Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Webb Simpson became the ninth consecutive
first-time major winner and 15th straight different major champion after his
spectacular 68-68 weekend at the U.S. Open.
Why is this era of major parity happening?
Let's first examine "The Tiger Theory, Part I."
The post-scandal, injury-prone Tiger Woods certainly does not dominate major
championships any longer. He doesn't dominate regular tour stops any more.
Hell, he doesn't even dominate the Tavistock Cup any more.
With his swing ever-changing, and causing Woods to constantly question it in
the most pressure-packed situations, he is no longer the threat he once was.
Combined with injuries and the decline in his play, another factor costing
Woods in major championships is his aura. Not to be too existential, but when
Woods used to hold leads in major championships, like he did after Friday's
second round, other players crumbled like Ritz crackers.
Post-scandal, no one is afraid of him.
So Tiger not winning majors anymore is a pretty simplistic theory as to why
different players are capturing them.
But there's another Tiger factor that's being realized.
Let's call this "The Tiger Theory, Part II," and we will allow the U.S. Open
champion to articulate it.
"But I think the Tiger effect of inspiring people to play at a younger age,
and I think the access to golf has gotten so much bigger that the game is
changing," said Simpson.
This is a fantastic point by Simpson.
Young guys seeing the success Tiger achieved at such a young age think, why
not me? If their parents can swing it (and most can, because golf is still an
affluent sport), grade-schoolers have access to David Leadbetter and other
world-class swing coaches.
So in this day and age, young golfers burst onto the scene not needing time to
master their craft, but just an arena to showcase it. If they can handle the
nerves involved, and most can't right away, they come into professional golf
so much further along than tour pros in years past.
Beau Hossler, 17, went into Sunday with a legitimate chance of victory. He's
so young, he has braces.
If Tiger isn't winning, what else explains this run of new and different major
Age could be a factor. The other greats of this era -- Vijay Singh, Phil
Mickelson, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Padraig Harrington -- are getting a
little longer in the tooth.
Mickelson and Harrington have two of the majors in this run of 15 different
winners. Els has contended, but these guys are running out of gas. The door is
open for new stars and they are walking through.
The stars of this current generation aren't too great in majors, either.
Let me preface this by saying Rory McIlroy has won a major title.
Lee Westwood's record in the big four is outstanding, but he struggles badly
in the final round, especially when the heat is burning.
Luke Donald has only truly contended for two majors in his life.
Sergio Garcia has been in the hunt more than that, but wilts as well.
Hunter Mahan, Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler have been nowhere to be seen.
Dustin Johnson has been in the hunt in three of the four, but mistakes plague
When you combine all of these factors, it's easy to see how different major
winners step up to the challenge.
- Simpson's 68-68 on the weekend was spectacular. Olympic Club allows players
to sneak up the leaderboard and that's exactly what Simpson did. I didn't
think he was a major-caliber player, but coming from behind is a great way to
win a U.S. Open.
- Jim Furyk was tied for the lead with three holes to play. Two of them were
par-5s and the other was an easy par-4. He admitted to being flummoxed by the
tee box being up 100 yards at 16, but, based on where he was on the
leaderboard, with what he had ahead of him, his finish was downright shocking.
At 42, even after a bad 2011, he still has time left and he said as much. "I
played poorly last year, and all of a sudden I'm middle-aged. So I got to be
honest with you with you, that pisses me off." I like that attitude. He'll be
back and I'd take him right now at Merion next year.
- Woods said "there's a lot of positives this week." I'd love to know where
they are. Going from sharing the 36-hole lead to a tie for 21st is a dramatic
fall-off for Woods. His game is clearly not back and what seemed to ail him
over the weekend was figuring out the speed of the greens.
- I'm about done with Sergio Garcia. After the whole, "I'm not good enough to
win a major" nonsense at the Masters, we get him destroying a microphone in
frustration this week. I hope the PGA Tour fines him, ESPN sues him for the
damages, California arrests him for conduct unbecoming a 32-year-old. That's
right, Sergio is 32 and is smashing microphones. Then, he wasn't the least bit
contrite in an interview after the round with Golf Channel. Garcia's attitude
is holding him back and until he stops acting like a child whose binky got
taken away, he won't win a major title.
- The course setup at Olympic Club was fair and brutal. That's the way it
should be. It's the one week of the year when the conditions are borderline
barbaric and that's OK by me.
- Movie moment - This may be a stretch, but NBA TV's "Dream Team" documentary
was ridiculously good. Nothing was off limits and it taught you things.
Everyone involved was forthright and I may watch it every day this week.
- TV moment - As a "True Blood" watcher, I was nervous about Christopher
Meloni's arrival. He was great on "SVU" and even better on "Oz" where he
portrayed a sociopath, but Meloni played campy fantastically well. "True
Blood" is three levels beyond absurd, and he fit right in.
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