x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Unpredictable times at golf's major championships

The majors in golf have suddenly become wide open after the period of Tiger Woods dominance with 12 winners from the 12 last competitions.

Nobody saw Darren Clarke, above, winning the British Open, which Nick Faldo believes makes golf more fun to watch.
Nobody saw Darren Clarke, above, winning the British Open, which Nick Faldo believes makes golf more fun to watch.

Colin Montgomerie once claimed, when Tiger Woods was at the height of his dominance, that the American was almost guaranteed two majors a year.

"If he plays well, then he wins the Masters," said the Scot. "If he misses that, then he'll be even more determined to take at least two of the next three. What chance does it give everyone else?"

During his peak years, 1999 to 2002 and 2006 to 2008, when he won 13 of his 14 major titles, Woods did look like he was always going to win at least one.

However, something has changed in golf since the fallen star drove into a lamppost before Christmas 2009.

Darren Clarke became the 12th different major winner in a row when he clinched the British Open at Royal St George's on Sunday. And of these dozen, nine of them were first-time winners.

It is the first time this has ever happened and, according to one man who knows about major titles, it has been great for the game.

"You never got tired of Tiger winning because you knew you were watching something special," Nick Faldo told the Golf Channel. "But golf is always better, in my view, when there are different major winners every year and not the same faces.

"This shows the strength and depth of the game right now. To have 12 different major winners in a row is actually quite remarkable. It used to be that the guys who won, and I'm going back to my day, would go on and win two or three because most of the time there were only 20 players at most who could get one of the big four.

"Now I reckon just about every player in the field has a chance. Darren is the classic example because nobody saw this coming. It makes it more fun to watch."

For the record, here are the last 12 major winners;

2011: Darren Clarke, the British Open, Rory McIlroy, the US Open, Charl Schwartzel, the Masters.

2010: Martin Kaymer, the PGA Championship, Louis Oosthuizen, the British Open, Graeme McDowell, the US Open, Phil Mickelson, the Masters

2009: Yang Yong-eun, the PGA Championship, Stewart Cink, the British Open, Lucas Glover, the US Open, Angel Cabrera, the Masters

2008: Padraig Harrington, the PGA Championship.

Only Harrington, Cabrera and Mickelson are multiple major winners from that list and, astonishingly, not one of them held the No 1 spot in the rankings at the time of their victory. Indeed, only Kaymer has reached the top of the world list - for eight whole weeks.

"Most of the guys believe a major win is within them now and they didn't when Tiger was so far ahead of the rest," said Faldo. "When you consider how many good players haven't won yet, we could see a 13th different name at the PGA Championship next month."

ncameron@thenational.ae