Capelle On Golf

Home of Woods vs. Nicklaus – Golf's Greatest Rivalry

The 16 winners in 16 majors phenomenon

August 10th, 2012 · 1 Comment

I have been fascinated by this whole 16 different winners in the last 16 majors deal, which has been such a big topic of conversation.

The big takeaway by most in the media is that the reason for so many different winners is the level of competition – that golf is in the age of parity, and that anyone can win.

When the “experts” reach such a unanimous conclusion, it makes me wonder if they are missing something, so I looked at some stats. Four of these 16 majors were won by established greats who were adding to their major’s count. These players are hardly one hit wonders, as this 16 in a row phenomenon would have you believe.

These 16 winners are supposed to be part of this huge pack of great players – one that makes winning so difficult. If these players are making it so hard, you would expect that they would often be near or at the top of the leaderboard when they aren’t winning. For example, when Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods (through 2009) weren’t winning, they were on the leaderboard scaring the daylights out of those who did.

In contrast, the 16 have combined for only 19 top 10s in 119 starts since winning, or 1 in 8 starts. If we deduct the multiple major winners, then the other 12 have finished in the top 10 only once in every 10 starts since winning their only major.

As for Nicklaus, in a comparable period that ran from the 1970 PGA through the 1974 British Open, his 15 top 10s matched this entire group’s output since they won their last major!

So is the media correct? Are we in a golden age of parity where competition has never been greater? I would say an emphatic no. The majors are being won by such a disparate list of players because there are only a handful of great players, not because there are so many!

16 Straight Different Winners – 2008 PGA through 2012 British Open
(Career major titles – Career top 10s – top 10s/starts since winning)

2008 PGA – Padraig Harrington – 3 – 15 (3 for 15)
2009 M – Angel Cabrera – 2 – 8 – (1 for 14)
2009 US – Lucas Glover- 1 – 2 – (1 for 13)
2009 BO – Stewart Cink – 1 – 9 – (0 for 12)
2009 PGA – Y.E. Yang – 1 – 3 – (2 for 11)
2010 M – Phil Mickelson – 4 – 33 – (3 for 10)
2010US —Graeme McDowell – 1 – 4 – (2 for 9)
2010BO—Louis Oosthuizen – 1 – 3 – 2 for 8
2010P —Martin Kaymer – 1 – 4 – 0 for 7
2011M—Charl Schwartzel – 1 – 2 – (1 for 6)
2011US—Rory McIlroy – 1 – 5 – (0 for 5)
2011BO—Darren Clarke – 1 – 7 – (0 for 4)
2011P —Keegan Bradley – 1 – 1 – (0 for 3)
2012M—Bubba Watson – 1 – 3 – (0 for 2)
2012US – Webb Simpson – 1 – 1 – (0 for 0)
2012 BO – Ernie Els – 4 – 33 – (0 for 0)

Tags: The Game · The Majors

RSS

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 BD // Aug 10, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    I don’t follow your reasoning. First of all, I don’t think parity = “greatness.” Let’s first address parity: If 16 different players win 16 majors, that is indeed pretty compelling proof of parity. If we look to top-10s instead of just wins, and we (hypothetically) find that 160 different players finished in the top ten in 16 majors, then that would be even stronger evidence of parity. Lots of different winners (or top-10 finishers) denotes parity, and I just don’t see any way around that.

    By the same token, if only a handful of players are winning or finishing high in majors (as in the case of Nicklaus and his cohorts), that denotes the absence of parity. Again, I don’t see how one gets around that conclusion.

    Now, as for the relationship of parity to “greatness,” the only obvious connection I see is that it’s harder to be “great” in a competitive environment where there’s a high degree of parity. A hypothetical rookie looking to make an impact on the game is going to stand a better chance of doing that if there are only, say, a dozen great players in golf than he would if there were 50 great players, all else being equal.

    Of course, the natural question to ask is, “Are the 12 great players in the one hypothetical better or worse than the 50 great players in the other hypothetical.” Seems to me that we just can’t say unless we bring other facts or assumptions into the equation. The 50 could be better, worse, or the same as the 12. Because parity does not equal greatness, the presence or absence of parity alone doesn’t tell us which group is better.

Leave a Comment