AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tiger Woods didn't guarantee he would win the Grand Slam this season. He might have done that if he were a pro football player, but golf is a bit more genteel than football, in the way that a lamb is more genteel than a Harley.
But Woods did say he was shooting for victories in all four majors this season, and outside of Ian Poulter's wardrobe, that's about as outrageous a statement as can be made in pro golf. But coming out of the mouth of Tiger, it sounds like a lesson in logic: I'm the best. Four tournaments make up the Grand Slam.
Therefore, I should win the Grand Slam.
That's not bravado. If you've been paying attention the past 12 years, it seems like the natural order talking. You know what would be news? If Woods said he figured he would win only two of four majors this year. Or if he said he liked somebody else's chances in the Masters, which starts today. Or if he said he wished golf weren't so competitive.
But Woods saying he thinks he has a chance of winning the Grand Slam this year? It's like George Clooney saying he thinks he has a chance in a singles bar.
Woods knows how good he is, we know how good he is, and, perhaps of most importance, his opponents know how good he is. No matter what they say, they're playing the course, the elements and Tiger Woods.
"His confidence is sky high, even for him," Ernie Els said. "So when he comes out, he feels he's under control. He knows his golf swing is going to hold up. He's one of the best putters ever in the game, and he has a great short game around the greens. Those are pretty good qualities to have at Augusta.
"It's all about momentum, and we've seen when Tiger builds some momentum, he can do some crazy things. You know, I'd like to bet against him, like the whole field here this week, but it's definitely in his reach. I don't think we've seen a player like him ever."
Superlatives never have seemed so matter of fact.
Woods is, of course, the best thing that has happened to golf, and not just in terms of TV ratings and tournament purses. He's the ultimate in terms of intrigue. Will he win the Masters? By how much? You better stay tuned for all four days.
He expects more from himself, and we probably expect the world from him, a bit unfairly perhaps. But that's part of the deal, too: To whom much is given, much is expected.
But there's the sense here that Woods, looking for ways to stay mentally sharp against golfers who aren't his equal, has concocted this challenge to motivate himself. And the only way to do it right was to make it a public proclamation. That much more pressure on him and that much sweeter the reward if he pulls it off. When you talk about Woods, you talk less about contemporaries like Els and Phil Mickelson and more about historical ghosts like Jack Nicklaus and Bobby Jones.
"You would have to go back to Nicklaus and (Ben) Hogan and the greats back then to think of somebody (who had a chance) to win all four in one year," Ireland's Padraig Harrington said.
Nicklaus has said that, in his prime, his goal was to win the Grand Slam every year. He never did. He knows how hard it is. So many things can go wrong. A ball can hit a sprinkler head. An approach shot might hit a pebble on the green. And yet he, like most everybody else, believes Woods is capable of the feat. It's not always easy for the greats of the game to acknowledge current players' greatness. But with Woods, there's nothing else to do but shrug and agree with him. He can win a Grand Slam. Nobody else is remotely close.
Woods has won the Masters four times, his game is blazing hot right now, and did we mention he's motivated?
"I just love winning," he said. "I just love getting out there and mixing it up with the guys here, and they are trying to beat me, and I'm trying to beat them. That's fun."
He said the biggest reason he believes he can win the Grand Slam is that he has won the four majors in a row, though not in the same calendar year. He won the 2000 U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship and the 2001 Masters. That's a pretty good reason to believe. And here he is, seven years later, still on top of his game.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a time when he wasn't on top of his game.
If he doesn't win the Slam, is it a failure? No, not even close. Just an off week, that's all. Sometimes, the cape disrupts Superman's golf swing.
This is Woods' time. And no one is sure when his time will be up. He's 32. With his talent and the technological advances in golf equipment, he'll be hard to beat for a long time.
So the Grand Slam this year? Sure, why not. If not this year, then some other year. It all makes perfect sense.