Last Updated on Sunday, 15 July 2012 23:02
Sunday, 15 July 2012 22:35
Golf rarely has been this mysterious when it comes to the majors.
Tiger Woods used to be counted on to win at least one major a year and contend in the others.
And while he is back to being the betting favorite, the British Open will be the 17th major since Woods won his last one.
Rory McIlroy, the heir apparent, has taken such a peculiar turn in the last two months that it was cause for minor celebration when he simply made the cut in the Irish Open.
Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, the two players who have been atop the world rankings the most over the last two years, never have won a major.
So when the British Open begins Thursday at Royal Lytham & St. Annes on the Lancashire coast of England, there really is only one logical question.
Who's next? These days, the answer is pure guesswork.
Fifteen players from five continents have won the last 15 majors, a stretch of parity not seen since golf was searching for a dominant player in the mid-1980s. Only three of those winners were among the top 10 in the world ranking. Three of them were not in the top 50, and three others were not even in the top 100.
"It just shows how deep the level of competition is right now," Adam Scott said.
What sets apart this recent stretch is that Webb Simpson at the U.S. Open last month became the ninth consecutive player to win his first major.
"Pretty amazing," Hunter Mahan said. "I remember first coming out on tour, and it was almost the same five guys every Sunday at every major. This is a whole new staff of players. It's the evolution of the game."
Big Four No More
Woods used to be dominant in the majors, even during the short-lived era of the "Big Four" that included Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh.
The Last Time Tiger's Roar Was Heard At The British Open Was In 2006 At Royal Liverpool
It reached such a point of predictability that Colin Montgomerie once suggested there was only one major for everyone else after Woods & Co. collected theirs.
"Tiger was winning all those things, and he was keeping Phil from winning more," Mahan said. "Now, it's like there are four majors - four majors that are wide open. Augusta is the only place where you can count on four or five guys being there. Everywhere else, it's not predictable."
The British Open returns to Royal Lytham & St. Annes for the first time since 2001, when David Duval pulled away from a four-way share of the lead on Sunday to capture his only major. It is the only links course in the rotation without a view of the sea.
The sixth hole has been converted to a par 4, so Lytham will be a par 70 for the first time.
Dry Spell For Tiger
The defending champion is Darren Clarke, another surprise in this list of major champions. He was 42, beyond what was considered to be the prime of his career, when he finally got his name on the claret jug on his 20th attempt.
Woods did not play last year at Royal St. George's, taking most of the summer off to let the injuries to his left leg heal. Woods, a three-time British Open champ, has not finished in the top 10 at golf's oldest championship since he won at Royal Liverpool in 2006. Then again, he has missed two of the last five because of injury.
A three-time winner this year, Woods is lacking only a major in his bid to restore some of his mystique.
"The more different guys that win them, the more guys who think they can win them," Geoff Ogilvy said.
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