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British blowup or not, Tiger's already Slammed golf world

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By HUBERT MIZELL, Times Sports Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published July 28, 2002

If it's okay, I'm in no mood to debate. Tiger Woods has won the Grand Slam. Go ahead, differ. Stubbornly define. It's your First Amendment right, but I'm not listening. Pardon my bullheadedness, but I do have the world's two best all-time golfers in my camp.

Tiger's weather-whacked 81 eight days ago at the British Open drowned a different sort of quest, ruling all four major tournaments in the same year. Nice fantasy, but that's all but impossible. Never happen.

Too much for Tiger or Bear.

Jack Nicklaus, whose dominating lifetime standards are the goals Woods now grinds to exceed, thinks achieving the Grand Slam "all in the same calendar year is really insignificant." Added the 62-year-old Golden Bear, ruler of 18 majors, "Chances are so remote, it would be super unbelievable."

Like I said, never!

Woods took the stand. "I've held silverware from all four majors in my hands, in the privacy of my home," said the 26-year-old wonder. "Those trophies were nobody's but mine, at least for a couple of months. That's plenty of Slam for me."

As if glorious dominoes, in a captivating period of 10 months, trophies of the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship in 2000 along with the Masters of 2001 tumbled consecutively into Tiger's artistic arms.

Without question ... Grand Slam.

I do think Woods will overtake the 18 majors of Nicklaus, probably by age 35. But will the fellow from Orlando/Isleworth ever be more impressive than in his 2002 moment of Muirfield defeat when wind, rain, chill and disappointment left Tiger with a classy smile, no excuses and a championship attitude that, for many jocks, would be as unlikely as winning them all on a single calendar?

CHIPS: Never, never, never been a more impressive athlete than Lance Armstrong. ... Twenty years ago, when I was seeing my first World Cup soccer match, the fellow beside me in a Barcelona stadium was Lamar Hunt, owner of football's Kansas City Chiefs, an unwavering devotee of the global game who in 2002 embraced his 11th final after seeing games at all 20 venues around Korea and Japan. ... Yes, during a British Open telecast, we did hear ABC/ESPN announcer Steve Melnyk mistakenly refer to Danish golfer Thomas Bjorn, using a famous tennis name, Bjorn Borg, a bygone marvel from Sweden. ... Speaking of Tour de France phenomenon Armstrong, it makes you wonder, could the 37-cent stamp have remained at 34 had the U.S. Postal Service not spent $7-million sponsoring our hero's cycling team? ... Hunty, winner of seven Olympic medals in track, including three golds, auctioned them off for $200,000. After criticism was heavy, the Australian explained the money would be used to educate grandchildren and promote environmental issues. ... So what was really the deal with the Chris Thomas bouncing after 14 years at Channel 8? He was a rarity, a Tampa Bay television sports anchor with strong, unpredictable opinions.

ACES: E-mail from Dave Pendergrass says, "I recently retired after 26 years in the U.S. Marines, including tours on four continents. At each post, my aunt, Bella Courson, who lived in Clearwater until her death in 1999, mailed me clippings from the Times, mostly Mizell columns. Some of them got read 10 or 20 times, including by my buddies.

"We're now living in North Carolina. I know you retired last year and now write just on Sundays. Through the years, while serving around the world, I often envied you, being at so many incredible sports happenings. What a list.

"I know a lot of your recollections were printed upon your retirement, but there is one question, as a new civilian, I want to ask: Of all the amazing things you've seen, being there in person to witness and write about, what are the top 10?"

HUBERT'S REPLY: It's my honor, Dave, for an American who has given so much. I didn't research any of my past lists, so these are fresh pickings from a high-mileage mind; please excuse the wordiness as I go over the limit:

(16) John McKay's Bucs finally win in 1977 after 0-26 franchise start.

(15) "The Catch" by Dwight Clark.

(14) Don Shula's 1972 Dolphins win the Super Bowl for 17-0 record.

(13) Reggie Jackson hits three homers in a World Series game.

(12) Christian Laettner's shot.

(11) A more improbable catch, by Oakland's Clarence Davis, amid three Miami defenders, of a wobbly touchdown pass from a falling down Ken Stabler, eliminating the Dolphins in the AFC playoffs, erasing 1974 chances of winning a third straight Super Bowl.

(10) Mark Spitz's seven Olympic gold medals.

(9) Carlton Fisk's waved-fair Series homer.

(8) "Immaculate Reception" by Franco Harris.

(7) USSR-USA 1972 basketball mess.

(6) Nicklaus winning Masters at 46.

(5) Woods winning St. Andrews 2000 en route to Grand Slam.

(4) San Francisco earthquake derails 1989 World Series.

(3) History-altering 1966 NCAA basketball championship conquest by all-black Texas Western (now Texas-El Paso) over all-white Kentucky and stunned coach Adolph Rupp.

(2) USA-USSR hockey 1980 at Lake Placid.

(1) Era of sporting innocence ends as era of world terrorism begins in 1972 at Munich.

Whatever happened to Clarence Davis?

-- To reach Hubert Mizell, e-mail or mail to P.O. Box 726, Nellysford, VA. 22958.

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