Grand Slam talk continues at Augusta
Talk of a possible calendar grand slam by Tiger Woods has dominated the build-up to this week's U.S. Masters where the world number one will be seeking his fifth Green Jacket.
A sweep of all four majors in a single season has never been accomplished in professional golf but Woods's rivals at Augusta National Golf Club agree the game's leading player is capable of achieving it.
"It's going to be a tough feat but it's certainly a possibility," twice Masters champion Phil Mickelson told reporters during preparations for the opening major of the year. "It would be pretty cool to see it done.
"He has already won four majors in a row, so it's not an impossible feat. I think it's doable."
American Woods became the first professional to triumph in four successive grand slam events, doing so from the 2000 U.S. Open to the 2001 Masters.
Only once has a calendar slam been recorded, by American Bobby Jones in 1930 when golf's four elite events were the U.S. Open, British Open, U.S amateur and British amateur.
Ernie Els, twice a runner-up at the Masters, agreed the remarkable Woods could pull off the first professional slam.
"Basically, he's done it before and when you've done something before you feel like you can do it again," the South African world number three said.
"He's got a great record here at Augusta and he's been playing great so his confidence is sky-high."
Woods, seeking his 14th major title this week, has triumphed nine times in 11 starts worldwide since last August. This year, he won three times in four PGA Tour appearances.
"When he comes out, he feels that he's under control," Els added. "He knows his golf swing is going to hold up and he's one of the best putters ever in the game. Those are pretty good qualities to have at Augusta.
"It's all about momentum and we've seen Tiger when he builds momentum, he can do some crazy things. It (the calendar slam) is definitely in his reach."
British Open champion Padraig Harrington agreed.
"It has been a long time since a player has been capable of winning a grand slam," the 36-year-old Irishman said.
"I think you would have to go back to (Jack) Nicklaus and (Ben) Hogan and the greats back then to think of somebody who is going to win all four in one year.
"There's no question Tiger has moved into that category the last number of years. It's definitely possible for him."
Woods, Masters champion in 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2005, stunned the golfing world earlier this year by saying a calendar slam was entirely possible.
"You have to understand why I said that, because I've done it before," the 32-year-old said this week. "I've won all four in a row. I think I'm the only guy who has done that (in the) modern configuration.
"This is my 12th season out here and (in) nine of those years I've won five or more tournaments so I've just got to win the right four," Woods added. "That's what it boils down to."
Although Woods's aura of dominance among his peers does not quite match the same level as when he won seven majors out of 11 from late 1999 to mid-2002, it is not far off.
"I think he has less of an impact than he did when he first came out and everyone was kind of blown away by him charging up and guys were falling apart," Australian Adam Scott said.
"But he's still playing better than us at the end of the day. He's winning so often that he must step on the first tee feeling pretty good about his chances every week."
In his bid to do what no professional golfer has done before, Woods is scheduled to step on to Augusta's first tee at 1045 local (1445 GMT) for Thursday's opening round.
April 9, 2008