Grand Slam of Golf
Huber

Scaling golf's major mountains

By Jim Huber, Turner Sports Commentator

It can be a cruel and unforgiving world. We set standards, sometimes, that can be nearly impossible to meet. Take this curious and very subjective Everest we have come to know over the years as The Major Championship.

Four equally spaced golf tournaments set amidst some others that merely pretend. Four which only came into popular fashion three-quarters of a century ago. Four which turn mere mortals into supermen.

Is Rich Beem, for instance, any different for having won last year's PGA Championship?

Absolutely.

No question about it.

And not just the day after or the week or the year but for all time.

Is he a better golfer, a more cerebral manipulator of the ball, more of a threat now?

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Doesn't matter. He is forever known as a Major Champion.

And thus they come here each year to the Grand Slam of Golf as men who have somehow managed the game's highest mountain range while others fell in their wake. Imagine the exhilaration, for it is the most rarified air they can breathe.

There are those who shudder at the thought. Those who would rather collect large paychecks and be a steady provider and not endure the rigors of the climb. There are others, of course, who relish the challenge and spend their lifetimes in pursuit.

Only a thin line of electricity which runs through their nervous system separates the two.

It is not that one is any better than the other, in truth. It is simply that one sets far different and higher standards, spending those months in between the four tuning for the climb.

But an odd thing can happen. Rich Beem is a perfect case in point. There comes a time when, suddenly, without notice, you find yourself reaching just a little higher, digging just a little deeper, suspecting there might be something more inside you than you ever, ever, knew.

If Tiger Woods was predestined for annual inclusion in The Grand Slam Club, plotting his entire year for those four events, there are others who have stumbled and fallen in gold. Others who have turned a corner and somehow found a mountaintop waiting. The short but distinguished list of Major Champions is awash with them. Men who found themselves suddenly being invited to Kauai and this Grand Slam, scratching their heads and wondering how in the world THAT happened.

Doesn't matter.

They are, just like that, a breed apart. Major Champions.

From Augusta and the Masters to Chicago and the U.S. Open, from Sandwich and the British Open to Rochester and the PGA, they come in search of an identity.

And an automatic ticket to the most exclusive club in all of sports.

And, of course, a vacation in Paradise.

Well, it's why they set those standards so high!

Other Items
  • 20 questions (12/1/03) — When was the last time Masters champion Mike Weir paid for a golf ball? Or what's Jim Furyk's favorite golf hole, Ben Curtis' dream foursome, or Shaun Micheel's favorite club? Find out in our exclusive 20 Questions with this year's PGA Grand Slam participants and caddies.
  • Scaling golf's major mountains (12/1/03) — Four times a year golf's best gather to try and climb that final rung to greatness on the ladder that will define their career. Jim Huber, Turner Sports' Emmy Award-winning essayist, examines what separates a major champion from the rest.
  • Left alone to flourish (12/1/03) — When Mike Weir was a promising junior in his native Canada, he wrote a letter to the great Jack Nicklaus asking if a young left-hander should try to learn the game right-handed. The Golden Bear wrote back, and the advice he offered made Weir a Masters champion.
  • Furyk finds home in Hawaii (12/1/03) — Considering the career success he's enjoyed in Hawaii -- two wins and nearly $2 million in winnings since he joined the PGA Tour in 1994 -- it should come as no surprise that U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk and his wife built a second home on the island of Maui.

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