OAKMONT, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Two months after winning his first major at the Masters, Danny Willett is having fun sizing up the prospect of becoming the first professional to complete a calendar grand slam of the four blue riband events.
Tiger Woods came closest by holding all four majors at the same time after clinching the 2001 Masters, though his victories were spread across two years in what become known as the ‘Tiger Slam’.
Twelve months ago, Jordan Spieth raised hopes of becoming the first professional to complete the calendar slam with wins at the Masters and U.S. Open but fell short by finishing joint fourth at the British Open and second at the PGA Championship.
“What Jordan did last year was awesome,” Englishman Willett told a packed U.S. Open news conference at Oakmont Country Club on Tuesday. “We’ve not seen that for a while, obviously since Tiger’s days.
“It’s projected that all the top 50 are going to play this week, which hasn’t happened that much over the last 10 years. You look at the strength of the field and it would be fantastic to even be somewhere thereabouts come Sunday.”
American amateur Bobby Jones completed the original grand slam, the so-called ‘Impregnable Quadrilateral’, in 1930 by winning the British Amateur, the British Open, the U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur but that came before the Masters was founded.
Willett, as Masters champion, is the only player in this week’s field of 156 capable of going on to complete a calendar grand slam of the majors this year.
“You’ve got to keep breaking it down. You can’t look at it as a whole,” the 28-year-old from Sheffield said about taking it one challenge at a time.
“It is quite fun because running up to this week, you are the only guy that can do it in the same year. It’s just nice that we have got that chance.
“We’re going to try to get prepped, and hopefully come Sunday we’re somewhere there or thereabouts to give you that little bit of a feeling that, yeah, this (a calendar grand slam) is actually possible.”
Since Willett’s three-shot victory at the Masters, where he took advantage of a shocking back-nine meltdown by defending champion and runaway leader Spieth, the Englishman’s life has been transformed on and off the course.
“Obviously, you get recognized a little bit more and things like that,” he said. “You realize how difficult the guys have had it who have been up there in the limelight for a lot of years, how much they’ve got to take control of their own time.
“It’s tricky when you’re in the public eye. The last couple of months, I can’t remember a practice session, a golf tournament, where I’m not being filmed or there’s a microphone nearby. It’s tricky to be yourself.”
The U.S. Open starts on Thursday.
Editing by Larry Fine