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The 18 Best Players Ever

And Watson had to play the golf of his life to beat Nicklaus at Turnberry in 1977. Watson had to make the shot of his life, that chip at Pebble in 1982, to steal a U.S. Open from Nicklaus. Trevino had to chip in at Muirfield in '72 to keep Jack from winning there and maybe going on to get his own Grand Slam.

Beat Arnold at Oakmont at age twenty-two. Won the Open and PGA when he was forty. Then the grand finale, the thirty he shot on the back nine at Augusta in '86.

Again: When Tiger does all that, when it's all in the books, send up a flare. Nicklaus will be the first to tip his golden cap.

Career victories: 64 Majors: 9
Peak years: 1942-49; 1951-55

Hogan is credited with winning nine majors. He really won ten, because the medal he won at the 1942 Hale America National Open in Chicago was the same as another U.S. Open championship. In the period before the 1949 car accident that nearly killed him and in the three or four years after the accident, Hogan dominated golf the same way Tiger does now.

He would have won the Grand Slam in '53, when he won the Masters and U.S. Open and the British Open at Carnoustie, if the schedule for the British Open and PGA hadn't kept him from playing in both. Even when the pain in his legs limited his schedule, he was still winning more majors than anybody else. He wasn't the longest, just the straightest. He wasn't the best putter and would eventually be driven from the game by the yips. But he made putts when he had to. Ben Hogan was the toughest out in golf history, and from the late forties to the mid-fifties, he was the king.

Career victories: 13 Majors: 13
Peak years: 1923-30

In many ways, Bobby Jones invented golf in this country. Francis Ouimet put it on the radar, but Jones was something bigger: He was the sport's first star. A movie star, really. His Grand Slam wasn't the one Tiger is trying to win now. The Slam wasn't really invented until Jones won it. But win it he did. He was the amateur king of golf, and his status as an amateur only added to the magic of his name. And when he was finished playing, all he did was go out and invent Augusta National and the Masters.

Maybe someday Tiger will win his Grand Slam. Until then, there is only one in the books. It belongs to Bobby Jones.


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