Quick – who won last year’s U.S. Open?
I should’ve asked this last week, because the Shinnecock Hills hype machine has been warming up since the end of the Memorial tournament, and by now you may remember it was Brooks Koepka. Or more likely, you’ve been reminded it was Brooks Koepka. A week ago, I couldn’t remember either, and that’s a problem.
It’s been a problem for a few years. The last 11 major championships have been won by 11 different players. Before that, both Jordan Spieth and Rory McIroy won back to back: Spieth took the Masters and U.S. Open in 2015, right after McIroy closed out the 2014 season with wins at the British Open and PGA Championship.
Back then a lot of us thought, “Great! Now we’ll have showdowns every week!” But they’ve only got one major victory between them since then, when Spieth beat Matt Kuchar by 3 strokes at Royal Birkdale last year. They’ve both been close – Rory was in the final pairing at Augusta a few months ago – but close doesn’t get the juices flowing does it? And it certainly doesn’t keep them flowing after the final putt.
Furthermore, 9 of the 11 were first time major champions. Sure, it was fun seeing Sergio finally get his last year at the Masters, but it was also accompanied with a sense of “that’s that.” He’d finally done it, the monkey was off his back, he was no longer in the best-players-to-never-win-a-major conversation.
Then there are the players among the 11 that we think of as flukes. Danny Willet (Masters 2016)? Nice guy and all, but no one, and I mean NO ONE expects him to do it again. Jimmy Walker? Since winning the PGA Championship in 2016 he hasn’t won again. I don’t mean a major, I mean anything. He hasn’t won a tournament, and only managed to crack the top 3 in any event once.
The most frustrating sub-group are the guys who you’d swear have won more, but haven’t. I love watching Dustin Johnson play, but the 2016 U.S. Open is his only major championship. Doesn’t it seem like Jason Day has won at least 2 or 3 majors? Nope, the 2015 PGA is it. Justin Thomas had a stellar 2017; 5 wins, FedEx Cup champ, Player of the Year honors, and a major. The PGA. His only one.
I cite all of these facts as evidence of a “problem,” but maybe you don’t think there is one. Maybe you’re ok with a new winner for each major, another candidate for 1 Time Champion status, one more name we can insert into the “whatever happened to ______” question a few years from now.
For me, it’s a problem. I’d rather have a couple of clear cut favorites week in and week out, major to major, and know in my heart they’ve got a real chance of winning. I’m tired of looking at the odds going into a championship week and realizing they’re useless, because at this point, it’s pretty much 50/50 for most guys teeing it up. Either they’ll win or they’ll lose, and if they win, there’s not much chance they’ll win again.
Unless it’s Brooks Koepka. Now THAT guy is going to win back to back U.S. Opens, right?
— By Rob “Hardy” Poole, 98.5 The Sports Hub
You can hear Hardy’s thoughts weekdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. ET on the Zolak & Bertrand program. As well as the Sports Hub Golf Club every Saturday from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. ET during the season. Follow him on Twitter @HardyRadio.