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Different time, different slam for Bobby Jones

In 1930, the Atlantic Ocean was the biggest barrier to a legendary feat.


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 12, 2001

In 1930, the Atlantic Ocean was the biggest barrier to a legendary feat.

Now that he has won the Masters and is the only player with an opportunity to win what the golf world at large views as the Grand Slam, Tiger Woods will no doubt set his sights on a U.S. Open victory in June. Every Masters winner does.

But only Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus since 1960 have won the year's first two major championships, pointing to the difficulty of capturing all four. Nobody has done it since Nicklaus in '72. How could anybody think he could win those two titles along with the British Open and PGA Championship?

Woods won all four titles over 10 months, an accomplishment Nicklaus described as "the most remarkable feat I have ever seen or heard of in golf."

During another time, Bobby Jones won all four of his era's most prestigious tournaments. The difference? Jones set out to do so, in private, some four years earlier.

Until now, the Grand Slam began and ended with Jones, who in 1930 captured what were then the biggest tournaments of the day: the U.S. Amateur and Open, and the British Amateur and Open.

Because travel was difficult -- and expensive -- the idea of winning all four in the same year was almost a dream. Jones figured his only realistic chances were in years that the Walker Cup -- a team competition played every two years -- was to be contested in Britain. Because his expenses would be picked up by the United States Golf Association, Jones could stay over for the Amateur and Open.

"He resolved in 1926 that he could do it," said Sidney Matthew, a Tallahassee attorney and author of several books about Jones. "He was the first to win both Opens in 1926, and he believed he could win all four, but he never told even his closest friend, (writer) O.B. Keeler."

Jones rarely practiced in the winter, but in 1930 he began playing several times a week in February. An Atlanta attorney, Jones entered two Georgia tournaments, finishing second to Horton Smith at the Savannah Open and winning the Southeastern Open by 13 strokes.

In May he went to England, where he captained the U.S. Walker Cup team to victory, then went to Scotland for the British Amateur, played at St. Andrews. "The most important tournament of my life," Jones wrote in his autobiography, Golf Is My Game. "Without it, the Grand Slam would have died aborning."

Jones' only British Amateur title came that year, and to win it, he had to endure three close matches before defeating Roger Wethered 7 and 6 in the 36-hole final. Two weeks later he won the British Open at Royal Liverpool by two strokes over Leo Diegel and Macdonald Smith.

After his return to the United States, Jones was given a ticker-tape parade in New York. It was his second such honor, the other occurring in 1926 after winning both Opens.

"Bobby Cruickshank was a tremendous player at that time," Matthew said. "He figured it out. He said, 'Jones is coming back and plans to win the biggest tournaments on both sides of the Atlantic.' He was cursed by the misfortune of coming up in an era where there was Jones, (Walter) Hagen and (Gene) Sarazen. They ran the table on everything. "So Jones comes back over, and they have that parade. That's when the sports writers started to stay he's going to win everything. That's when the cat was out of the bag. That's about the time O.B. Keeler coined the term 'Grand Slam.' "

Soon, Jones was on his way to Minneapolis for the U.S. Open at Interlachen. He won his fourth Open title, defeating Smith by two strokes. The U.S. Amateur would not be played for two months, at Merion outside of Philadelphia.

"Much like there was certainty about Tiger winning the Masters, when Jones came to Merion there was a certainty that, having won all three, he would slam the door on everybody," Matthew said. "Everybody was looking over their shoulder to see what Jones was doing. It's the same now with Tiger. It's Tiger against the field, just like it was Jones against the field."

Jones cruised to the Amateur title, winning two 18-hole matches by a 5 and 4 total, a 36-hole quarterfinal 6 and 5, a 36-hole semifinal 9 and 8 and the 36-hole final against Gene Homans 8 and 7.

From 1923 to 1930, Jones won 13 major championships, including four U.S. Opens and five U.S. Amateurs. Granted, pros such as Hagen and Sarazen could not compete in the Amateurs. But Jones won all three of the British Opens he entered during that time and never missed a cut in a tournament. And neither Hagen nor Sarazen won an Open Championship in the United States or Britain with Jones in the field.

While dominating the game, Jones had earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech and a degree in English literature from Harvard. Two years before his Grand Slam odyssey, Jones passed the Georgia state bar exam despite not having completed Emory University Law School.

The stress of competitive golf wore on Jones. He retired after winning the Slam, never again playing in a major championship -- unless you consider the Masters, which he founded along with the club where it is played, Augusta National. Jones played the event for 12 years to give it a boost.

"He wrote later that he knew if he won the Grand Slam, he might as well retire because he knew that he could never do it again," Matthew said. "Nor would he ever try."

When Nicklaus came along, Jones, who died in 1971, said, "He plays a game with which I am not familiar." He would undoubtedly say the same about Woods.

* * *

PGA Tour

WHAT: Worldcom Classic.


fWHERE: Hilton Head Island, S.C.

COURSE: Harbour Town Golf Links (6,976 yards, par 71).

PURSE: $3.5-million.

WINNER'S SHARE: $630,000.

TV: 3:30-6:30 p.m. today-Friday, Golf Channel and Fox Sports Net; 3-6 p.m. Saturday, 4:30-6 p.m. Sunday, Ch. 10. NOTES: Stewart Cink won last year. ... Tiger Woods won the Masters in Augusta, Ga., on Sunday. ... Davis Love IIII, seeking a tournament-record fifth victory, tops the field, along with two-time winner Tom Watson, Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia, Greg Norman, Mark Calcavecchia and John Daly.


WHAT: The Office Depot.

WHEN: Today-Saturday.

WHERE: Los Angeles.

COURSE: Wilshire Country Club (6,531 yards, par 71).

PURSE: $800,000.

WINNER'S SHARE: $120,000.

TV: 5:30-7 p.m. today-Friday, ESPN2; 2-5 p.m. Saturday, ESPN. NOTES: Grace Park won last year. ... Annika Sorenstam won the Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage, Calif., on March 25. ... Sorenstam, chasing Nancy Lopez's 1978 record of five straight victories, is attempting to become the third player to win four consecutively scheduled events. Mickey Wright accomplished the feat in 1962 and 1963, and Kathy Whitworth matched it in 1969.

Senior PGA Tour

WHAT: The Tradition.

WHEN: Today-Sunday.

WHERE: Scottsdale, Ariz.

COURSE: Desert Mountain, Cochise Course (6,998 yards, par 72).

PURSE: $1.7-million.

WINNER'S SHARE: $255,000.

TV: 4-6 p.m. today-Friday, ESPN; 4-6 p.m. Saturday, 3-6 p.m. Sunday, Ch. 28. NOTES: Tom Kite won last year. ... Andy North and Jim Colbert won the Legends of Golf title in St. Augustine on April 1.

Other tournaments

PGA EUROPEAN TOUR: Moroccan Open, today-Thursday, Rabat (TV: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 11 p.m.-1:30 a.m. today-Friday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 11 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-noon and 8-10:30 p.m. Sunday, Golf Channel). BUY.COM TOUR: Arkansas Classic, April 19-22, Hot Springs Village, Ark.

JAPAN GOLF TOUR: Tsuruya Open, today-Sunday, Kawanishi, Japan.

JAPAN LPGA: Saishunkan Ladies, Friday-Sunday, Kikuyo, Japan.

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