Being a member of golf’s career Grand Slam club is perhaps the most exclusive in the game. The modern Grand Slam includes the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship.
Bobby Jones’ Grand Slam included the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, British Open and British Amateur. (Jones was a lifetime amateur and later created the Masters.)
Bobby Jones changed golf in America. A lifelong amateur, Jones set the game’s competitive standard in 1930 when he became the only player to win the game’s four major championships in the same calendar year. Because he never turned pro, Jones’ major titles include the U.S. and British Amateur championships. He was ineligible for the PGA Championship and would create the Masters after his retirement.
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Jones completed the Grand Slam with his U.S. Amateur victory at Merion outside Philadelphia and then announced his retirement – at age 28 – from competitive golf. He would go on to create Augusta National Golf Club and he played occasionally but never again to the same level.
Gene Sarazen completed his career Grand Slam in 1935 when he won the second Masters – it was then called the Augusta National Invitational – hitting perhaps the most famous shot in golf history.
Three strokes behind leader Craig Wood in the final round, Sarazen holed a 235-yard, 4-wood shot over water on the par-5 15th hole for a double eagle that pulled him even with Wood. The next day, Sarazen would win a playoff.
Sarazen wasn’t big – he was only 5-foot-5 – but he had an enormous presence in the game. He wore plus-fours (trousers 4 inches longer than knickerbockers) in competition and he would later be credited with inventing the sand wedge.
Shortly after turning professional in the early 1920s, Sarazen worked for a time as an assistant pro at Charlotte Country Club.
Ben Hogan was 34 in 1948 when he won the first of his nine major championships and his greatest season was 1953 when he became the first pro to win three majors in the same year. It was the only year Hogan played in the British Open and his victory at Carnoustie gave him the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open trophies.
Because the PGA Championship overlapped with the British Open in 1953, Hogan was unable to play in the year’s other major championship.
A survivor of a near-fatal auto accident in 1949, Hogan had his greatest injuries after suffering serious injuries to his legs.
From his victory in the 1946 PGA Championship to his victory in the 1953 British Open, Hogan won nine majors in 16 starts. Also, he finished sixth or better in 12 consecutive U.S. Opens including four wins.
Jack Nicklaus was only 26 when he completed the career Grand Slam, winning the first of three British Opens in 1966.
The 18 professional major championships won by Nicklaus is the ultimate mark of achievement in golf and his victory in the 1986 Masters – when he was 46 – remains one of the most emotional wins ever.
With his blend of power, course-management skills and intelligence, Nicklaus dominated the game for two decades, supplanting Arnold Palmer as the game’s top player, then enduring challenges from Tom Watson, Lee Trevino and Johnny Miller during his prime.
Not only did Nicklaus win 18 professional majors, but he also finished second 19 times.
Gary Player was the first truly global golfer, traveling more than three million miles from his home in South Africa to play wherever the game might take him. Player claims to have traveled more than any person in history.
Part of the ‘Big Three’ with Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer in the 1960s, Player won the British Open in three different decades. He completed his career Grand Slam when he won the 1965 U.S. Open at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis in a playoff over Kel Nagle.
Player’s victory in the 1978 Masters was the result of a final-round 64 in which he birdied seven of the final 10 holes to beat Hubert Green.
In a career filled with spectacular achievements, Woods became the youngest to complete the career Grand Slam when he won the 2000 British Open at age 24. That win at St. Andrews was part of Woods’ remarkable run in which he held all four professional major titles at the same time, winning the U.S. and British Opens and the PGA Championship in 2000 then completing the so-called Tiger Slam with a victory in the 2001 Masters.
Woods’ 14 career majors are second only to Nicklaus and his 79 PGA Tour wins are second only to Sam Snead’s 82. Like only Nicklaus, Woods has won each of the major championships at least three times.
His last major victory came in the 2008 U.S. Open where Woods beat Rocco Mediate in a playoff to claim his 14th major championship. He is expected to return from back surgery later this year.
THE NEAR MISSES
1958, 1960, 1962, 1964
1975, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1983
1949, 1952, 1954
1942, 1949, 1951
2004, 2006, 2010
* Walter Hagen won 11 majors but all were before the Masters was created.