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It’s Harder Than Ever to Win Majors

By Art Spander – Global Golf Post

Troon, Scotland | Thomas Brent Weekley, better known as “Boo,” understands golf far better than most, that is if anyone, pro or amateur, star or hacker, is able to understand golf. A while back Weekley told The Wall Street Journal – yes, Boo, the alligator wrestler, and The Journal seem an odd combination – that if you win a major “all you get is more hype.”

And, he neglected to note more pressure to win another major. Which certainly has happened to three gentlemen, namely Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day.

The Claret Jug (photo by Twitter)

Each has had by most standards a very good year, with at least one victory, in Day’s case three wins since March. And yet through the Open Championship, the British Open at gloomy, chill (with the exception of opening day) Royal Troon, none had won a major this year.

Contrary to Boo Weekley’s contention, all three – Spieth, McIlroy and Day – received a great deal of notice for not doing so. For Spieth, too much notice. You think Gene Sarazen had to do 10 interviews after every round?

In 2015, of course, Spieth won the first two majors on the schedule, The Masters and the U.S. Open, and missed getting into a playoff in the British by a shot. We were thinking, wow, another Jack Nicklaus, another Tiger Woods. And he finished second to Day at the PGA Championship. Not so fast.

“It’s been tough, given I think, it’s been a solid year and I think had last year not happened I’d be having a lot of positive questions,” said Spieth. “Instead, most of the questions I get are comparing to last year and, therefore, negative because it’s not to the same standard.

“That’s almost tough to then convince myself I’m having a good year when, even if you (media) guys think it is, the questions I get make me feel like it’s not. I think that’s a bit unfair to me but don’t feel sorry for me. I’ll still be OK. But I would appreciate if people would look at the positives … it seems a bit unfair at 22 to be expecting something like that all the time.”

Winning any tournament is hard.

Winning a major is harder.

The PGA Tour and the European Tour are loaded with quality. That slogan, “These guys are good.” Are they ever.

Consider young Mr. Danny Willett. Although he played quite well at St. Andrews in the 2015 Open he still was unfamiliar to America. Then he won The Masters. Dare we say unexpectedly?

That’s golf. That’s all sport these days. Sam Querrey, then No. 41 in the ATP Rankings, beat tennis’ acknowledged best, No. 1 in fact and thought, Novak Djokovic, in the third round of Wimbledon. They literally played each other, serves and forehands across a net. A golfer is unable to do much about his opponents except score lower.

Nicklaus won 18 majors across a span of 24 years, Woods 14 (and counting?) in a stretch of 11 years, Gary Player nine across 19 years and way back Walter Hagen 11 majors during a period of 15 years. Nicklaus also finished second 19 times – who can forget Tom Watson chipping in to beat him at Pebble Beach? Domination.

But there’s not going to be another Nicklaus or Woods. Or Michael Jordan. Or the results when they were involved. There are too many excellent golfers. And basketball players. And baseball players. And soccer players. And everything else.

One great move, LeBron in the finals; one painful mistake, Spieth at Augusta’s 12th hole, changes the game. The spotlight shines. The tension builds. The importance grows.

Golf's Major Trophies along with the Ryder Cup (photo
Golf’s Major Trophies along with the Ryder Cup (photo

“I’ve said many times,” Arnold Palmer pointed out, “a good player can win a golf tournament but great players win major championships.” These days so many players then could be called great, Bubba Watson (two Masters), Zach Johnson (a Masters and a British), Spieth (a Masters and a U.S. Open) McIlroy (a U.S. Open, an Open Championship, two PGAs). Still, none of them won a major in 2016 through Troon.

More skilled golfers than ever before, young, Spieth, McIlroy, Day, Dustin Johnson, older, Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson.

More attention.

Nicklaus and Woods had years when they didn’t win a major. Jack failed to take one from the 1967 U.S. Open until the 1970 British at St. Andrews, in a playoff against Doug Sanders, when he showed both relief and elation by uncharacteristically flinging his putter over his head and nearly skulling Sanders.

The balls and clubs of this era are better than a half-century ago. So are most of the players. But like football teams in the SEC they have to keep competing against each other. The beginning of the week at Troon the headlines were about Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth. Who guessed in the end the news would be about Mickelson and Stenson?

The question once was whether Tiger could catch Jack. That has been answered.

And because now everybody has too much talent, nobody’s going to catch Tiger.