Single Major Winners: Is This The New Normal?

by Jeff Skinner

As I watched Bubba Watson slip into the green jacket on Sunday evening with tears rolling down his smiling face I couldn’t help but appreciate how happy this young man must be.  Yes, Bubba’s recent adoption and his new role as a father certainly played into his emotional moment but when a professional golfer wins his first major it is more than special, it is life changing.

Bubba Watson’s professional life will never be the same, no matter what “Bubba from Baghdad” thinks.  Winning your first major sends a golfer to another level.

We have seen so many majors claimed by first time major winners we have to wonder, “Is this the new normal?”

Last season all four majors were claimed by first time major winners.  Bubba is the eighth first timer out of the last nine major champions.  And from 2009 through 2011 ten of the twelve winners were celebrating their first major victory.

Is this what we should expect from the majors?  Having new faces hold those trophies is fine but there is also something to be said for a golfer winning multiple majors.  One major is great but add a few more on a golfer’s resume and he his transformed into the elite.

We haven’t seen many multiple winners recently.  In the past three years only Phil Mickelson and Angel Cabrera have been able to win additional majors.  Phil captured his fourth at The 2010 Masters and Cabrera won his second at the ’09 Masters.  Including Bubba’s Masters, eleven of the last thirteen majors were first time major winners.

We don’t have to look too far back to see how drastic this change is.  From 2006 through 2008 there were only four first time winners at the majors and one of those was Padraig Harrington who went on to win a total of three during that time.  All together there were six major winners that added another title to their list of majors (Tiger, Phil, Goosen, Singh, Els and Harrington) during that span.

Tiger’s slide is one reason there is opportunity for many first timers to win but is there more to it than that?  Tiger has only one victory at the majors out of the last thirteen so one would figure there was a chance for others to step up and dominate.  But since his last win at The 2008 U.S. Open none of the first time winner have been able to capture another title.  Immelman, Glover, Cink, Yang, McDowell, Oosthuizen, Kaymer, Schwartzel, McIlroy, Clarke and Bradley still have only that single major.

We like our major champions to be bigger than life and adding another major to their first proves they are worthy and that their first was not a fluke.  Maybe we’ll have to rethink the way we look at these single winners, after all it certainly isn’t easy to win one, no less multiple majors.

Those single winners can thank the likes of Nicklaus, Woods, Player, and Hogan and so on for all the expectations we hold for our major winners.  One is good but two or three makes you immortal.



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