By REX HOGGARD
Inbee Park is at the precipice of something special, historic even. But on this the style guide to greatness is very clear.
Bobby Jones penned the best single season in the game’s history when he stormed to the impregnable quadrilateral in 1930 to become the only player to claim the Grand Slam.
Although the structure was different from its current form when Jones completed the single-season Grand Slam (U.S. Open, British Open, British Amateur and U.S. Amateur), the pressures were the same.
Tiger Woods’ “Tiger Slam” in 2000-01 was impressive given the depth of the modern game, but his four consecutive major victories spanned two calendars. As inspiring as that accomplishment was, it lacked the scrutiny that comes with time constraints.
A single-season Grand Slam is the ultimate benchmark of success because there is no room for error or bad bounces or lapses in concentration.
Park may match Jones’ feat next month at the Women’s British Open at St Andrews, a fitting tribute considering Jones’ affinity for the Old Course, and she would surpass him if she were to win the LPGA’s fifth major, the Evian Championship in September. Call it the Super Slam.
Until then, however, the greatest single season still belongs to Jones.
By RYAN LAVNER
Tiger Woods, 2000. We may never see anything like it again.
In 20 starts, he won nine events, was a runner-up four times and finished third once. He had 17 top-10s. He never finished worse than 23rd.
Most memorably, however, Woods saved his best work for the majors. He finished fifth in the Masters, undone mostly by an opening 75, the only over-par score he would shoot in 16 major rounds. At the U.S. Open, Woods shot 12-under 272, was the only player under par after 72 holes and won by 15. At the British Open, he shot four rounds in the 60s, romped by eight shots and completed the career Grand Slam. At the PGA, he closed with 67 and prevailed in a playoff, becoming only the second man in history to win three professional majors in a season.
Add it all up, and it’s a season that may never again be duplicated on the men’s side.
By JASON SOBEL
The best season ever was that of Byron Nelson in 1945.
The numbers are the stuff of legend. He won 18 times in 35 tournament starts, including 11 in a row at one point. He finished second another seven times, easily led the PGA Tour money list and owned a scoring average of 68.33.
Contrarians will be quick to point out two drawbacks: He won “only” one major and fields were depleted during wartime. However, majors weren’t viewed in nearly the same light back then, so his PGA Championship title wasn’t necessarily treated with more reverence than his other 17 wins. And yes, he may not have been facing the toughest competition, but the likes of Ben Hogan and Sam Snead were playing that year, so he wasn’t exactly beating up on also-rans, either.
As is often the battle cry from mid-major programs in college football and basketball, you can only beat who you’re playing against. In 1945, Nelson beat ‘em more often than not – and beat ‘em more than anyone else in the history of the game.
By RANDALL MELL
Byron Nelson didn’t just win 18 PGA Tour events in 1945, 11 of them consecutively. He finished second seven times.
Yeah, folks argue that it was during World War II, that not all the best players were competing because of military duties, but that’s not true. Hogan played in 19 events that year and won five of them. Snead played in 27 events and won six of them. Hogan even set a 72-hole scoring record that year at the Portland Invitational.
Nelson’s mark is one of sport’s most untouchable. Nobody in golf will ever duplicate it.