In 1997, Tiger Woods first hit the scene he declared that he was planning to eclipse the eighteen majors won by Jack Nicklaus. This sent a message to everyone that the majors were now the most important tournaments and would get extra focus.
Of course, the concept of majors was decided long before Tiger hit the scene but it was Tiger to put the focus of every golfer on winning them and how important they would become. In 2013, we got three first-time winners of majors in Adam Scott, Justin Rose, and Jason Dufner. Each of them had to endure quite a road to reaching this tall mountain. The fourth winner, Phil Mickelson, won a major, certainly not his first, but one that most of us thought he would never win – the British Open.
Adam Scott had without a doubt in my mind the best season in the majors for 2013. At one point in every major this season he held the lead. Sadly what that reminds me of is another great Australian golfer, Greg Norman. Those of us who have been around the game will be hard pressed to forget 1986 where Norman won the Saturday Slam. He held at least a share of the fifty-four hole lead in all four major championships. He would only win the British Open. He lost the Masters to a surging Jack Nicklaus, the U.S. Open to hard staring Ray Floyd, and the PGA Championship to Bob Tway when Norman shot 76 in the final round.
Still, Scott was able to win the Masters with a clutch putt on the last hole to tie Cabrera (who birdied after him with his own clutch play), and then made another big putt in the playoff. This was great redemption for him considering that he had recently lost the British Open to Ernie Els by bogeying the last four holes. Many a golfer would have been crushed by the event, but to see Scott come back and win the Masters was really a feel-good story.
Justin Rose did not have such a glaring error as Scott did by losing a particular major, but certainly Rose’s road to success was not always paved in gold. Justin made a big splash in the 1998 British Open as an amateur, turned pro, and promptly missed twenty one consecutive cuts. It looked like he was going to be another star who lost his way after turning professional.
Rose has recently teamed with Sean Foley for his full swing, and David Orr for his putting, and turned himself into a weekly contender. It was only a matter of time really for this win to take place. It is sad that he had to edge out Phil Mickelson who again tied for second, the sixth time he has done that, but it was great to see Justin’s hard work pay off.
The British Open and Phil Mickelson have appeared at times like oil and water. Phil has been close a few times but for the most part he rarely makes a dent at the event. If you had to pick a major that Phil was not going to contend at likely your first answer is the British Open. Phil’s last close call came in 2011. He had shot a front nine 30, but on the 12th hole he missed a putt that was not much longer than two and a half feet and it caused him to let Darren Clarke win with ease. This disappointment as with most in Phil’s career seemed not to phase him. In 2013 he was masterful in the final round. His precision play caused him to pass the leaders and fly into the lead. For those of us who follow Phil this win was a bit out of character, but still great to watch.
In 2011, Jason Dufner watched as Keegan Bradley fist pumped himself into a playoff win at Atlanta Athletic Club. You’ll remember that despite having a four-stroke lead, Dufner dumped his ball into the water on the par-three fifteenth to let Keegan slip into the playoff.
In 2013, that loss seemed to propel Dufner to play one of his best rounds on Sunday. He hit three shots to about a foot on par fours and was solid for most of the day. Ironically he faced a similar shot to a par three, also the fifteenth (though about 80 yards shorter!), to the shot he hit into the water in 2011. Dufner was solid. The loss in 2011 might have reduced other golfers in the past, but it seemed to motivate Dufner.
The 2013 major season the PGA Tour is full of really great stories. Each of them overcoming obstacles to reach the pinnacle of the game of golf. It is really a great motivation to each of us that a failure can mean the next time we get the chance we will not fail but overcome.
Photo credits: © Jeff Haynes.