Simpson's win continues first-timer trend


SAN FRANCISCO – Good news for the roughly 6,884,909,953 people around the world who have never won a major championship golf tournament: Your time is coming.

These trophies used to be the exclusive property of singular-named superstars. From Bobby to Ben. Arnie to Seve. Jack to Tiger. It took a major pedigree to win a major title back in the day – and by “back in the day,” we’re talking all the way back in 2008.

Perhaps the greatest reason for those erstwhile prosperous 1 percenters is that winning begot more winning. The way it worked was that once a player broke through and collected his first, it meant he had developed the mettle to prevail again and again and again. The result was fewer major champions, each claiming a bigger piece of the major championship pie.

Ah, the good ol’ days.

Well, we live in a new era, golf fans. An era in which the last 15 majors have been won by 15 different golfers. That number dates back to Padraig Harrington’s win at the 2008 PGA Championship, extends to Webb Simpson’s victory at this U.S. Open, and includes a veritable cornucopia of eclectic winners, from Hall of Fame inductees to top-10 stars to second-tier talents to one-hit wonders.

This isn’t a competitive environment anymore. It’s a deli line.

Actually, based on the sheer volume of players who have come through the major championship turnstile lately, it more closely resembles a line at the DMV, with customers impatiently waiting their turn as the line backs up out the front door.

Simpson was the latest to hear his number called, stepping to the window and picking up his trophy and oversize check at The Olympic Club. To hear him analyze it, though, even he didn’t know he was ready to win a big one.

“If I was honest with you, I believed in myself I could win a major,” he said after beating Graeme McDowell and Michael Thompson by a stroke, “but maybe not so soon.”

While Simpson’s victory may leave certain veterans without a major depressed over their misfortune, it should actually serve the opposite purpose, instead buoying their confidence that next time may be the chance for which they’ve been waiting.

Apparently, the world’s best without a major are without one not because of any lack of talent or intestinal fortitude or good luck. Maybe they are without a major for the sole reason that it simply hasn’t happened yet. Their number hasn’t been called.

Yes, this means you, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald and Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson. All players who have come so close and yet have failed to puff that victory cigar.

It’s an intriguing phenomenon – and one which left the most recent recipients grateful for their good fortune.

“Thank you, Vijay, Phil and Tiger,” said Paul Tesori, caddie for Simpson who claimed his 16th career win, but first major on Sunday. “Is that right? Is that who’s stolen all of them in the last however many years? I think it’s a great time in golf, to be honest with you. Obviously, Tiger is back to playing great golf. He’s going to win more majors. But it’s fun to have all these different guys, because you know every time you tee it up that you’ve got a chance to win the golf tournament. It’s a great feeling.”

There used to be a prevailing feeling that a list of contenders at any major would run maybe 20-30 players deep. Sure, there were certain occasions to refute that notion, but the majority of these tournaments would be claimed by the game’s upper echelon of elite talent.

That isn’t the case today. Simply put, the list of contenders mirrors the entry list for any given event. Which is to say, anybody can win.

Consider this strange confluence of events at the U.S. Open: Fourteen-time major champion Tiger Woods finished 17 places behind John Peterson, who doesn’t own status on any major tour; meanwhile, four-time major champion Phil Mickelson trailed low amateur Jordan Spieth by 44 spots on the leaderboard.

“One of my thoughts on the back nine was, ‘I don't know how Tiger has won 14 of these things, because the pressure,’” Simpson confided. “I couldn't feel my legs most of the back nine. It grew my respect for Tiger all the more. But I think the prime age 10, 15 years ago was mid 30s. Now it's moving closer to the mid 20s or late 20s. There's so many young guys.

“If I see Keegan Bradley win a major, I respect his game a ton, but I feel like, Keegan Bradley won one, I want to go win one. All these guys that won before me, I thought, ‘I played with these guys all my life. I want to win a tournament.’ They're great players, but I want to do what they're doing. Everybody is so competitive in this world that we just kind of feed off of each other.”

The truth is, they are. In fact, it’s becoming a feeding frenzy at these major championships, with every player even hungrier for a victory, because, well, everyone else is doing it.

It should send a positive message to those who have yet to break through that barrier: Your time is coming. In today’s era, everyone gets a chance to have their number called.