Tiger goes for fifth consecutive Grand Slam title
by Jaymes Song
POIPU BEACH, Hawaii (AP)?
Beating Tiger Woods when he's relaxed and having fun at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf has been nearly impossible.
Justin Leonard, Davis Love III and PGA Champion Rich Beem will try to stop Woods this week from winning his fifth straight Grand Slam title.
"I'm excited about being here again," said Woods, the Masters and U.S. Open champion. "I always have a fantastic time here and I'm sure this year will be no exception."
Woods said he enjoys playing the event at the Poipu Bay Golf Course on the island of Kauai because of the relaxed oceanside setting, warm weather, friendly people and the intimate atmosphere with fans.
"This is the hardest tournament to qualify for," he said.
The $1 million, 36-hole stroke-play event begins Tuesday and is reserved for the winners of the four major championships. With Woods winning a pair of majors and British Open Ernie Els dropping out because of scheduling conflicts, Leonard and Love were able to slip in because of their standing on the major championship points list.
"Justin and I are real happy Ernie is not here," Love joked. "We are not disappointed at all."
Beem is making his first appearance.
Love tied for 14th in the Masters and British Open, and tied for 24th in the U.S. Open and 48th in the PGA Championship. He's had success at Poipu, finishing third in 1997 and second in 2000.
"This is a great, great event," Love said. "Like Tiger said, it's intimate. It's not like there are 20,000 people out here. It's a nice quiet group that is fun to play in front of."
Leonard's season included a tie for fourth in the PGA Championship, tie for 12th in the U.S. Open, a tie for 14th in the British Open, and a tie for 20th in the Masters.
Leonard hopes to fare better this week than he did in 1997 when he finished in last place.
"You know it is pretty easy to improve on a fourth-place finish by about eight shots," he said. "I think Ernie won that year and during his acceptance speech, he thanked Tiger and David for pushing him onto victory and he thanked me for the entertainment value."
Woods finished in second place that year and won every following Grand Slam. He also topped the money list for the fourth straight year with $6,912,625 on the PGA Tour.
But he's not counting his opponents out.
"You know if you look at the collection of the players here, there are four pretty good players," Woods said. "We've all had major championship success. We all played well this year."
Woods won the 2001 Grand Slam finishing with a record 12-under 132 total for a three-stroke victory over David Toms. The previous year, Woods tied the match with an eagle and followed with another eagle on the first playoff hole to beat Vijay Singh.
All four contestants will go home with some unofficial prize money. The Grand Slam winner will earn $400,000 with the fourth-place finisher earning $150,000.