Book of the Week: The Majors In Pursuit of Golf's Holy Grail By John Feinstein Little Brown and Co, pounds 19.99

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THERE IS a not very subtle difference between the golf tournaments that form the week-to-week tours around the world and the game's four major championships. In the former, no one remembers who wins, let alone who comes second, while in the latter both the winners and losers are indelibly etched into history.

Feinstein recalls the words written on a blackboard prior to a championship football game by college coach Vince Dooley: "Today is Forever."

"Four days a year, golfers go out to play Forever," Feinstein adds. "Those are the four Sundays at the major championships. They all know what is at stake. They all know that winning will change their lives and, in some cases define their lives. They also know that losing can do those things too."

For those who have caught Feinstein's previous successful books, the style will be familiar. The American author has attempted to take readers behind the scenes at a number of sporting occasions. In A Good Walk Spoiled, he chronicled life on the US PGA Tour for a year. In doing so, he found out that only four of those weeks produce enough material for a single tome.

In The Majors, Feinstein goes in "pursuit of golf's Holy Grail" during the 1998 season with the help of a number of players to tell the inside story. Either by luck or by judgement, one of the players the author enlisted at the start of the year was Mark O'Meara, who suddenly at the age of 41 won the Masters and the Open.

O'Meara had been motivated by being written off a year earlier by Sports Illustrated as "King of the Killer Bs". But when O'Meara and his family finally returned to their rented house in Birkdale late on the Sunday evening after the Open, the phone rang and the familiar voice of Tiger Woods merely said: "Why do you keep doing this to me?"

A few months earlier, at Augusta, David Duval had waited with the club chairman, Jackson Stephens, as O'Meara lined up his putt on the 18th. "Don't worry about a thing, David," Stephens said. "Nobody makes that putt."

When O'Meara holed it, ruling Duval out of a playoff, Stephens added: "Well, David, great playing. We'll look forward to seeing you again next year."

Duval felt "as if someone had kicked him very hard in the stomach". "Never, ever have I felt like that at the end of a golf tournament," Duval said. "It was as if every bit of adrenalin and energy I had ever had just went right out of me. Right then I understood what the majors are all about."