Over 40 days, GOLF.com is rolling out Tiger Woods’ 40 biggest moments. Our ranking started on Nov. 21 and will culminate on Dec. 30, which is Tiger’s 40th birthday. That’s 40 Tiger moments. In 40 days. Ranked. Click here to learn more about our list.
Tiger’s 40 Biggest Moments: No. 6 – Completing the Tiger Slam at 2001 Masters
There were plenty of nicknames for a Grand Slam that was or wasn’t a Grand Slam, depending on whether you were a golf traditionalist who lived by the calendar or simply a golf fan who marveled at four major championship wins in a row.
The losers in the naming derby included Phi Slamma Granda, Thai Slamma Granda, Fiscal-Year Slam, Major Sweep and, courtesy of legendary golf scribe Dan Jenkins, the Mulligan Slam (since Tiger needed a second try at the Masters to complete this Slam) and the Woods Wins Quartet, a bridge (and a pun) too far.
The phrase “Tiger Slam” eventually stuck, and it was a fitting way to describe the unthinkable. When Tiger Woods won the 2001 Masters, he completed an unparalleled run through golf’s greatest championships. For the next two months, all four of golf’s major trophies would sit on Tiger’s mantel.
Woods did what Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan and all the rest couldn’t. Only Bobby Jones had ever won a Grand Slam and his was the Opens—the U.S. and British—and the Amateurs—the U.S. and British. No one had ever won four professional majors in a row. Only Hogan and Nicklaus had won three straight, and Jack’s, by the way, were not in the same calendar year, either.
In 2001, it seemed as if Tiger’s winning streak might go on indefinitely. He had no real rival. The game’s other top players were Phil Mickelson, who still hadn’t won a major; David Duval, who still hadn’t won a major; and Vijay Singh, who put the green jacket on the Tiger Slam champion but didn’t have the skill on the greens to sustain any real challenge.
Duval finished second at this historic Masters, two shots behind Woods, whose winning score of 16 under par was only two strokes off the tournament record he had set in 1997. Mickelson was three back.
Mickelson and Duval saw their hopes fade Sunday with costly errors at the par-3 16th. Duval flew it over the green and made bogey. Mickelson later said he pulled his 7-iron shot, but some observers thought he simply was unable or unwilling to go against his natural left-to-right shot shape and that ball spin was what caused his shot to stay up on the slope above the back-left pin location. A right-to-left shot, not in Phil’s repertoire, almost certainly would have spun down to the hole. Phil’s first putt raced past the cup and he three-putted for a bogey.
Woods birdied the 18th hole to cap a remarkable run and the Grand-Tiger-Mulligan Slam, whatever you wanted to call it.
“To win four in succession, that’s hard to believe,” Woods said. “On top of that, you’ve got to have some luck.”
It gave Tiger six major titles, tying Nick Faldo and Lee Trevino for 11th place on the all-time major championship list.
CBS announcer Jim Nantz made the call as Tiger finished, and he kept the terminology bland: “There it is! As good as it gets! Tiger has his Slam!”
At the Masters award ceremony, Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson summed it up best while, like Nantz, deftly avoiding any naming controversy. “We have witnessed the greatest golfing feat of our time,” Johnson said.
That was one thing we could all agree on.
Check back on GOLF.com every day until Tiger’s birthday on Dec. 30 for a new moment in our TIGER@40 countdown.
No. 9: Winning ’06 British for Earl
No. 10: Ace at 1997 Phoenix Open
No. 12: Charles Pierce’s GQ Cover Story
No. 16: Hello, World
No. 22: The Apology Press Conference
No. 25: Signs First Deal With Nike
No. 27: Winning Back-to-Back Masters
No. 30: Ugly Breakup With Steve Williams
No. 33: Relationship With Lindsey Vonn
No. 35: A Shot in the Dark at Firestone
No. 36: Television Debut at Age 2