Here’s how to win major tournaments — a home base for an elite version of golf, if you will.
Because climbers don’t climb Mount Everest in one sitting. Instead, they established a base camp and ventured to higher altitudes before returning to the warm embrace of their tents and sleeping bags.
The thin air felt less oppressive the next time they climbed. They know what to expect; they are ready and ready.
Grand slam champions usually prepare in much the same way.
Twenty-one people have been crowned since the beginning of 2017, and no fewer than 19 have vivid memories of playing a major before winning.
In the three majors before they won, these 19 golfers finished in the top eight, or went to bed Saturday night knowing they could win the next day.
The only exceptions are Collin Morikawa, who has only played one major (a solid but unobtrusive top 40) before winning the PGA Championship in 2020, and Phil Mickelson, who succeeds Morikawa, He’s clearly on a golf course.
Let’s take a closer look at the last 21 major winners, and then we’ll add more elements to the discussion, especially this week’s U.S. Open.
2017 – Sergio Garcia missed the cut to the PGA Championship, but before that he finished fifth in both the Open and the U.S. Open.
2018 – Patrick Reed finished second in the PGA.
2019 – Tiger Woods finished second in the PGA and briefly led the final round of the Open.
2020 – Dustin Johnson is sixth in the U.S. Open and second in the PGA (leading after 54 holes).
2021 – Hideki Matsuyama finished tied for 13th at last year’s Masters (November) after finishing 4th in the final round of the US Open before slipping to 17th.
2022 – Scottie Scheffler finished eighth in the Open (fourth after 54 holes), his third straight top-eight finish in a major.
2017 – Justin Thomas finished second with 18 holes at the U.S. Open and finished tied for ninth.
2018 – Koepka won the US Open.
2019 – Koepka finished second at the Masters after sharing 18- and 36-hole leads and is defending his title.
2020 – In a year of bizarre COVID disruption, Collin Morikawa only gained experience at the U.S. Open the previous year, when he was ranked 35th.
2021 – Phil Mickelson didn’t suggest he would win.
2022 – Justin Thomas tied for eighth at the Masters and finished his last 54 holes in the top 10.
2017 – Brooks Koepka is 11th in the Masters and 4th in the PGA.
2018 – Koepka missed the Masters that year. He’s 13th in the PGA (third after 18 holes), tied for sixth in the Open (top three all week) and defending his title.
2019 – Gary Woodland is tied for eighth in the PGA and tied for sixth in the PGA (then the leader at 18 and 36 holes).
2020 – Bryson DeChambeau tied for fourth in the PGA.
2021 – Jon Rahm is tied for eighth in the PGA and tied for fifth in the Masters.
2017 – Jordan Spieth was 11th in the Masters and tied for fourth with 18 holes to play.
2018 – Francesco Molinari is No. 2 in the PGA.
2019 – Sean Lowry opened the PGA with a 75 to tie for No. 8 outside the top 100. It was a similar story at the U.S. Open, where he opened with a 75 outside the top 100, but he only made it to a tie for 28th.
2021 – Colin Morikawa is tied for fourth at the U.S. Open and tied for eighth at the PGA.
Extra Elements of the Week
The Major Championship schedule has changed since 2019.
In its first year, last year and this year, it has become the third Grand Slam of the calendar year. In 2020, it’s the second time due to the lockdown disruption, but it still happens after the PGA Championship.
Does this have an impact on the outcome of the US Open?
The first reaction to such a question is that we should be wary of drawing strong conclusions because it is a very small sample of data.
However, 2019 U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland is tied for eighth in the PGA.
In 2020, champion Bryson DeChambeau is tied for fourth in the PGA.
What about last year? The victorious Jon Rahm is also tied for eighth in the PGA.
What about the players who are in the game?
In 2019, Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy finished in the top 10 at both events, while unlikely U.S. Open contender Chez Reeve ranked in the PGA 14th.
In 2020, Dustin Johnson, Matthew Wolff, Tony Furnau and Zand Schauffele also finished in the top 10 at both majors.
Last year, Louis Oosthuizen, Brooks Koepka and Scottie Scheffler did just that.
Obviously, some of these players are able to do this because they are of the highest quality.
But it reminds us not to ignore Woodland, Reavie, and Wolff et al. Believe they had their week in the spotlight.
So, as a guide, here are the top eight in Nanshan last month:
1st: Justin Thomas, 2nd: Will Zara Torres, 3rd: Mito Pereira, Cameron Young, 5th: Tommy Fleetwood, Ma T Fitzpatrick, Chris Kirk, Eighth: Rory McIlroy.
If you want to push it too far, the last three U.S. Open champions are just breaking into the top 10 during the weekend’s PGA Championship. This only fits one of the above names – Tommy Fleetwood.
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