Players say field depth makes winning tougher
By Stan Awtrey, PGA.com Contributor
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – There have been 18 different winners in the last 20 major championships. That can be interpreted a couple of different ways. Either the field of contenders is larger than it’s ever been or it’s more difficult to win a second major than it is to win the first.
Since 2009, the only players to win multiple majors are Phil Mickelson (2010 Masters and 2013 Open Championship) and Rory McIlroy (2011 U.S. Open and 2012 PGA Championship). Otherwise, the list of winners is an alphabetical roll call from Bradley (Keegan) to Watson (Bubba).
“I didn’t realize that,” Ian Poulter said. “I guess there’s a lot of good players in the world. I don’t know any other way of how to explain that.”
Poulter is on a short list of players who seem to have the ability to win a major championship. Guys like Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Brandt Snedeker, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood seem to be hanging around, waiting to break through.
“You put 100 guys in a row on the range and watch them hit a ball,” McIlroy said. “You can’t really tell the difference. There’s so much depth in the game right now.”
The PGA Championship has been a place where players come to emerge. Y.E. Yang did it in 2009 at Hazeltine. Martin Kaymer did it in 2010 at Whistling Straits. Bradley did it in 2011 at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
“Maybe we’re starting a new cycle,” Masters champion Adam Scott said. “There are recent repeat winners, so maybe the new cycle is that there will be some more. I’m trying to talk myself into this one.” He laughed as he spoke the last part of the statement.
The only repeat major winners since the turn of the century are Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington, Vijay Singh and Angel Cabrera.
“There are so many things that you can’t explain with the game and winning majors is difficult,” Scott said. “So much as to go right for you for it to happen, especially in this last period of five years or so where I feel like so much talent has come onto the Tour and onto the world stage that it’s just getting harder and harder.”
A lot of guys have had their chances. Westwood was in the final group at the Open Championship at Muirfield. Mahan was in the final group at the U.S. Open and Open Championship. Kuchar has won the Players Championship and Snedeker has won the Tour Championship. They just haven’t played their best when it’s counted the most.
“I just think it shows the depth and strength of golf at the moment,” Westwood said. “There are a lot of good players playing golf at the moment and major championships are probably harder to win than they ever have been.”