Thursday, February 07, 2008

Tiger to Win Slam

Okay, I’ve seen enough. Officially, this could be the year that Tiger Woods writes golf history by winning the Grand Slam.

Don’t bore me with the odds against Woods actually doing it, and don’t bother blathering on about the near-possibility of it all. I know that. But I have also seen the light and the truth and the way – and it’s Woods with a golf club in his hands.

Have you seen the way the man has started 2008?

How about an never-was-even-close eight-shot victory two weeks ago at the Buick Invitational in San Diego, his first tournament of the year? And how about his win Sunday at the Dubai Desert Classic, where he shot 65 in the final round to come from four shots back?

That makes for five wins in his last five tournaments, including the PGA Championship (his 13th major) and the Tour Championship at the end of last year. He has won seven of his last eight, the lone blemish on his record being a tie for second at the Deutsche Bank Championship. Woods’ command of his game is back, bigger than ever. So is his swagger. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the man owns golf.

Which brings us to Grand Slam. For years after Woods had that amazing stretch over 2000-01, when he held all four titles at one time, we began each new season with chatter about how that year might be the year for a Grand Slam.

Most years, the talked ended early, when Woods would fail to win the first major of the year, the Masters. Remember, of his four Masters titles, only one was in the last five years, in 2005.
Some years, Woods’ game just wasn’t there, as he twice retooled his swing. Other years, the venues for the majors just weren’t right for Woods.

This year, the stars are in alignment more than ever, and not even Woods is discouraging Slam speculation.

“I think it’s easily within reason,” Woods said during the end of his most recent monthly newsletter on his Web site.

Pressed by the media at the Buick, Woods didn’t back down. “The question is, do I see it as a possibility, and I say yes,” he said.

A fifth green at the Masters in April would ratchet up the chatter. The way his is playing, who in his right mind would bet against Woods at Augusta National, a course that is virtually built for his power game and towering irons shots. He is also the best clutch putter in the game.

For that matter, who would bet against Woods to win his third U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, the same course where he just dominated at yet another Buick Invitational.

True, the U.S. Golf Association will make Torrey Pines much tougher course for the Open. Still, not only has Woods won the Buick there six times, including the last four in a row, he even won a World Junior there as a kid.

If he is two-for-two going into the British Open, the plot thickens. The last time Royal Birkdale hosted the British Open was in 1998, when Woods was in only his second full year as a pro. He finished third at Birkdale, with the Claret Jug going to his buddy Mark O’Meara. While Birkdale is not one of the great British Open sites, Woods like it enough and that’s all that matters.

If he’s three-for-three after the British, the build up for the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills Country Club near Detroit will be nothing short of insane.

Woods’ could have bad memories about Oakland Hills. The last time he was there was for a pummeling in the 2004 Ryder Cup. Of course, those bad memories have more to do with Captain Hal Sutton’s pairings than with the golf course.