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The Tiger Slam: Revisiting Golf’s Greatest Achievement

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In the world of golf, few achievements spark more awe and admiration than the legendary “Grand Slam” – winning all four major championships in a calendar year. No golfer in the modern era has accomplished this, with the only “Grand Slam” having been won by Bobby Jones in 1930, when the feat required winning the Opens and Amateur Championships of the US and Great Britain.

Tiger Woods entered the 2000 season on a mission. He tore through the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, winning by a record 15 strokes. Then came the Open Championship at St Andrews, where Woods carded 19 under par to win by 8. The PGA Championship saw Woods continue his streak, capturing the title in a thrilling playoff with Bob May.

With three consecutive majors in hand, the sports world held its breath to see if Woods could complete the “Tiger Slam” at the 2001 Masters. In front of adoring crowds at Augusta, Woods rolled in one last birdie to finish off his date with destiny. At just 25 years old, he had done what no other golfer could – hold all four major titles at once.

In this post, we’ll dive deep on the “Tiger Slam,” detail all four major victories, learn a drill that was key to Tiger’s success during that period, and suggest some books and audiobooks for further reading. We’ll also link some videos so that you can relive some of these iconic moments.

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Context

In the late 1990s, Tiger Woods burst onto the scene as a generational talent who was redefining the limits of golf excellence. He won his first Masters in record-breaking fashion in 1997 at age 21. By 1999, Woods was dominating the PGA Tour and racking up major championship wins. He captured his second PGA Championship in 1999 and completed the career Grand Slam in 2000 by winning the Open Championship at St Andrews at just 24 years old.

Woods was establishing himself as an all-time great entering 1999. He then went on a 3 year run of dominance, especially in the majors, that culminated with the unprecedented Tiger Slam in 2000-2001. His performance metrics and records during this stretch were otherworldly compared to his peers and it demonstrated just how much Woods was revolutionizing the limits of golf when playing at his best.

The hype and excitement leading up to Woods’ attempt at the Tiger Slam in 2001 was immense. Despite a brief 6 tournament winless stretch early in 2001 leading some to question if he was in a “slump,” Woods quickly quieted the critics by winning his next 2 starts leading into the 2001 Masters. There was an electric atmosphere at Augusta National as Woods sought to make history, with massive galleries following his every shot. When Woods rolled in the final putt to complete the Tiger Slam and hold all 4 major titles at once, the accomplishment was hailed by many as the single greatest achievement in golf history to that point.

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US Open – Pebble Beach

Tiger Woods delivered one of the most dominant performances in golf history at the 2000 US Open held at Pebble Beach. He began the tournament by shooting an opening round 65, giving him a 6 shot lead. His incredible iron play and putting continued throughout the week as he carded three rounds in the 60s on the challenging course. Woods set numerous records along the way, including largest 54 hole lead (10 shots), lowest 72 hole score (272, -12), and largest margin of victory (15 strokes). His final round 67 featured six birdies, capping off a wire-to-wire victory that saw Woods lead outright after every round.

Woods’ play was so phenomenal that week, analysts have called it statistically the most dominant major win since 1960. His score was a staggering 4.12 standard deviations lower than the field average. The runner ups, Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez, stood no chance against his onslaught of precise ball-striking. “We’ve been talking about him for two years, I guess we’ll be talking about him for the next 20. When he’s on, we don’t have much of a chance,” remarked Els afterwards. Woods himself was typically modest, focusing on the trophy rather than the records he shattered.

The victory marked Woods’ 3rd major title in his young career as he continued towards his goal of eclipsing Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major wins. It also came during an astonishing run where Woods won 9 times in his previous 15 PGA Tour starts. His game was firing on all cylinders, his swing fully owned rather than rented. While future injuries would slow Woods down, his performance at Pebble Beach in 2000 demonstrated the heights his golf genius could reach. It set the bar for the most dominant major championship victory in the modern era.

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The Open Championship – St Andrew’s

Tiger Woods delivered another dominant performance at the 2000 Open Championship played at the home of golf, St Andrews. He began the tournament firing rounds of 67-66 to grab a 6 shot lead early on. Woods continued his precise ball-striking and hot putter throughout the week, extending his advantage to 8 shots heading into the final round. His Sunday 70 was more than enough to coast to an 8 stroke victory. Woods set numerous records along the way, including lowest score to par (-19), largest margin of victory, and becoming the youngest player to complete the career Grand Slam at age 24.

Woods’ mastery of the Old Course that week was described by many as one of the greatest performances in major championship history. He missed only one fairway the entire tournament and reached 14 greens in regulation in every round. His driving distance of nearly 320 yards was also longer than any previous Open winner at St Andrews. When Woods eagled the par-5 14th hole on Friday, broadcaster David Feherty proclaimed “we’re watching genius here, folks.” The runners up, Thomas Bjorn and Ernie Els, could only marvel at Woods’ consistent brilliance. “When he brings his A-game, he’s just a different class,” remarked Bjorn.

The victory fulfilled his longtime goal of winning at St Andrews where legends like Nicklaus and Palmer made their mark. Woods would go on to win 7 more major championships in his career so far. But his performance at the 2000 Open where he lapped the field demonstrated the untouchable heights his golf talent could reach. It set a new standard for dominance at golf’s oldest championship.

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PGA Championship – Valhalla

Woods arrived at Valhalla Golf Club for the PGA Championship trying to complete the Triple Crown, a feat not accomplished since 1953. Woods held the lead after every round, but journeyman Bob May matched him shot for shot, forcing a thrilling three-hole playoff. On the first extra hole, Woods dramatically sunk a snaking 20-foot birdie putt that broke from right to left, letting out a triumphant fist pump. He and May both parred the next two holes to give Woods a one-shot victory, making him the first player since 1937 to successfully defend his PGA Championship title.

Woods and May were the class of the field all week at Valhalla, finishing a remarkable 18 under par and five clear of third place. The back nine duel between them on Sunday, with both carding bogey-free 31s, was instantly hailed as one of golf’s all-time epic showdowns. “It was a very special day to have two guys competing at a level you don’t see unless you have the concentration heightened to where it was,” remarked May afterwards. Woods was typically understated about his performance, but his playoff birdie encapsulated the magic he could summon at will during the prime of his powers.

The win marked Woods’ third major title of 2000 after the U.S. Open and British Open, becoming just the seventh player in history to achieve that feat. The victory at Valhalla over May, with both playing at a supreme level, demonstrated Woods’ ability to rise to the occasion when tested. It capped off what is considered one of the greatest single seasons in PGA Tour history, with Woods winning 9 times in 20 starts and redefining the limits of golf excellence.

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The Masters – Augusta National

Tiger Woods arrived at Augusta National in 2001 trying to make golf history by holding all 4 major championship titles at the same time. He began the tournament with opening rounds of 70-66 to grab a share of the lead. Woods then fired weekend rounds of 68-68 to post a tournament total of 16-under par 272. This was good enough for a 2 shot victory over David Duval, completing what became known as the “Tiger Slam.” Woods was the only player in history to hold the U.S. Open, British Open, PGA Championship, and Masters titles simultaneously.

Throughout the week, Woods demonstrated precision ball-striking, clutch putting, and steely resolve under intense pressure. His chief rival Phil Mickelson applied heat with rounds of 67-69-69 but faltered late with a final round 70. Woods was typically understated about his historic feat afterwards, focusing more on the green jacket ceremony. But the golf world buzzed about what they had just witnessed. President George W. Bush even called to congratulate Woods for a performance that redefined the limits of the game.

The victory marked Woods’ 6th major championship overall. It capped off an astonishing run where he won 4 consecutive majors across the 2000 and 2001 seasons. Woods set new standards for dominance in the modern era at Augusta National and in the majors. His “Tiger Slam” was a crowning achievement that elevated his status as possibly the greatest golfer ever. Woods had taken the game to new heights at just 25 years old.

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The Freeze Drill

The main purpose of the drill was to sync Tiger’s lower and upper body in the golf swing. One issue Tiger had early in his career was getting his lower body too active in transition, causing his club to get “stuck” behind him on the downswing. This would lead to inconsistent ball striking.

To fix this, Butch had Tiger perform a drill where he would take the club to the top of his backswing, then come to a complete pause or “freeze” at the transition. The key was to hold this position with his weight still centered and allow his arms to fall and reconnect with his body before making any lower body motion.

Once Tiger’s arms got back in front of his chest, he would then fire his hips and complete his downswing. This exaggerated move helped engrain the proper sequencing – arms first, then body. It trained his body to be patient and avoid getting too quick with his lower half.

Tiger said he would perform multiple reps of the freeze drill for hours on end under the hot sun. He hated doing it but knew it was crucial to develop sound mechanics. The drill paid off tremendously, as Tiger gained control of his transition and became an expert at squaring up the clubface to produce power and consistency. It was a key factor during his dominant run with Butch Harmon as his coach.

The freeze drill emphasized balance, arm-body coordination, proper sequencing, and ingraining discipline in Tiger’s transition move – all of which helped take his ball-striking and game to an elite level.

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Aftermath

Controversy stems from whether Woods’ feat of holding all four major championships at once truly constitutes a “Grand Slam”. Some argue that because Woods did not win all four majors in the same calendar year, it diminishes the achievement. Others counter that winning four consecutive majors is arguably an even greater accomplishment. Ultimately the debate centered more on semantics and technicalities rather than Woods’ utterly dominant stretch of golf. Woods himself coined the term “Tiger Slam” to characterize his unprecedented run.

The “Tiger Slam” elevated Woods to iconic status as possibly the greatest golfer ever. He took the game to new competitive heights during his prime through a mix of power, precision, clutch putting, and mental tenacity. While future injuries would slow Woods down, his sheer dominance across the 1999-2001 seasons, capped by the Tiger Slam, demonstrated the untouchable levels his golf genius could reach when fully unleashed. It set new standards for excellence in the modern era. Woods had taken the game to new heights and his celebrity reached levels never before seen in the sport.

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Further Reading – Books & Audiobooks

Tiger Woods
by Jeff Benedict & Armen Keteyian

Summary: “Tiger Woods” provides a comprehensive look at the life of one of the most famous athletes in the world, Tiger Woods. The book explores his rise to fame, personal struggles, and the carefully crafted illusion of his perfect life that unraveled after a Thanksgiving night car crash exposed his serial infidelity. The biography delves into Woods’ early life, his relationship with his parents, his meteoric rise in the world of golf, and the impact of his scandals on his career and public image. It also examines his efforts to rebuild his life and career after hitting rock bottom, offering insights into his determination, resilience, and enduring talent as a golfer.

The Tiger Woods Way
by John Andrisani

Summary: The Tiger Woods Way by John Andrisani analyzes Tiger Woods’ powerful golf swing technique in order to help amateur golfers improve their games. The book explains Tiger’s unique setup position, shows how to increase resistance between upper and lower body for more power, outlines his ideal impact position, and reveals his iron swing fundamentals. Andrisani offers detailed, step-by-step instructions on emulating Tiger’s mechanics through practice drills and swing analysis. While lacking in diagrams and photos, The Tiger Woods Way provides useful insight into Tiger Woods’ revolutionary swing.

The Grand Slam: Bobby Jones, America,
and the Story of Golf

by Mark Frost

Summary: “The Grand Slam: Bobby Jones, America, and the Story of Golf” is a biography that tells the story of Bobby Jones and his incredible achievement of winning all four major tournaments in the same year, 1930. The book delves into Jones’ background, his introduction to golf at East Lake Country Club in Atlanta, and his progress as a junior golfer. It also explores the challenges he faced in adapting his playing style and refining his attitude toward the game to win against the best players of his time consistently. The book provides insights into Jones’ personal life, relationships with fellow golfers, and impact on the sport. Frost’s storytelling captures the excitement of Jones’ historic accomplishment and his lasting legacy in golf.

Roaring Back: The Fall and Rise of Tiger Woods
by Curt Sampson

Summary: Curt Sampson’s “Roaring Back” chronicles Tiger Woods’s dramatic comeback and victory at the 2019 Masters tournament, detailing his fall from grace through scandal and injury as context for his against-the-odds return to glory. Structured in three acts, the book provides insights into Woods’s unyielding determination and meticulous preparation while examining his complex persona through interviews with coaches, peers, and golf journalists.  Sampson argues that Woods’s 2019 Masters win, after years of personal and physical setbacks, represents one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.  With exclusive interviews and reporting, “Roaring Back” captures a pivotal moment in the career of one of golf’s most legendary figures.

How I Play Golf
by Tiger Woods

Summary: In his instructional book, Woods reveals the physical, mental, and emotional techniques behind his golf mastery, from proper grip and swing mechanics to training regimen and focus.  Blending golf strategy with philosophical insights, Woods aims to help readers improve their game by adopting his meticulous, disciplined approach to practice and competition. While few can match his skill, Woods believes anyone can benefit from his strategic insights and methods for mental toughness, making “How I Play Golf” an invaluable resource for golfers of all levels. With detailed lessons and personal anecdotes, this book provides a comprehensive look at the record-shattering methods of one of history’s greatest golfers.

Videos

Freeze Drill
Woods wins at St Andrew’s 2000
2001 Masters Final Round Broadcast

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