The Grand Slam: Golf's impossible task

Is winning golf's Grand Slam even possible in today's age?
Scottie Scheffler - The Masters
Scottie Scheffler - The Masters / Warren Little/GettyImages

As this year’s US Open tees off at the iconic Pinehurst No.2, I can’t help but wonder what could have been. Scottie Scheffler is the clear frontrunner to win the third major of the year. He’s won five of his last eight starts, including the Masters Tournament. With these results and consistently dominant play, an argument can be made that Scheffler is the best golfer the world has seen since prime Tiger Woods.

Going into the PGA Championship last month, I had one thought on my mind: “Scheffler has a chance at the first single-season Grand Slam in history.” And who knows? If not for his dramatic arrest, he may have become the ninth golfer in history to go into the third major of the year with the Slam still in sight.

But he didn’t win. He might win the two remaining majors this year, but he won’t be a single-season Grand Slam champion. If nobody in the history of golf, not even Jack Nicklaus, Woods, or Scheffler, has won a Grand Slam with the modern majors, is it even possible? As much as I want it to happen, I’d say absolutely not.

When people talk about Grand Slams in golf, they’re often talking about career Grand Slams.

Only six players have won all four majors: Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Nicklaus, and Woods. Eleven more players, including Arnold Palmer, are missing just one. Three of these are active players: Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, and Jordan Spieth. A career Grand Slam is an incredible achievement and puts a player among the greatest of all time. But it’s not a single-season Grand Slam.

In this history of the game, only one player has won all four majors in a calendar year: Jones in 1930. However, Jones did so before the Masters Tournament was established in 1934. His Grand Slam, although the term wasn’t used back then, consisted of the US Amateur, the British Amateur, the US Open, and The Open.

Since the modern-day majors were established in 1934, only two players have won three majors in a single season. Hogan did it in 1953, winning the first two majors of the year: The Masters and the US Open. After coming up short in the PGA Championship, he bounced back to win The Open.

The only other player to win three in a season was Woods in 2000. After finishing fifth at the Masters, Woods won the next three in a row. When he won the Masters in 2001, Woods became the only player in history to win four consecutive major championships. This became known as “The Tiger Slam.”

Winning the Tiger Slam was an unrivaled achievement, but the phrase proves how impossible winning a Grand Slam is: They had to name it something else.

Only two players have won three majors in a season, but winning just two is a rarity. Since the start of the Masters, only 28 players have accomplished this feat. Nicklaus did it five times. Woods did it four times. Hogan did it three times. Most recently, Brooks Koepka won the US Open and PGA Championship in 2018.

However, as mentioned before, only eight of these players won the first two majors of the season. This means eight players in the history of the game made it halfway to the Grand Slam. The last player to do this was Jordan Spieth in 2015 when he won the Masters and US Open.

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One can dream, but winning the Grand Slam is simply an impossible task. Golf is a sport in which one bad shot has the potential to ruin a round. Multiple bad shots have the potential to ruin a tournament. Combined with the typically strong fields of the major championships, it doesn’t matter how historically great a player is. If someone does win all four, it would almost be divine intervention.