LONDON, (Reuters) – There will be a huge depth of golfing knowledge amid the galleries of Royal St George’s this week but even the keenest statistician might be hard pressed to name the winners of the last 11 major championships.
What makes it such a tricky challenge is that the 11 tournaments have been won by 11 different players in a stark illustration of how dramatically different golf’s landscape has become since Tiger Woods slipped from his once-dominant perch.
Rory McIlroy, hot favourite to triumph at the British Open this week, became the 11th when he won the U.S. Open last month. Before him came Charl Schwartzel (Masters), Martin Kaymer (U.S. PGA), Louis Oosthuizen (British Open), Graeme McDowell (U.S. Open), Phil Mickelson (Masters), Yang Yong-eun (U.S. PGA), Stewart Cink (British Open), Lucas Glover (U.S. Open), Angel Cabrera (Masters) and Padraig Harrington (U.S. PGA).
Harrington also won the British Open in 2008, which coming after Woods’s U.S. Open triumph and Trevor Immelman’s victory in the Masters that year makes it 13 different winners of the last 14 majors.
“The game is in a transition and I would really say a transition from Tiger,” 18-times major champion Jack Nicklaus said after McIlroy swept through the U.S. Open.
“Tiger’s still going to be around and he’s going to play a lot more golf — and going to play well. But he’s going to play against a lot of kids that are 10, 15 years younger than he is who are good.”
Woods won the 2008 U.S. Open despite struggling with the knee injury that eventually required surgery and kept him out of the remaining majors of the year.
His subsequent domestic problems kept him off the course for almost five months and on his return he struggled to rediscover his best form.
More injury trouble kept him out of this year’s U.S. and British Opens and his rivals have wasted little time in rushing to fill the vacuum caused by his decline.
Those 11 winners include seven different nationalities; eight of the last nine were winning their first major while the four current major holders – McIlroy, Schwartzel, Kaymer and Oosthuizen – are all in their twenties, the first time that has happened.
“There are probably a number of reasons that you could argue (for the variety of winners) but certainly the depth of talent is the first and foremost,” Mickelson said.
“The quality of play now that has come across the international circuit is some of the best I’ve seen. I think the overall level of play throughout the world internationally is what has sparked that and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a first-time winner this week.”