Major season shows up arbitrary nature of golf

Jordan Spieth hugging PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas (in pink). The British Open champion had been the pre-tournament favourite.
Jordan Spieth hugging PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas (in pink). The British Open champion had been the pre-tournament favourite.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

CHARLOTTE (North Carolina ) • A Major season that began with the Masters favourite falling down the stairs ended with one of the game's best young players capturing the PGA Championship, a reminder of the ephemeral nature of the most unpredictable of sports.

Dustin Johnson was the focus of the golf world on the eve of the Masters, coming off three successive victories, having ascended to the world No. 1 ranking and for a few months, an unstoppable juggernaut.

Four months later, Johnson is almost a peripheral figure and Justin Thomas is the talk of the town, though the latter barely figured in discussions on the eve of the PGA Championship which he won on Sunday.

Instead, the media was obsessed with Jordan Spieth's quest to surpass Tiger Woods as the youngest man to complete the career Grand Slam, while Rory McIlroy was the pre-tournament favourite.

Spieth was never a factor at Quail Hollow, while McIlroy ended the week saying he might take an extended break in an effort to deal with pain in his back and left arm.

However, Spieth, the British Open champion, insisted that having one Major victory equates to "a great year" because it is so tough to even win one nowadays.

"We won one of the Majors," said Spieth, the 'we' referring to himself and his caddie.

"I understand that's a great year in the Majors. If I did this every year, I would go down as the greatest player ever to have played the game.

"Winning them is so difficult, you can have a fantastic year without winning a Major.

"Look at what Tiger (Woods) did in 2013. He won five events, including a Players Championship (but did not win a Major)."

Masters champion Sergio Garcia does not need to be told how difficult it is to win a Major. The former teenage phenomenon was 0-for-73 until he beat Justin Rose in a play-off at Augusta.

"I did think about, 'Am I ever going to win one?'" Garcia said.

"I've had so many good chances and either I lost them or someone has done something extraordinary to beat me. So it did cross my mind."

Golf fans must now wait eight long months for the next Major - the Masters - during which time the spotlight will turn again to McIlroy and his quest to become the sixth man to complete the modern Grand Slam.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2017, with the headline 'Major season shows up arbitrary nature of golf'. Print Edition | Subscribe