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Most golfers dream of winning a Major, but what about those rare players who have won all four - The Masters, PGA Championship, US Open and The Open Championship?
There are actually two types of Grand Slam. The first, most common, is the career Grand Slam. That's the achievement of winning all four Majors at any point during a player's career. However, considerably rarer is the Grand Slam, which describes any player to win all four Majors in a calendar year. But how rare are these occurrences? And who has achieved them?
In the history of the sport, only one player has won a Grand Slam (although another ran him extremely close), while only five players - to date - have a career Grand Slam. Before The Masters was established, in 1934, the US and British Amateur Championships were considered Majors. That meant that in order to win a Grand Slam, a player would need to have consecutive victories in the US Amateur, British Amateur, US Open and The Open.
The one player to achieve the Grand Slam did so across those pre-Masters tournaments, American Bobby Jones, in 1930. In fact, Jones' achievement was so remarkable that before he won all four Majors in one calendar year, the term 'Grand Slam' didn't exist for it, because no one thought it would be possible. In total, Jones won 13 Majors in a seven-year period between 1923 and 1930.
It's certainly proved difficult ever since. However, one player in the modern era has come close - Tiger Woods. In 2000, Woods finished fifth in The Masters, but then won the year's remaining three Majors. He then won the 2001 Masters to win all four Majors within 365 days. The unique achievement became known as the Tiger Slam, and is regarded as the modern-era equivalent of Jones' one-off feat. In fact, Woods completed his career Grand Slam before that, with his win in the 2000 Open. In total, Woods has won enough of all four Majors for three career Grand Slams.
Even Jack Nicklaus, with the all-time record haul of 18 Majors, only ever won two of golf's most prestigious tournaments in a calendar year (albeit on five occasions). However, the Golden Bear won a career Grand Slam three times, and he achieved the first of those with his win in the 1966 Open. By the time he retired, Nicklaus fell just one more Open win short of a fourth career Grand Slam. Agonisingly, Nicklaus's final Claret Jug win came in 1978, eight years before his last Major title in the 1986 Masters.
American Sarazen won seven Majors in his career, and became the first player to win the modern-era career Grand Slam in 1935, when he won The Masters. The achievement was a slow process, though - it took him 13 years from his first Major win in 1922. Overall, Sarazen won the US Open in 1922 and 1932, the PGA Championship in 1922, 1923 and 1933, The Open in 1932 and finally The Masters in 1935 to complete the set.
South African Player won nine Majors in a trophy laden career, with his first coming in the 1959 Open. Six years later, he completed his career Grand Slam with his 1965 win in the US Open. Overall, as well as that US Open victory, Player won The Masters and The Open three times, and the PGA Championship twice, but, despite coming close to a second US Open win (he finished tied for second in the 1979 tournament) another eluded him, leaving him with one career Grand Slam.
In 1953 Ben Hogan won The Masters, US Open, and The Open, but it was impossible for him to win all four as the dates of the latter tournament overlapped with the PGA Championship. Thankfully, he'd already won that tournament back in 1946, giving him a career Grand Slam. Hogan remains the only player to have won the Masters, US Open and Open Championship in the same calendar year.
A number of golfers have failed to achieve the career Grand Slam, despite coming close. For example, Sam Snead won every Major at least once except the US Open, where he finished runner-up four times. Phil Mickelson is another who just needs to win the US Open to complete a career Grand Slam, and has said he will retire if he ever achieves it. Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson both won three of the Majors, but failed to win a PGA Championship. Elsewhere, both Lee Trevino and Rory McIlroy are a Green Jacket shy of the set, while Byron Nelson and Raymond Floyd failed to win The Open.
Next Career Grand Slam Member?
Of the current crop, McIlroy and Jordan Spieth are probably the most likely to join the club, with both sitting just one Major shy. McIlroy's quest for a career Grand Slam was close to coming to an end in 2022, but his final-round Masters exploits at Augusta National weren't enough to see him finish higher than runner-up. Meanwhile, Spieth requires a PGA Championship, something he described as an elephant in the room before the 2022 tournament at Southern Hills.
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Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories.
He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game.
Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course.
Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.
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