Some thoughts I typed out yesterday, but didn't use in the paper:
Augusta, Ga.—Early in the week, all of three of the 2010 first-time major champions spoke of how their experience gave them entirely new confidence as they entered another major. It’s a good thing they had their say early in the week because none of them is still around now.
This is not to pick on Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer for having missed the cut at the Masters. It can happen to anybody. We bring it up only for perspective. The theme at this Masters, the 75th, is on multiple majors: the 25th anniversary of Jack Nicklaus’ record 18th, Tiger Woods trying to get back on track toward catching Nicklaus and defending champion Phil Mickelson going for his fifth major.
You can’t help having more respect for guys like that once you realize that, if the toughest thing in golf is winning a major championship, the next hardest is winning a second one.
To be sure, winning a major does change a golfer’s life. But it doesn’t necessarily change his golf, at least not for the better. Take it from Mike Weir, the 2003 Masters champion who has totally lost his way on the golf course. After he shot 79 Friday and missed the cut by 10 strokes Friday, the Canadian told reporters from his country, “Not much to say and I’ll leave it at that. Because if I say something, it won’t be good.”
Golf observers assume that if someone wins just one major, the floodgates will open. Sometimes this actually does happen. Mickelson finally won one and kept winning. Padraig Harrington did the same.
Even without a second major, a single one can validate an otherwise solid career. Tom Kite, Corey Pavin, Jim Furyk come to mind, maybe Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson, too. And one major title can even define an entire career, as the 1992 Masters did for Fred Couples, who XX
On the other hand, though, there are an awful lot of one-shot wonders. Let this be the word of caution for someone today, considering that XX of the top 10 entering the final round of the Masters have never won a major. Oddly, a major title can slow a golfer’s growth. As silly as it sounds, you have to admit that sometimes in a ballgame, a home run can actually kill a rally.
Lucas Glover was an up-and-comer two years ago. But his only growth since he won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage has been his unwieldy beard (I loved a telecast earlier this year when Glover made a shot and CBS analyst Gary McCord said, “So easy, even a caveman can do it”).
Glover finished 57th on the money list last year, hasn’t done better than a tie for 20th this season and missed the cut here. With any luck, his drought will not last 12 years like that of Paul Lawrie, the 1999 British Open champion who didn’t win another tournament until last month.
Looking for 2005 U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell on the Official World Golf Ranking? Check spot No. 753.
Rich Beem, Shaun Micheel, Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton never became household words for more than a week. It might be because they weren’t elite players to begin with, and just happened to put it all together for one tournament. Or it might be because the rewards of winning a major proved too distracting, or made those guys too comfortable.
At least they can say they were once on top of the world. On the other hand, they never did make it back. Their stories remind us how remarkable it is that anyone can win four majors, or 14 or 18.