SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND | Brooks Koepka is Exhibit A – or example No. 7 – that major championship golf appears to have moved into a new era.
Instead of a handful of players winning most of the majors, the past seven have been won by first-time champions.
Two years ago, Zach Johnson won the Claret Jug at the Old Course for his second career major. Since then, Jason Day, Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, Jimmy Walker, Sergio García and Koepka have joined the major champions club.
Phil Mickelson last won a major in 2013. Rory McIlroy, who was collecting them in sets, hasn’t won one since he went back to back in 2014.
And while most of the names on the recent list of champions were logical candidates to eventually pick off a big one, it suggests that the age of dominance in major championships has diminished.
McIlroy recently said it’s tougher to win majors now because players are more aggressive. They’re less afraid to hit drivers and the learning curve has accelerated. Granted, Day, Johnson, Stenson, Walker and García had played closed to 200 majors combined before each broke through but Jordan Spieth and Koepka didn’t wait so long.
Look, Koepka said Tuesday, at the contenders at Erin Hills where he won his U.S. Open last month. Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama and Rickie Fowler were among the players who had a chance to win before Koepka squeezed the drama out of the event.
“They haven’t won majors, and I think everyone in this room knows they’re going to win one. It’s only a question of when, not if,” Koepka said.
“There’s so many good young players. And even in the college level, even the guys that are coming up, I mean some of them are going to win majors; you just know it.”
Does anyone doubt that Jon Rahm could win this Open Championship?
If the Open Championship’s history of winners skews in any particular direction, it’s that winners have tended to be slightly older than in other majors. García said that’s because links golf tends to be less about power and more about accepting the sometimes fickle nature of links golf.
Royal Birkdale has a history of crowning – or reaffirming – the game’s great champions. Peter Thomson. Arnold Palmer. Lee Trevino. Johnny Miller. Tom Watson.
Maybe McIlroy or Spieth or Johnson builds this week on what they’ve already achieved. Or, if recent history is a more accurate indicator, the major champions’ club could be getting another new member on Sunday.