Four majors showcase diversity

August, 17, 2010

Trivia question

Tiger Woods won the week after the PGA Championship in 2006 and 2000. Who was the last man before Woods to accomplish the feat? (Answer below.)

With Whistling Straits in the rearview mirror, we can reflect on two prevailing memories from the event that will stick with us for years to come.

1. Dustin Johnson's name has become immortalized alongside that of Roberto de Vicenzo. His gaffe on Sunday seems enormous now, and it will be magnified year by year until he wins the major championship that his immense talent basically demands he one day claim.

2. More positively, Martin Kaymer has lived up to the lofty potential golf fans believed he would find -- and done so sooner than many expected.

On the whole, it's important to note something prevalent in the golf world as the major season comes to a close in 2010: diversity.

The top-10 of the PGA Championship was a glistening example of how global golf truly is: Six continents were represented, with the proverbial "We've got next" list of golf all over the top-10: Kaymer the champion, Rory McIlroy close once more, Johnson once again a heartbreaking story, and Jason Day getting some quality TV time on Sunday afternoon.

For six of the past seven major champions, including three of the four in 2010, the championship was their first. The past 10 major winners have come from seven countries (the U.S. has had three men win majors in that span -- Phil Mickelson, Woods and Glover -- the only repeat country on the list). And in nine straight major championships, nine different men have stood triumphant on the final green on Sunday. That's the longest stretch since 2002-05, when 12 consecutive majors ('02 Open Championship - '05 U.S. Open) were won by 12 different players.

Five men currently age 31 or younger have won a major championship. Kaymer (25) is the youngest of the group, and Louis Oosthuizen (27) is second-youngest. The only one in the group from the United States is Lucas Glover, who is 31. Both Johnson (26) and Nick Watney (29) would have fit onto this collection of players, as well, had their fortunes not turned sour Sunday afternoon.

With the FedEx Cup playoffs forthcoming, seven of the top 13 players in the world are from Europe -- a frequent topic throughout the year. What might be even more impressive when examining the world golf rankings, though, is the youth movement flush within the sport. Ten of the top 15 players in the world are under the age of 35, and four are under 30. Among the top five and ties at the PGA this weekend, all but Steve Elkington were under the age of 35.

Here's a novel concept for Tiger Woods to turn his fortunes around on the golf course in the remaining events this year on tour: Hit the ball in the fairway. A brilliant premise, we must say.

A caveat is needed for the following piece of data: The statistical data in regard to fairways hit, greens in regulation and such, is not totally complete for every event in Woods' professional career -- but it's very close. The sample is still more than enough to warrant use for the sake of comparison. Full disclosure is a must here at Numbers Game.

Among PGA Tour events for which Woods' driving accuracy information is reliable, Woods has had eight tournaments in his professional career in which he hit less than 40 percent of his fairways. Three have come this summer.

Once -- at the 2005 WGC-American Express -- Woods hit 39.29 percent and still managed to win. The other seven times, he missed the cut in three (including this year at Quail Hollow), finished second twice, and finished T-78th and T-28th. Those last two finishes might be familiar to you -- they've come over the past two weeks at Bridgestone and at the PGA, respectively.

Tiger hit just 21 of 56 fairways this week at Whistling Straits -- only once was Woods wilder off the tee in a major championship. That came at the 2006 U.S. Open, where Tiger hit just 7 of 28 fairways en route to missing the cut at Winged Foot.

Compare that with Woods' six wins on the PGA Tour in 2009: Woods hit better than 70 percent of his fairways in three of those events, and never missed more than half of them off the tee. It seems like a lifetime ago that Tiger hit all 14 fairways on Sunday at the Memorial en route to a victory. It's a virtual impossibility for a man who now points more from the tee box, indicating where his ball is waywardly soaring toward, than at the cup as his Nike ball rotates into the bottom of the cup.

En route to the FedEx Cup playoffs title last year, Tiger finished T-2nd, T-11th, first and second in the four events. His driving accuracy matched accordingly: Collectively in the four tournaments, Woods hit 72.0 percent of his fairways, and he never missed more than six in a single round in the first three events. Woods ranked T-7th in the field this past weekend in total putts, and 13th in putts per GIR -- so there are parts of his game that aren't far off. If Tiger starts finding the fairway soon, we could catch a glimpse or two of the Woods of old. "Could" being the key word there.

One of the interesting notes shown at the end of the PGA Championship compared the best aggregate scores to par of the players who were in the field for all four majors. Unsurprisingly, Phil Mickelson topped that list. The man in second would be a given in most years, but is surprising to many in 2010: Tiger Woods, at minus-13.

With a nod to fellow researcher Dave Bearman, only six men teed it up in all 4 majors this year and had an aggregate score under par: Mickelson (-18), Woods (-13), Kaymer (-7), Matt Kuchar (-5), Johnson (-2) and McIlroy (-1).

Trivia answer

Question: Tiger Woods won the week after the PGA Championship in 2006 and 2000. Who was the last man before Woods to accomplish the feat?

Answer: Vijay Singh. In 1998, Singh won the PGA and followed it up with a win at The International.

Five of those six are locks to play in the Ryder Cup.

According to Jim Gray, so is the sixth.

Justin Ray has been a studio researcher for ESPN since June 2008 and is the lead researcher for "The Scott Van Pelt Show." He is a 2007 graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, where he studied convergence media. Send comments and suggestions to



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?