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This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
The most famous quote about golf belongs to Mark Twain. I-m sure you know it. "Golf is a good walk spoiled." And as much as that Twainism is no doubt true, it was Woodrow Wilson who put the game in sharpest focus for me. Wilson, an avid and thus duly frustrated golfer, said: "Golf is an ineffectual attempt to put an elusive ball into an obscure hole with implements ill-adapted to the purpose." The Scottish lads who created the game showed sheer genius in making it so very difficult that even the best in the world would have a heck of a time achieving long-term consistency. You-ll hear the top PGA and LPGA players talk about what a sweet swing they had in such-and-such a tournament. Then the very next week they-ve lost their swing entirely and resort to hiring a beginner-s coach to somehow recapture the basics. The great Jack Nicklaus noted in his prime that this is the only sport where you can be a champion if you win only 20% of the time. When a football team wins only two games out of ten, most of the staff is fired and the key players are shuffled off to the trading block.
Jack Nicklaus announced this week that this July-s British Open will be his last Major tournament. It will be a bittersweet week at the storied St. Andrews Links course in Scotland. Jack will say good-bye to tournament golf, the cornerstone of his life, for most of his life. He-s awfully fond of St. Andrew-s as well. He won the British Open twice there. And the tournament was actually moved to St. Andrew-s this year in tribute to The Golden Bear. And an extra bittersweet tear may roll down the famous Nicklaus cheeks at St. Andrew-s, in recognition that even he never won the ultimate prize of the sport--The Grand Slam.
As in tennis, The Grand Slam is the elusive gem of winning all four of what are called The Majors in one calendar year. Only one male golfer has ever done it. Bobby Jones in 1930...so this summer marks the 75th anniversary of that most rare accomplishment. On the women-s side, noone-s ever done it. Although, to be fair, athlete extraordinaire Babe Didrikson Zaharias won three of The Majors in 1950, when there were only three Majors to play.
Now, Tiger has won all four Majors and even won them consecutively--but not in one calendar year. He-s got the first one under his belt this year. That was the Masters in April. The second, the British Open, comes mid-July. For the women, Annika (I-m just going to refer to her as Annika because Annika Sorenstam is every bit--no actually more apart from her peers than the single-monikerd Tiger) Annika won the first women-s Major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco. The second leg to watch for is the LPGA Championship in Maryland June 9-12. People have worked out the odds on winning the Grand Slam and they-re astronomically against you. Even Nicklaus in his prime was figured at about 1 in 30 chances for the Slam. But if you-re the betting type and you want to lay a small wager on a feasible long-shot, bet Annika for the Slam this year. The modest Swede may be able to wander around in public an entire day without being recognized, while Tiger dashes to his private jet because the fan crush at airports is overwhelming for him. It may be that Annika is not a household name in America because she ducks fame every chance she gets. But I challenge you to name me a more dominant athlete in the country today. Annika is not only the best female golfer of all time. And she-s not only one of the best golfers, male and female, of all time. Annika-s among the best athletes of all time.
As one of her weekly competitors puts it, "We are playing in a different tournament. She-s up there in her own little world." Yes, perhaps soon to be her own little Grand Slam world.
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that-s The Score.
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