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Can Tiger Slam

2007 Big Questions Editor's Note: is counting down its top 5 stories from the world of golf in 2006 and looking ahead to the five 'Big Questions' on the PGA TOUR in 2007. This is our No. 2 question for the upcoming season.
Tiger Woods gets questioned in ways in which no other player does. For someone who has shown time and time again that most every move he makes is the right one for his career, we cant help but question why he does the things he does. Or, how he does the things he does. Or, can he do things that no one has ever done.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods' swing produced another remarkable season in 2006.
A few years ago, questions were raised as to why Woods would alter his swing. It was the second time in his career that he had done such, and both times came on the heels of phenomenal success ' and both times were met immediately with benign results.
Things managed to work out fairly well on both occasions. The first time, he went on to win eight PGA TOUR events in 1999, nine more in 2000, and five times each in 2001-03. He also managed to capture seven major titles in an 11-event span during that stretch.
And then he made another change, this time under the tutelage of Hank Haney. The two of them were criticized mercilessly by many as Woods won only once in 2004 and didnt win a major in 10 starts.
And then, just as it had done before under Butch Harmon, everything gelled.
Woods won six times on TOUR in 2005, eight more in 06. Both years he topped the money list. Both years he won two majors.
As Woods heads into 2007, there are still plenty of questions which we ask in relation to him. But instead of wondering why he is doing what he is doing; we must wonder if he can do things we once thought were impossible.
I think 07 is going to be scary, said Golf Channel analyst Frank Nobilo. As usual, well expect the unexpected from Tiger. Well want a Grand Slam ' at least two majors, nothing less. But the expectations will be so high; I dont even think Tiger Woods will be able to obtain them.
The first question we ask in regards to Tiger is: Will he match or break Byron Nelsons record of 11 consecutive PGA TOUR victories?
Despite having lost a few times overseas during the off-season, Woods still has a six-event winning streak intact on TOUR. His first chance to add to that run, since he opted out of the Mercedes-Benz Championship, will likely be at the Buick Invitational, which he has won three times in the last four years.
And, judging by his history of events played, he could have a chance to tie Nelson at the Masters Tournament, which he has won four times.
However it works out ' if it is to work out, he will most likely have to win the Nissan Open, which he has never done in his career, and win the unpredictable Match Play Championship on a new course in Arizona.
The next question we ask in regards to Tiger is: Will he duplicate his Tiger Slam?
Upon getting a firm grasp on his new swing back in 2000, Woods proceeded to win the U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship. He then won the Masters in 2001 for four-in-a-row.
Since it wasnt four straight major victories in a calendar season, some didnt view it as a true Grand Slam triumph. Rather, it was dubbed the Tiger Slam.
Having won the Open Championship and PGA Championship in 2006, Woods enters 07 with a chance at matching that incredible accomplishment.
As long as hes in good health, he should be the overwhelming favorite to earn the third leg at Augusta. Then its on to Oakmont Country Club for the U.S. Open.
Tiger Woods
A fifth Masters title would keep alive Tiger's slam hopes.
Oakmont last hosted a U.S. Open in 1994, when Ernie Els defeated Colin Montgomerie and Loren Roberts in a playoff. Woods, still an amateur, didnt play that year.
Oakmont is also the site of Larry Nelsons 83 Open triumph; Johnny Millers closing 63 to win in 73; Jack Nicklaus over home favorite Arnold Palmer in 62; Ben Hogans victory in 53, a year in which he won three majors. Sam Parks, Jr. won in 35; Tommy Armour in 27.
Its not difficult to notice that nearly all of these victors are Hall of Fame members or an eventual inductee. Woods might fit well on that list of champions.
Question No. 3: If Tiger can complete the Tiger Slam, can he convert the traditional version?
The final two majors of the year are at Carnoustie and Southern Hills. These two could be big roadblocks in Tigers possible run at history.
Woods tied for seventh in the 1999 Open Championship, the last time Carnoustie played host. He tied for 12th when Southern Hills hosted the 2001 U.S. Open.
Carnoustie may be the biggest question mark, because it may well depend on how the course is set up and the weather conditions more so than how well Woods is playing at the time. In 99, the layout was considered to be among the most tricked-up in major championship history, complete with tall grass, narrow fairways and wicked weather. It was, of course, the one where Jean Van de Velde triple-bogeyed the final hole to blow a three-shot lead and then lost ' along with Justin Leonard ' in a play off to Paul Lawrie.
Southern Hills was where Retief Goosen three-putted from 12 feet on the final hole to fall into a Monday playoff, which he won over Mark Brooks. The looming question here may be if Woods can stand the heat ' the pressure of completing a seasonal Grand Slam and the temperatures of Tulsa, Okla., in August.
I wouldnt bet again him (winning all four majors in 2007), said Golf Channel and CBS analyst Peter Oosterhuis. Hes already proven that he can do it. With Tiger, it wouldnt be surprising at all to see him continue (to dominate) the way he has.
Said Nobilo: The scary thing is he didnt drive it as well in 06 as he did in 2000, so he can get even better.
There are other things we ponder in regards to Tiger: When, if ever, will anyone overtake him as No. 1 in the world? Who, whether individual or group, will challenge his dominance? Just what is Tiger capable of accomplishing? And is there anything beyond his abilities?
And just what does Tiger think about all of this?
I will say this: My overall game is stronger heading into 2007 than it was in 2000, just because I have a lot more knowledge and know how to get more out of my rounds, he said on his Web site. Ive won many times since 2000 and Ive done it different ways. Like Jack Nicklaus said, Winning breeds winning.
Overall, my swing is getting closer to where I want it. It might sound old, but I just need more repetitions and consistency. The game is fluid and always changing. Am I more consistent? Yes. In my opinion, only two players have ever owned their swings: Moe Norman and Ben Hogan. Will I ever own my swing? Well see. Im still somewhat young in my career. Hogan wasnt great until his late 30s.
Is Tiger intimating that he isnt yet great? If not, then it should be quite a show when he does achieve greatness.
Related Links:
  • Previewing 2006; Reviewing 2007
  • Woods Repeats at Open Championship
  • Woods Wins Going Away at PGA
  • Tiger Woods' Bio