When Webb Simpson won the 112th US Open over the weekend, he continued a trend that’s been going on for the past three years. First-time major winners have now captured 12 of the last 14 major championships, with Phil Mickelson and Angel Cabrera’s victories at The Masters in 2009 and 2010, respectively, being the only exceptions.
It has been quite some time since someone we consider a tired-and true-champion has won a big time tournament. As each major champion rolls around, and unlikely winner emerges. For example, Y.E. Yang’s victory over Tiger Woods in the 2009 PGA Championship. Or take Darren Clark’s victory at the Open Championship at age 43. Even more, take a look at Louis Oosthuzien. NOBODY, including his parents, picked him to win in 2010.
There might be a couple reasons for this. One likely scenarios is the fact that Tiger Woods no longer dominates the game as he once did. Despite being picked to win before the start of every major, Tiger has had difficulty consistently contending in the biggest tournaments.
The flip side of the Tiger Woods argument is that the field is now better. Players like Rory McIlroy, who grew up watching Tiger dominate, feel that they are equally talented and just as capable of accomplishing similar things. There are so many good, young players on the tour right now that it’s difficult to evaluate who is truly the best player. It seems to be anyone’s week, every week.
One could also make an argument that the design of the courses are evening the playing field as well. Runaway wins still happen, but certainly not like they once did during the Tiger era. Just this past weekend at The Olympic Club, no golfer finished below par after 4 rounds.
Whatever the reason for this trend, it seems that heading into a major, the best pick is most likely someone who hasn’t won a major at all.