Two career major titles becoming even more difficult milestone to reach
July 16, 2014
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Bubba Watson (left) and Martin Kaymer are among the few players with at least two major titles. (Getty Images)
HOYLAKE, England -- Bubba Watson is a son of the South, a man who's more comfortable with country living and barbecue than fine china and penthouse views. He's an emotional person and as creative a player as they come -- can anyone forget that sweeping gap wedge he hooked out of the trees on the second playoff hole to win his first Masters two years ago?
Martin Kaymer, on the other hand, is proudly German -- and not just because his countrymen recently won the World Cup. He's disciplined and determined, not unlike Bernhard Langer, who has become a mentor of sorts, and Kaymer doesn't mind the stereotype because he sees those traits as true to his heritage.
"When you tell us to do something, we get it done, but we not only get it done, we get it done to last for a long time," Kaymer said. "If you build a house in Germany, it lasts 1,800 years. ... (And) you see the cars that we build.
"I'm making an advertisement for my country, but it's just the quality of work. It's permanent. It lasts. And that is how you want to do certain things on the golf course, as well."
The two men couldn't be more different, yet the enter The Open Championship this week at Royal Liverpool flying the same banner -- major winners in 2014.
Kaymer played with prototypical German precision at Pinehurst last month, lapping the field and winning the U.S. Open by eight strokes. Two months earlier, what has become known as Bubba Golf ruled again at Augusta National as Watson beat Jonas Blixt and Jordan Speith by three.
It was the second major win for each player, and that's a significant achievement.
Of the 208 different major champions in the history of professional golf, 62 percent (129 major champs) have been limited to one win.
To win multiple majors means you've taken a step into rarefied air. Consider what Ernie Els said in 1997 when he won the U.S. Open for a second time.
"You're going to a different class now," Els noted back then. "A lot of guys have won one major. I've won two now."
Of course, Els has since added two more to enhance his legacy. The only other players in the field this week with more major wins than Els' four are Tiger Woods (14), Tom Watson (8), Nick Faldo (6) and Phil Mickelson (5).
But before you can dream of those numbers, you've got to win more than one. Watson and Kaymer got their second this year -- but that certainly has not been the norm lately.
Of the last 23 major champions, 19 have been first-timers. Only Kaymer, Watson, Mickelson and Rory McIlroy have built upon previous major success in that span. Woods, of course, is not among them, his dogged pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' record 18 majors having hit a roadblock after his 2008 U.S. Open win.
The first round at Hoylake will be his first chance this season to resume his chase after missing the first two majors due to back surgery. He knows it won't be easy.
"I think it gets harder every year, just because the fields get deeper," Woods said. "More guys with a chance to win. ... The margin is so much smaller. It's only going to continue to be the case. Guys are going to get longer, they're going to get faster. Guys who are coming out here are bigger, stronger, faster, more athletic."
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Meanwhile, there are players hitting their primes who would love nothing more than to join Watson and Kaymer as two-time major winners. You can start with three major winners from last season -- Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Jason Dufner.
Rose is hoping to follow the path that Mickelson used last year -- win the Scottish Open, then ride the momentum to an Open Championship win. Rose, in fact, has won his last two starts, having claimed the Quicken Loans National earlier this month.
"My Open record is not particularly good if you look at it on paper," Rose said. "That would suggest that there definitely needs to be a change of mindset. That happened for me last week."
Scott, on the other hand, has a stellar Open record lately, having finished second and tied for third the previous two years. He's long past the heartache of dropping that four-shot lead in the final round in 2012, and has spent the past two months atop the Official World Golf Ranking.
"I'm playing some of the best golf of my life at the moment," Scott said, "so I should really be taking advantage of it and stepping up and putting myself in with a good chance."
Another one of the 17 players in the field looking to claim a second major is Graeme McDowell, winner of the 2010 U.S. Open. McDowell has just two top-10s in the 16 majors he's played since that career-defining victory at Pebble Beach -- a stat he wants dearly to change. (Click here to see why McDowell should be the favorite this week.)
"I certainly don't want to be a one-hit wonder," McDowell said, and he might as well be speaking for the group. "... I want to give myself as many opportunities as I can to win majors. It's hard to win. Week-in, week-out, there's so many great players in the world.
"Winning regular tournaments is hard enough, winning majors is something different. Something special."
And winning two majors? Even more special.