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The Majors


pionships define a career. (The message would be am- plified by Dan Jenkins, the most important sportswriter of that era.) Tiger Woods famously had a timeline of Nicklaus’ major victories taped next to his bed, and he introduced the concept of majors as the be-all-end- all to a new generation. Woods’ fetishizing of


major championships now defines the thinking of golf fans and reporters and many fellow players, to the point that it is necessary to evaluate their larger mean- ing. As they always have been, majors are played on the best courses in the most exacting conditions under the brightest spotlight. As the game has become more global, they remain crucial measuring sticks. Jumbo Ozaki won more than 100 tournaments in Japan, but never really contended at a major; thus we can conclude he was merely a big fish in a very small pond. Colin Montgomerie won seven straight Orders of Merit largely because he played a much heavier schedule than other top Europeans; his repeated failings at the majors revealed fatal flaws in his competitive makeup. (That both of these play- ers are in the World Golf Hall of Fame is a screed for another occasion.) The idio- syncratic personalities of the individual major cham- pionships can poke holes in even the greatest players. It’s not a surprise that Sam Snead and Phil Mickelson would thrive at Augusta National—an expansive canvas that encourages freewheeling artistic expres- sion—yet suffer repeated


28 / NCGA.ORG / SUMMER 2013


Major winners Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson (above) at last year’s U.S. Open. 2012 U.S. champion Webb Simpson (left).


Midwesterner. Meanwhile, the PGA is played in the soft conditions of August and often becomes a birdie- fest that rewards power and aggression, which were never Watson’s strengths. Because majors tell us so


blowups while failing to win a U.S. Open, where the unforgiving setup pushes players to the breaking point mentally and emo- tionally. The flipside is that grim plodders like Andy North and Lee Janzen and Retief Goosen can snag two Opens apiece but never


make a ripple at the other majors. How can Tom Wat- son win five British Opens but nary a PGA? The Open is about mastering the elements and strategiz- ing across quirky playing fields, perfect for a talented Stanford alum with the stoic demeanor of a native


much, there is the threat of overvaluing them. John Daly basically had two good weeks in his woebegone career, but one happened to be at the PGA and the other at the British Open. Is he a better player than contemporaries Tom Kite, Davis Love, Fred Couples, Corey Pavin, all of whom enjoyed decades of sustained excellence, but managed to snag only one major in their careers? Is


PHOTO: JOANN DOST


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