Published November 20, 2014
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 winners?
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 him.
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.