New winners are majors’ latest trend

By GIDAL KAISER

June 14, 2017

Like others asked through the week, Jordan Spieth — a two-time major winner — couldn’t exactly say why the last six major victories have gone to first-time winners when asked Tuesday.
John Ehlke/Daily News

TOWN OF ERIN — When the 10-foot playoff putt dropped in for a birdie at The Masters in April, Sergio Garcia became a first-time major champion.

He also became the sixth consecutive first-time major champion, a streak that began with Australian Jason Day at the 2015 PGA Championship.

Day beat Jordan Spieth by three strokes at Whistling Straits’ Straits Course in Kohler.

“I think it’s just luck, to be honest with you. And I’m not saying luck as in because they’re lucky people,” Day said Tuesday at a news conference. “I’m just saying we’ve just gone through a stretch guys have just popped up and won.”

Day nearly ended the streak a calendar year after his win, but fell to Jimmy Walker by one stroke at the 2016 PGA Championship. It was Day’s fifth top-two finish at a major in six seasons.

“I was knocking on the door a lot,” he added. “At Whistling Straits I kind of found my way because I drove it well and putted well that week.”

Garcia joked “My goal, obviously, is to make it stop this week,” but had no explanation. His one-stroke playoff against Justin Rose prevented Rose from his second major victory.

“I think it’s just one of those things that happen, one of those rolls that just — it just happened in the last six majors,” Garcia said. “But I’m sure it’s going to finish at some point.”

Between the 2015 and 2016 PGA Championships, Danny Willett won the 2016 Masters by three strokes over Jordan Spieth and Lee Westwood; Dustin Johnson beat a triumvirate of Jim Furyk, Shane Lowry and Scott Piercy for the 2015 U.S. Open title; and Herik Stenson beat Phil Mickelson by three strokes for the Open Championship.

“I don’t know if that’s a trend or just — if it’s something that’s trending that way, to continue to trend that way, or it just happened to be that way,” said Spieth, the last player to win consecutive majors in a season. “They’ve all been world class champions, when you look back. Really exciting finishes that were won. So I’m not sure, to be honest with you, because I guess before that there was three of us had five of the previous six or something, before that.”

From the 2014 Masters through Day’s 2015 PGA Championship, Rory McIlory and Spieth won two apiece — Spieth’s first two majors — while Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson each won their second major.

Day also noted the run of first-timers spans the spectrum in age — Day and Willett are 29, Stenson is 41, for example — and playing style.

“The way we play golf is totally different. So it’s really hard to kind of really pull it down to one thing, that’s why everyone is playing well, because you can’t, because once again they’re different ages, they’re different times in their career,” he added. “If it has to be another one this week, so be it. But I think looking at it now it just happened to be luck, to be honest.”