"Parity" is often used with disdain by commentators and pundits who surround team sports. It's regarded as the worst of the worst when it comes to creating interest from fans, while so called dynasties, like the Bulls with Michael Jordan, the Yankees with Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, and the 49ers with Joe Montana, appear to be the highest peak on the mountain. It's no surprise then, that the Tiger era was considered by many to be the greatest period in the history of golf, and the viewership and participation numbers seem to back them up.
But have we now reached an era of parity in golf's major championships? Don't Tiger, Phil, and Rory dominate? No, actually they don't. As Carl Steward of The Oakland Tribune points out, in the last 14 majors there have been 14 different winners, and Tiger isn't one of them. That's only one major short of the longest streak of non-repeat winners in the history of the game since the Masters was started in 1934 (when Lee Janzen won his second U.S. Open at Olympic in '98 it had been 15 majors without a repeat winner).
If you're looking for further evidence of parity, consider this: seven of the last 14 winners were first timers, and most of them weren't even the top players in the world. In fact, Luke Donald, Hunter Mahan, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Bill Haas, Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar, and Adam Scott have combined to win exactly zero majors. And all of them reside in the top 25 in the world.
So what's the deal? How come nobody has stepped up in Tiger's absence to grab a bunch of majors? According to U.S. Open and British Open champion Johnny Miller, a lot of the top players, like Lee Westwood, just aren't up to the task.
"Some guys just can’t handle major championship pressure, Westwood can handle it well enough to have a chance to be in contention but not enough to hit that heroic shot on the last hole and do whatever he needs to do. He’s had many chances. And so that opens the door for a lot of other people that were maybe surprised that they won."
Miller also thinks the attitude of many of today's players is holding them back.
"What you don’t see is that fire to sort of determine who he is and his self-worth by championships," he said. "You know, I was never that way. To me, it was like, yeah, I’d like to win an Open. But I was also enjoying my family and life, where some of these guys, self-worth was about how many championships they won." "Even with Jack Nicklaus, going out fishing with him, he told me, ’You know, I could have won more majors if I really focused a little more,’ " Miller continued. "I was like, ’Dang, Jack, you won 18, how many do you want?’ I didn’t ever think that way. And I think Rory is a lot like I am. He’s just happy being as good as he is."
In the end however, Miller does think a dominant player could emerge on the scene, but warns that it won't be just anybody.
"There’s always room for a dominant player, it’s that just dominant players don’t fall off trees."
What do you think: Has parity been reached in golf's majors, or will another Jack or Tiger come along to dominate? Let us know in the comments section below. Olympic Club makes adjustments for U.S. OpenLike a lot of storied old championship tracks that were built at a time when players used decrepit old golf balls, weak-lofted muscleback irons and woods made of wood, the Olympic Club's Lakeside course was significantly altered to stand up to today's stronger players and juiced up equipment. According to The Monterey County Herald, the various changes include:
1. Nearly 400 more yards of length.
2. An entirely new 8th hole.
3. The removal of thousands of pine, cedar, cypress, and eucaplyptus trees from sides of fairways.
4. The first hole made into a long par 4 instead of a par 5.
5. Bentgrass greens instead of poa annua, making the greens more consistent but much faster and even more treacherous.
What will be the result of these changes? Nobody can know for sure until the tournament is contested, but it's safe to say the USGA has gone to great lengths (no pun intended) to do what they can to protect par. Of all the changes, the most significant will likely be the switch from poa annua to bentgrass greens. The former is common on west coast golf courses and tend to be bumpy and inconsistent throughout the day due to a fast growth rate. But bentgrass, while smoother and more consistent, can be very fast, and with Olympic's small and difficult greens, and the USGA's penchant for creating incredibly tough conditions, this year's Open could have more than the normal share of crazy putts.
For an idea of what to expect, check out some of the action from the '98 U.S. Open at Olympic, and keep in mind the greens were poa annua back then.