From Kaymer to Schwartzel, youth is taking over in major championships

martin kaymer
Getty Images
By
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

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Published: Sunday, April 17, 2011 | 3:30 p.m.

The last four major champions are noteworthy in part because of their passports. It’s the first time since the Masters began in 1934 that four non-American players have won golf’s four biggest events.

It’s also worth paying attention to their birth certificates.

The old man in the group is Graeme McDowell, who was 30 when he won the U.S. Open last summer at Pebble Beach. The last three major champions were all in their 20s: Louis Oosthuizen (27), Martin Kaymer (25) and Charl Schwartzel (26).

It’s the first time since 1997 that three straight major champions were in their 20s, when Tiger Woods won the Masters at 21, Ernie Els won his second U.S. Open at 27 and Justin Leonard won the British Open at 25.

“It’s a bright future, obviously,” said Jason Day, the 23-year-old Australian who tied for second at Augusta. “There’s a lot of good, solid young players coming up now, and it seems every year, they are getting younger.”

Whether the last four majors represent a changing of the guard remains to be seen. Woods showed signs that his game was improving with his tie for fourth at the Masters, while Phil Mickelson won a week earlier at the Houston Open.

The fact the last four major champions captured a Grand Slam event for the first time—the longest streak of first-time major winners in seven years— shows how tough it is to win.

“When Tiger came along, he pretty much changed the game,” Day said. “Everyone turned into athletes. We’re not flag slobs anymore. He has pretty much changed the game for the good.”