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Golf Today 10th February
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Punters backing Woods Grand Slam at 80-1
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Punters backing Woods Grand Slam at 80-1

The Grand Slam, golf's impossible dream of all four majors in a season, has never been achieved but Tiger Woods is rated at just 80-1 to complete the sweep this year.

Woods matched Ben Hogan's 1948 achievement of six consecutive tour wins when he came from seven shots down with seven holes to play to win the Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Monday.

And while he is unlikely to match Byron Nelson's 1945 record of 11 consecutive wins, punters are backing him heavily to achieve the unachievable this season.

"We've already got a liability of half a million pounds on a Tiger grand slam," said Graham Sharpe of London bookmakers William Hill.

"I know the odds look ridiculous but with the money being staked we have to cover ourselves." Hills rate Woods 5-2 to win the U.S. Masters and 3-1 for each of the other three majors.

Such short odds are rarely seen even on the final day of a tournament but such is Woods's recent dominance of the sport that all the rules are being rewritten.

Monday's success summed up his incredible combination of talent and determination. Starting the day six shots adrift of American rookie Matt Gogel, Woods was a further shot back at the turn after both men started strongly.

But as Gogel faded, Woods holed a 90 yard wedge for an eagle at the par-5 15th and went on to shoot an eight-under par 64 to win by two.

As ever, Woods was modest in victory. "I don't consider it six in a row but two in a row," he said, in reference to the fact that the first four wins of the streak came at the end of last season.

"But I have the confidence to know I have done it before in the past, coming from behind or edging someone out. I've had a pretty good run of comebacks through my career."

That three-and-half-year professional career has already brought him 17 tournament victories and he is more than living up to his tag as potentially the game's greatest-ever player.

Jack Nicklaus never won more than two tournaments in a row while Arnold Palmer's best was three. No one has won more than four since 1953. Nelson's 11 (which earned him $30,250 compared with the $4.6 million for Woods' six) came at the close of the World War Two when competition was incomparable with today's game. Nelson, who won 19 tournaments in all in that incredible 1945 season, has said that Woods' 1999 was the best season in history.

"The competition is so much keener now that it would have to be the best," said Nelson, who added he could easily see Woods eclipsing Jack Nicklaus's remarkable record of 18 majors.

He has some way to go for that mark, with just two to his name so far, but he is still only 24 and Nicklaus won his last, the 1986 Masters, at the age of 46.

In the shorter-term, despite the faith of punters, the chances of the grand slam look as close to impossible as anything can be in sport.

In 1930 Bobby Jones won his era's equivalent - the British and U.S. Opens and the British and U.S. Amateur championship. But since the introduction of the Masters in 1934 only Ben Hogan, in 1953, has even won even three - although he did not compete in the U.S. PGA that year.

In 1960 Palmer won the Masters and U.S. Open and lost the Open by a shot while in 1986 Greg Norman led all four majors going into the last day but won only the Open. The Australian has also lost play-offs in each major.

But only four men - Hogan, Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen, and Gary Player have claimed all four in their whole careers.

Woods, however, will not be thinking of such lofty targets, instead concentrating on defending his title at the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines in California next weekend.

His victory there last year included a 10-under par 62 in the third round and something similar would give a chance for the magic seven and leave only Nelson in his sights.

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