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Aug 03

Majors, Grand Slams

Disappointments and Timing

The great Mickey Wright is the only woman to ever garner the women’s version of golf’s grand slam. Back then, it was the Women’s U.S. Open, the LPGA Championship, the Western Open and the Titleholders.

For spectators, another shot at this lofty goal has rolled around, in the form of Inbee Park, although at 8 shots back, hope is beginning to fade, and even though Wright believes that Park might be the greatest putter she’s ever seen, she also contends that the Korean star accomplishes what she does without overpowering courses with her length. Citing the Ochoa and Sorenstam phenomenons, the superstar of the original LPGA isn’t ready yet to anoint Park’s career as legendary – only her last year.

If you’re the type of player who can play such great golf, and hover near that top level with some frequency, the question remains – how are you going to time it so that you can explode on a major with your very best?

tiger 1Tiger must be asking himself that very question. To put it mildly, he’s mopping up the floor with the course and the competition in the WGC Bridgestone Inivitational. He even flirted with a 59, and would have become only the sixth person to do it in officially sanctioned events. A little help from a good putting coach, and it might have been a reality. Still, one has to think that he wishes that he could have had such a day at the men’s British Open, especially on the fourth round. Clearly, great as winning is, Tiger’s into majors. Everything else is fine, but majors are his favorite food.

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Park seems to take bad news a little easier than Woods, and by the same token, doesn’t yet count herself out with 36 holes remaining to stage a rally.  She doesn’t appear to be a likely candidate for a majors curse, meaning that there’s one she just can’t pull off, in the manner of Sam Snead’s relationship with the U.S. Open. Her attitude toward the whole thing seems far too healthy for developing insurmountable mental blocks.

Likewise, it isn’t the slightest bit illogical to see a fellow Korean take her place. Ne Yeon Choi has proven she has the chops to win a major, or pretty much anything else, so if nothing else, perhaps the nation of Korea will win a grand slam for itself. That would be a distinction of sorts.

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Choi, born in ’87, became a rookie in ’08, and won almost two million in 2012 alone. That’s a lot bigger money than Wright ever saw, and the former great cites the distinction. It’s evident that everything is different in terms of exposure, including the fevered pace of living the touring life. Wright recalls that galleys were as small as purses, and television coverage was nil, with results only being available in the morning paper somewhere on the back of the sports page. It would be a mistake, however, to assume that Wright didn’t have quality competition. She had plenty of it, although the field of greats is larger than in yesteryear.

tiger 2Everyone has his or her individual perspective  toward majors, depending on where they are versus their former expectations. Phil Mickelson went from “will he ever win one?” to “how many?” I don’t know how he did it, but Mickelson managed to explode perfectly in Britain, even winning his tune-up event, the Scottish Open. Perhaps Morgan Pressel is in that “wait and see” condition. Her fans are lined up around the block waiting for her to win a big one, and she’s making a real go of it this week.

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Meanwhile, I can only say to Tiger, “no, you can’t borrow birdies from one tournament and ascribe them to another in order to win your next major. The USGA just won’t allow it, so you’ll just have to time it better next time.”

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.