Best majors of the last decade? We ranked them, from forgettable (No. 40) to indelible (No. 1)
Now that the 2019 Open Championship is behind us (good man, Shane!), we can get down to business: ranking, from 40 to 1, every major championship contested in the last decade. How do these events compare to the majors of decades past? That is not our concern. Our mission here is to grade only the majors since Phil Mickelson slipped on his third green jacket in 2010. Our methodology? One man’s opinion of which tournaments most made hearts race and spines tingle, with a few gentle suggestions from interested observers. Drumroll, please!
40 — 2016 PGA: The final margin might have been only one at muggy, rain-soaked Baltusrol, thanks to a Jason Day eagle on the final hole, but Jimmy Walker was in command down the stretch. Walker, who went wire-to-wire, has not finished in the top 15 of a major since.
39 — 2014 U.S. Open: Zzz…this thing was, essentially, over before the weekend as Martin Kaymer recorded back-to-back 65s at new-look Pinehurst No. 2 to lead by six strokes. He would go on to win by eight. Since then, Kaymer has posted only one top 10 in a major, at the 2016 PGA.
38 — 2013 PGA: Jason Dufner outdueled Furyk by two strokes at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y. There wasn’t much drama on the back nine, with Duf maintaining an edge of at least two strokes. Henrik Stenson came in third, three back.
37 — 2012 PGA: Needing only 24 putts in the final round, McIlroy broke away from the pack to win by eight strokes at steamy Kiawah, the largest margin of victory in tournament history. Tiger Woods trailed by five heading into Sunday but failed to break par on the punishing Pete Dye design.
36 — 2012 U.S. Open: No disrespect to the winner, Webb Simpson, who fired a superb 68 on Sunday at the Olympic Club to prevail by one stroke over Graeme McDowell and Michael Thompson but this Open might best be remembered for “Jungle Bird” crashing the trophy presentation.
35 — 2010 Open Championship: Louis Oosthuizen, with one of the best swings in the game and on one of the most legendary courses (the Old Course), won by seven strokes over Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood. One wonders how this Open might have played out if McIlroy hadn’t followed his opening 63 with an 80. (Yes, an 80.)
34 — 2011 U.S. Open: With an opening-round 65 at Congressional, McIlroy — all of 22 years old — was in charge from the get-go, winning by eight. He finished with four rounds in the 60s, establishing Open records at the time for the lowest score (268) and most shots under par (16). It was a commanding performance but, by Sunday, not all that compelling.
33 — 2017 U.S. Open: This is where it all began for Koepka, who fired a 67 on Sunday at (too easy?) Erin Hills to secure his first major. Koepka birdied 14, 15 and 16 to put away any doubt. His winning margin was four strokes over Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama.
32 — 2015 PGA: Jason Day was on top of his game all week, defeating Jordan Spieth by three shots at Whistling Straits. In a harbinger of things to come, Brooks Koepka, after an opening 73, followed with three rounds in the 60s to finish in a tie for fifth.
31 — 2017 PGA: Justin Thomas reinforced his rising status in the game with a hello-world performance at Quail Hollow, winning by two over Francesco Molinari, Patrick Reed, and Oosthuizen. Thomas started the day two behind Kevin Kisner, who faded with a 74 to tie for 7th.
30 — 2010 U.S. Open: For a change, an Open at Pebble that was not particularly memorable — with the winner, Graeme McDowell, finishing with a three-over 74 to edge France’s Gregory Havret. Of those on the first page of the leaderboard after 54 holes only Matt Kuchar (68) broke par on Sunday.
29 — 2016 Masters: Quick, who was the winner? Why England’s Danny Willett, of course! But the enduring image is the stunning collapse by Spieth, the defending champion, who squandered a five-shot lead on the back nine and played the iconic par-3 12th like a nerve-wracked 12-handicap. No one saw that coming.
28 — 2014 Masters: Bubba Watson pulled away from Spieth to earn his second green jacket in three years. Spieth was leading by a stroke until the eighth hole, but two consecutive two-shot swings paved the way for the long-hitting, shot-shaping genius of Bubba Watson.
27 — 2018 U.S. Open: Tommy Fleetwood posted a 63 on Sunday at Shinnecock Hills to make a thrilling run, but Koepka came through with an efficient 68 of his own to become the first player to successfully defend his Open crown since Curtis Strange in 1989. This championship gets bonus points for Mickelson’s insane putt-scrape in the third round.
26 — 2016 U.S. Open: All credit to Dustin Johnson, who recovered from a devastating three-putt a year earlier at Chambers Bay — and also overcame an unthinkable bit of USGA rules lunacy — to post his first major win at Oakmont. Shane Lowry, who was leading by four shots after three rounds, faltered with a 76 on Sunday. Clearly he learned something from that collapse.
25 — 2019 PGA: This major was fairly uneventful until, all of a sudden, Koepka started to struggle down the stretch at Bethpage Black, his once-huge lead dropping to only one shot. But Johnson, his closest pursuer, was unable to take advantage, as Koepka recorded his fourth major victory in two years.
24 — 2018 Masters: Spieth, out of nowhere, made things interesting with a 64 on Sunday, though a bogey at 18 cost him any chance of pulling off the miracle. The winner was Reed, who beat Rickie Fowler by one shot. Spieth, who was nine back after 54 holes, finished two back.
23 — 2014 Open Championship: Fending off Sunday charges by Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler, McIlroy hung on to prevail by two at Royal Liverpool. Rory joined Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win three majors by the age of 25.
22 — 2019 U.S. Open: Thanks to two tremendous shots: the chip off the putting surface at 17, and the approach at 14, Gary Woodland prevailed at Pebble by three over — surprise, surprise — King Koepka. Woodland was magnificent the whole weekend in registering his first major victory.
21 — 2018 Open Championship: You’d be hard-pressed to find a more impressive performance than the one turned in by Francesco Molinari at Carnoustie. Molinari did not record a single bogey over the weekend, shooting 65-69 to win by two. Better yet, he did it on Sunday while paired with a resurgent T. Woods.
20 — 2011 PGA: Rarely does a player record a triple in the final round and still win a major championship. But that’s exactly what Keegan Bradley did at the Atlanta Athletic Club, defeating Jason Dufner in a three-hole playoff. To be fair, Dufner contributed to his own demise, bogeying 15, 16, and 17.
19 — 2013 U.S. Open: Mickelson was again in great position to win that elusive Open title — but again came up short. This time, at mighty-mite Merion, it was Justin Rose who snatched the trophy, shooting a 70 on Sunday to prevail by two over Mickelson and Jason Day.
18 — 2015 Masters: This one was never in doubt as Jordan Spieth tied the tournament record with 18-under 270, beating Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose by four. Spieth also became the first wire-to-wire winner at Augusta since Raymond Floyd in 1976.
17 — 2012 Open Championship: With four holes to go, Adam Scott was leading by four. It was time for the engraver to get to work. Or not. Scott closed with four consecutive bogeys at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, handing the tournament to a stunned Ernie Els, who captured his fourth major, and first since 2002.
16 — 2015 Open Championship: Zach Johnson, in a four-hole playoff at the Old Course, defeated Marc Leishman and Oosthuizen for his second major title. But it was the bid by Spieth to keep alive his hopes for a Grand Slam that held everyone’s interest. Spieth missed the playoff by only a shot.
15 — 2010 PGA: Once again, the winner (Martin Kaymer) isn’t what stands out from Whistling Straits. It was the unfortunate fate of Dustin Johnson, who grounded his club in the bunker near the edge of the 18th fairway. The two-stroke penalty kept him out of the Kaymer-Bubba Watson playoff.
14 — 2011 Open Championship: With the exception of the wins by Woods and Lowry in 2019, it might well be the most popular victory of the decade. That’s because the champion at Royal St. George’s was Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, who, at 42, was running out of chances to win a major.
13 — 2019 Open Championship: Yes, the outcome wasn’t in doubt down the stretch, but the fact that an Irish player, Shane Lowry, won this historic Open at Royal Portrush generated enough drama on its own. And don’t overlook McIlroy’s inspiring attempt to make the cut after an opening 79.
12 — 2013 Masters: The supremely talented Adam Scott captured his first major with a birdie at No. 10 (nice read, Stevie!) in sudden death to outduel Angel Cabrera and become the first player from Down Under to win the green jacket. Scott had birdied 18 in regulation, only to be matched by Cabrera.
11 — 2017 Masters: Just when we began to believe that Sergio Garcia would never win a major championship, he prevailed on the first playoff hole vs. Justin Rose. It took almost 20 years — remember the shot by the tree and sprint up the fairway at Medinah at the 1999 PGA? — but Sergio got it done.
10 — 2013 Open Championship: Mickelson, five back going into Sunday, shot a 66 to win at Muirfield by three shots over Henrik Stenson. What made his performance even more striking was that Lefty’s previous track record on this side of the pond: two top 10s in 19 appearances.
9 — 2012 Masters: Another Masters, another shot to remember — and another one from the pine straw. In this one, it was Bubba Watson who pulled it off, with his miracle bend-it-like-Bubba approach on No. 10, the second playoff hole, to beat Louis Oosthuizen for his first triumph at Augusta.
8 — 2018 PGA: Tiger was in the hunt for the second consecutive major (!!!), shooting a 64 on Sunday. If that was not dramatic enough, Koepka was at his world-beating best, turning in a second-straight 66 at Bellerive to prevail by two strokes for his second major title of the year.
7 — 2015 U.S. Open: Dustin Johnson looked like he was going to finally secure that elusive major on Chambers Bay’s spotty greens, or at least get himself into a playoff with Spieth. That was until D.J. three-putted from 12 feet — 12 feet! — on the 72nd hole to hand the title to Spieth.
6 — 2014 PGA: After a few early miscues at Valhalla, Rory McIlroy began his rally with an eagle at 10. He then birdied 13 and 17 to hold off Mickelson, who was in the pairing ahead of him. Who will ever forget, with darkness encroaching, McIlroy playing the last hole before Mickelson’s group had putted out? Betchya Phil won’t.
5 — 2011 Masters: With respect to what Charl Schwartzel accomplished down the thrill-a-minute closing stretch — four straight birdies to finish is quite a feat in any major — this may go down as the Masters McIlroy gave away, especially if he never wins one. Leading by four strokes to begin the final round, he shot … 80. Ouch.
4 — 2010 Masters: Speaking of memorable shots in a major, the one Mickelson pulled off with a six-iron from the pine straw at 13 belongs high on the list. Phil failed to convert the eagle putt, but it did not matter as he went on to win by three over Lee Westwood to secure his third green coat.
3 — 2017 Open Championship: Jordan Spieth was in danger of blowing a great chance to take home the Claret Jug. But, after pulling off the shot of the year at No. 13 from the practice area to save bogey at Royal Birkdale, he followed with an electrifying birdie-eagle combo at 14 and 15 to beat Matt Kuchar by three.
2 — 2016 Open Championship: Not since the Jack Nicklaus vs. Tom Watson “Duel in the Sun” at Turnberry in 1977 had there been a titanic battle like this between two players who distanced themselves from the rest of the field. Mickelson was tremendous at Royal Troon. Henrik Stenson was better.
AND THE MAJOR OF THE DECADE IS…
1 — 2019 Masters: To quote Dan Hicks, and his memorable call from Torrey Pines in 2008, expect anything different? You have the greatest (or second-greatest) player ever capping off his unfathomable comeback by winning his fifth green jacket at the age of 43. You have roars, tears, awe. You have hugs with his kids. Case closed.