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On the Doorstep of History

Behold the achievement which happens once in a lifetime. Or perhaps for the first time ever. Lindbergh crosses the Atlantic. Sir Edmund Hillary scales Everest.
Behold the sporting feats equally as monumental. Jones wins his eras grand slam. Owens runs to gold in Berlin. Dimaggio hits in 56 straight.
And now, Tiger Woods stands poised to hold all four major championship titles at the same time.

This is New York Times, front page news. It may be enough to revive what in these jaded days seems almost archaic, the ticker tape parade for that one single athlete. The true American hero.
And make no mistake, that is what we have here. A golfer so extraordinary as to be a dyed-in-the-wool Lindbergh, Jones, Owens and Dimaggio forever legend in Tiger Woods.
So Woods is perched on the doorstep of history. When, I ask you, has he failed to fully embrace it? All hes done is make history at every remarkable point of his singular career. As a teen, he won three straight U.S. Junior Ams followed by three straight U.S. Ams. Six in a row. Match play. Not a single loss for six straight years. Then he wins the Masters by a dozen. NBA games are won by 12, not major championships. O.K. sometimes theyre won by 15 shots. Thats right, he won the U.S. Open by 15. And that was his prelude to becoming the youngest to win the career slam at no less a spot than the birthplace of golf, St. Andrews. Bottom line, Tigers propensity for matching the moment is unparalleled in the annals of sport.
Interestingly, I appeared as a guest recently on a radio talk show and the host told me that his father, representative in his mind of the older generation, was reluctant to anoint Tiger at this point as the best ever. Its possible that people less willingly accept that which they cannot explain. And Tiger is so often beyond comprehension. Is Woods the most accomplished right now in terms of raw career numbers? Of course not, but only because he hasnt played long enough. Clearly if he stays healthy and at this current pace hell have all the meaningful records, like Jacks major mark and Sneads win total, by the time hes in his mid-30s. That said, even if Tiger stopped playing at this moment, hed likely still be regarded by most knowledgeable observers as the best ever. The reasons are fairly simple. No one whos ever hit it this long, has hit it this straight, this consistently while at the same time putting better than, say, Ben Crenshaw; competing psychologically like Jack Nicklaus; and displaying the sheer imaginative genius and daring that even swashbucklers like Seve and Arnie couldnt have duplicated in their own heydays. No one, but no one, has ever played golf the way Tiger does.
Most remarkable of all might be his ability to play at such a high level on such a consistent basis. Or perhaps its his complete mastery of fear and self doubt. Or maybe its his uncanny ability to so quickly turn trouble into outright triumph, as he did in Canada last year or Bay Hill this year. There seem to be no limits to how he can stupefy us.
And wouldnt it be great if all that stood between Woods and history was Augustas back side on Sunday? Its the best hold your breath stretch in golf. At number 12, when a player swings, we hold our breath for those three seconds or so until the ball lands and then we hear either the collective, Yes, if it lands safely, or the painful Ohhhh if it comes up short in Raes Creek. Same holds for the second into 13, as was the case with Duval last year, and the 15th, too. Three-shot deficits can be erased in a single hole on the back nine at Augusta.
Now beyond Tiger, its impossible to dismiss several contenders, notably Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson. Both possess all the requisite components needed to prevail, including length and touch, the latter being vastly improved in the case of Singh. Mickelson needs to avoid the unforced error and better harness his explosiveness. Both players have competed well on a consistent basis over the last three months.

But winning majors for those not named Tiger, it seems, has never been tougher because Tiger looks to be the best built major machine ever made. Are todays challengers not as strong as those who occasionally had their way with Nicklaus? Who do you like in the hypothetical, head to head, Trevino or Mickelson? Watson or Love? Or is Woods simply so good as to have ified challengers in a way that even Jack could not? Hard to know.
What we do know is that Tigers mantra all through his spellbinding journey has been to give himself a chance to win on Sunday afternoon. No one doubts that hell have that chance, as he so rarely fails to show up when it matters the most. However it happens-- in a runaway, in a down to the wire classic, or in gallant defeat--we await the historic trip with great, great eagerness.
What do you think of Tiger's chances to win the Masters and hold all four majors?
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