursuing this week, if she wins, it’s the greatest feat by a professional in the history of major championship golf. Period.