A Graybeard and a woman in a large red visor were under the old oak tree at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday afternoon, hoping to say hello to their hero, Tiger Woods, before the biggest round of his life. Suddenly, the clubhouse door burst open like a bad Western, and two security guards came barreling out, hollering, "Make a hole!"
Behind them strode Woods, with a look in his eyes that could have wilted titanium. He blew past the fans, not seeing the gray-beard stick out his hand or hearing the woman in the visor say, "Good luck, Tiger!" They were a little disappointed, but no less in love with him. They were Nike chairman Phil Knight and Tiger's mother, Tida.
Hey, the man who's paying him $100 million and his own mother be damned—Tiger had things to do, and he went straight from that clubhouse door and did them, namely, making all our jaw muscles lose their grip and knocking off the unthinkable Grand Slam. O.K., you say it isn't the Grand Slam. But why whine about what it isn't? Why not wallow for a while in what it is?
Woods's Sweet Sweep is the most amazing feat we've seen in sports since 1920, when Babe Ruth hit more home runs than every American League team except his New York Yankees. Woods's Mod Quad is the single greatest achievement in golf history, and I don't want to hear another word about Bobby Jones in 1930. You go over to Haggis-on-Bumford and beat three sheep and two guys named Nigel in the British Amateur, you ain't within 1,000 kilometers of winning a fourth major in a row in 2001.
And don't give me any of that "the competition isn't as good now" drivel. Do you realize that David Duval's 14-under-par 274 would've won 59 of the 65 Masters and put him in a playoff in two others? Duval, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els are all part of the Unlucky Sperm Club, born in the time of the man-eating, trophy-swallowing Cablinasian. They may as well begin studying to be CPAs. They have no chance. They'll never have a chance. What's worse is they now realize that every time they think Woods is slipping, it's only because he's up nights building something even better in the garage.
Example: This year there was the so-called Tiger Slump. He didn't win a tournament in January, in February and on into March. NBC's Johnny Miller kept referring to the "awful" shots Tiger was hitting. Golf World magazine ran a WHAT'S WRONG WITH TIGER? cover. But what Woods was doing was playing the Masters thousands of miles from the course.
"The West Coast, Florida, everything was geared to this," says Woods's coach, Butch Harmon. Even during tournament rounds Woods was working on shots that he would need only at Augusta. The big sweeping draw. The high, soft arm shots with no spin. The skip-and-spin chips.
How many did he use last week? "All of 'em," Woods said after finishing 16 under par. The big sweeping draw set up three birdies on number 13. The soft shots led the tournament in greens hit in regulation. The skip-and-spinners saved pars all week, including a crucial one on number 9 on Sunday.
Of course, you knew it was over on Saturday night, when Mickelson was about to be lowered into a lion's den wearing a hamburger suit. "I want this desperately," he said. "I want to be part of the history of the game." When we asked Woods if he was thinking of history that night, he only glared and said, "I'm thinking about my swing."
Now one man in the world can put his feet up on a coffee table that has all four major trophies on it. (There's a downside, too: A meteor hits his house, and golf as we know it is extinct.) So, what do we call this run of four straight majors? "To me," said Tiger's father, Earl, on Sunday, "it's like when a scientist discovers a star. He discovers it, he gets his name on it. Nobody's ever done this before, so Tiger should get his name on it."