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Masters Moments: Woods sets the standard with the Tiger Slam, 2001

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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We threw overhand, three-quarters, sidearm and submarine.

Tiger Woods, already far too cagey to swing at such offerings, stared blithely back at those who kept serving up similar pitches, over and over, to no avail.

He had just completed the greatest feat in the modern era by winning the Masters title in 2001, becoming the first player to hold all four professional majors simultaneously, an accomplishment that grows in magnitude with every passing year.

Over and over, Woods was asked whether he had won the Grand Slam, and if that's how it should be described for posterity.

"What do I want to call it?" he said, evasive as ever. "I'll let you guys [decide] -- you guys are very creative."

Golf fans settled, by acclamation more than any official show of hands, on something called the Tiger Slam -- the first time, in wraparound fashion or not, anybody had all four major championship trophies on their mantle at the same time.

It remains incomprehensible, and represents the game's competitive high-water point in history. Bobby Jones won a version of the Grand Slam in 1930, but two of the events were for amateurs and the sum total of plus-handicap golfers in the world could probably have been squeezed into the Augusta National closet where they keep the green jackets.

Not so when Woods won his fourth title in succession, edging David Duval by two strokes and Phil Mickelson by three. Duval, who remains one of the more articulate players of the current generation, tried as best he could to provide context. Clearly, everybody was begging for a lucid explanation of an indescribable achievement.

"You know, it is very difficult to win these events, any of these major golf tournaments," said Duval, a former No. 1 who only amassed one major, moments after his round. "To have your game at the right place at the right time, there's an art to that. Certainly, like there's an art to playing a 72-hole golf tournament.

"It's just an accomplishment for him that, I don't know what you would compare it to because I'm not so sure there's something you could compare it with, certainly [not] in modern golf."

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Or since the first caveman whacked a river rock with a dinosaur's thigh bone.

Here's how you can tell it's a huge moment in the game: Players stuck around after finishing to watch, something that is rarely done even for close friends. Mark Calcavecchia and Rocco Mediate wandered down from the clubhouse to eyeball the ending.

"It's history," Mediate said.

Woods set the stage a year earlier when he won the U.S. and British opens in record fashion, dominating at such absurd levels that the final result was not much in doubt by the time the weekend rolled around. He had to survive a playoff and a lucky bounce at the PGA Championship to hold off Bob May in August, recording his third major in a row.

By the time April 2001 arrived, it would have been a shock to the system if Woods hadn't won. Only a guy with more money than sense would have bet against him.

Somehow, in that Brinks safe he calls his head, Woods managed to avoid thinking about the immensity of his task as the week wore on, despite being incessantly badgered about completing the Grand Slam -- or whatever term best applied.

"I felt so relaxed about, no matter what happened this week, I was going to come back," he said after the final round. "It wasn't like if I didn't play well, I'm not exempt to come back. I'm going to keep coming back here for a while, so I guess I looked at it that way.

"I didn't look at the fact that I had a chance to win four successive majors. I think I did that purposely, and I guess subconsciously, to try and make myself feel more at ease."

There's nothing easy about digesting the end result. The Summative Slam of 2000-01 was part of a surreal stretch in which Woods won seven of 11 majors. To put that into context, Woods won as many professional majors in that three-year span as icons Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer and Gene Sarazen won in their careers.

The victory at Augusta was the second for Woods, who has since added two more, though he hasn't won since 2005. He returns this year after a five-month layoff, his image in tatters, his game in uncertain shape, and thus the happy vestiges of 2001 must seem like a different lifetime.

But on that April eve nine years ago, he had made worldwide news for all the right reasons.

"It is special, it really is," Woods said. "When I won in '97, I had not been a pro a full year yet. I guess I was a little young, a little naive, and didn't understand what I accomplished, for at least a year or two after that event.

"This year, I understand. I've been around the block. I've witnessed a lot of things since that year. You know, I have better appreciation for winning a major championship.

"And to win it -- to win four of them in succession -- it's just, it's hard to believe, really, because there's so many things that go into winning a major championship."

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