How important is January to major champions in the past six seasons?

Brooks Koepka
USA Today Sports Images
Everyone wants to start the first month of a new calendar year on a high note. But did the month of January set the tone for things to come for major champions over the past six years? We examined just that.
By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
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Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Wednesday, January 09, 2019 | 9:08 a.m.

With a new year comes the opportunity to turn the page and write a new chapter.

New year, new me.

All the puns... you get it, right?

But how important is a solid start to the calendar year's first month when it comes to the season's major championship winners?

Simply put, it isn't going to make or break their season.

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Believe it or not, in the 24 majors played since 2013, there have only been two victories overall in January claimed by those year's major winners.

And, perhaps even more astounding, both those victories belong to the same person: Justin Thomas -- in back-to-back starts at the 2017 Tournament of Champions and Sony Open before winning the PGA Championship last August at Quail Hollow.

Below, we've tracked the January performance of every major winner since 2013 in the year they claimed their major.

2013

Masters: Adam Scott won the Masters, his first major victory overall. In January of that year, Scott did not play in the month of January.

U.S. Open: Justin Rose won at Merion. It was also his first major title. He played twice in January of 2013 -- both on the European Tour -- finishing T2 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and T16 at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.

Open Championship: Phil Mickelson claimed his fifth major overall and his first in the Open. Lefty made two starts in January of 2013 on the PGA Tour, finishing T37 at the Humana Challenge and T51 at the Farmers Insurance Open (a week later, it should be noted, he won the Waste Management Championship).

PGA Championship: Jason Dufner was in control the entire week at Oak Hill on his way to major victory No. 1. In his only January start that year -- the Hyundai Tournament of Champions -- Dufner finished tied for 18th in the limited field event.

2014

Masters: Bubba Watson won the Masters for the second time in three years at Augusta National in 2014. Watson's lone start in January of that year resulted in a T23 at the Farmers Insurance Open.

U.S. Open: Martin Kaymer ran away from the rest of the field at Pinehurst No. 2, picking up the second major win of his career. The German did not play on the PGA Tour in January that year, but had two starts on the European Tour. Those two starts resulted in a T31 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and a T57 at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.

Open Championship: Rory McIlroy bagged his third overall major title and first Open at Royal Liverpool. His lone January start that year came at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship where McIlroy tied for second.

PGA Championship: With a victory at Valhalla, McIlroy claimed back-to-back majors for the first time in his career. It was his fourth major win overall and last to date.

2015

Masters: Jordan Spieth broke through for his first major win at the Masters, which opened the floodgates on what has been a remarkable early start to his career. Spieth did not play in January that year, but the Masters was the second win of his season to that point.

U.S. Open: Spieth earned his first two major wins in consecutive major starts.

Open Championship: Zach Johnson picked up a spectacular win at the Home of Golf -- St. Andrews. In January 2015, Johnson played in both the Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open in Hawaii, finishing those tournaments in seventh and T64, respectively.

PGA Championship: Jason Day began a string of seven consecutive first-time major winners with his triumph at Whistling Straits in an epic duel with Spieth. Two January starts for Day that year resulted in a T3 at the Tournament of Champions and a T17 at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

2016

Masters: Danny Willett was the surprise winner of the Masters with a bogey-free, final-round 67. The Englishman's lone European Tour start that January resulted in a T57.

U.S. Open: It was a long time coming, but Dustin Johnson finally became a major champion with his win at famed Oakmont. Two January starts that year resulted in a T10 at the Tournament of Champions and a T18 at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Open Championship: In one of the greatest final-round duels of all time, Henrik Stenson played lights out golf at Royal Troon to defeat Phil Mickelson and blow away the rest of the field. In January that year, the Swede finished T3 at the European Tour's Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

PGA Championship: Jimmy Walker held off a hard-charging Day at Baltusrol for his first major title. In January, Walker made three starts on the PGA Tour. He tied for 10th at the Tournament of Champions, finished T13 at the Sony Open in Hawaii and notched a T4 at the Farmers Insurance Open.

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2017

Masters: Sergio Garcia, after a career of major agony, came out on top in a playoff with Rose. He did not play on either tour in January, but did win the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic in the first week of February.

U.S. Open: Brooks Koepka lapped the field with his first major win at Erin Hills. His lone January start was a missed cut at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Open Championship: Spieth staged an epic comeback on the back nine at Royal Birkdale to win his third major overall and the third leg of a career grand slam. Spieth finished T3 at the Tournament of Champions and alone in third at the Sony Open in Hawaii in two January starts.

PGA Championship: Justin Thomas enjoyed a career year in 2017, capped off by his first major at Quail Hollow. In January of 2017, Thomas played twice -- and won twice -- at the Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open in Hawaii. At the Sony, Thomas also became the youngest player in PGA Tour history to record a score of 59.

2018

Masters: Patrick Reed picked up his first major win at Augusta. He started the year slow with a missed cut at the CareerBuilder Challenge and finished T-23 at Torrey Pines. 

U.S. Open: Brooks Koepka was again unable to be stopped as he defended his 2017 title at Shinnecock Hills. He only played at Kapalua in January, finishing 34th before sitting out until after the Masters with an injury.

Open Championship: Francesco Molinari survived a Sunday charge from Tiger to capture the Claret Jug and the first major championship of his career. The start of the year was a bit slow though for the European Tour's 2018 Player of the Year. He only played in one event in January, a T-45 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open.

PGA Championship: Clearly the delayed start to the year didn't matter for Koepka as he went on to win a second major in 2018 at Bellerive.

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.