Rude: Reflecting on 75 straight majors

Adam Scott wears the green jacket after his 2013 Masters win in a playoff.

Adam Scott wears the green jacket after his 2013 Masters win in a playoff.

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11:56:02 PM ET. 04/19/2014




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— Your correspondent is reporting at his 75th consecutive major championship.

That means too much too much. Excessive excess. Too many metal detectors, rental cars, airplane delays, hotel rooms, late-night meals, miles walked, notes taken, interviews, pimento-cheese sandwiches, all-night writes, shuttle rides, logoed purchases and cheap cigars.

Too much fun, too.

The streak began at the 1994 PGA Championship at Southern Hills. It would have started at the 1992 Masters except for the silly fact that I covered the Skins Game instead of the Open Championship in 1992-94. In my former sports editor’s world, somehow the Skins Game was a major.

Anyway, here’s what I remember:

• • •

1994

Nick Price runs away with the PGA and wins his second straight major. You don’t need to be a meteorologist to know Tulsa is too hot in August.

• • •

1995

Ben Crenshaw wins the Masters for Harvey Penick, or maybe it was the other way around. At the U.S. Open, Corey Pavin hits a 4-wood shot at Shinnecock Hills’ 18th straighter than most players hit their wedge. John Daly shocks everyone again, this time during my first trip to St. Andrews, where I broke at least three old-fashioned keys in the old-fashioned keyholes and where I ran into Daly on the beach with the claret jug the next day. At the PGA, where Ernie Els retreated and Steve Elkington won, I recall getting the Riviera locker-room attendant to open O.J. Simpson’s locker. There was no glove inside, bloody or otherwise.

• • •

1996

Nick Faldo shockingly goes from six behind Greg Norman to five ahead at Augusta. Davis Love III three-putts Oakland Hills’ 18th from 18 feet and loses to Steve Jones. Tom Lehman finally gets his major at Lytham. Mark Brooks wins the PGA at Valhalla after Kenny Perry gets too comfortable in a TV booth.

• • •

1997

Tiger Woods turns Augusta National into a pitch-and-putt in winning by a dozen, a feat that prompts father Earl Woods to say countless interesting things. At the U.S. Open, Ernie Els beats rabbit-eared Colin Montgomerie after telling caddie Ricci Roberts to make sure he’d hit into each green first in order to put pressure on Monty. Justin Leonard wins at Troon despite hitting no greens in regulation, but getting up and down each time–on the back nine of his opening round. Love breaks through at Winged Foot, a rout punctuated by a rainbow.

• • •

1998

Mark O’Meara rallies to beat Fred Couples and David Duval at Augusta. Lee Janzen beats Payne Stewart again, this time at Olympic Club, where the 18th green was conspicuous by its unfair slope. O’Meara somehow finds his ball and beats Brian Watts at Royal Birkdale. Vijay Singh wins the PGA at Sahalee and talks a bit about his low days when he taught golf in a Borneo rain forest after banishment from the Asian Tour.

• • •

1999

Jose Maria Olazabal wins his second green jacket, thanks to getting up-and-down for par 21-of-28 times. Payne Stewart beats the kids at Pinehurst in, sadly, his last hurrah. Frenchman Jean Van de Velde shockingly loses a three-stroke lead with a closing triple bogey at Carnoustie. Sergio Garcia runs like a deer at Medinah, but can’t catch Woods.

• • •

2000

Vijay Singh outduels Duval and says in the parking lot late that night, “Kiss my (expletive), everybody.” Remarkably, Woods wins the Open at Pebble Beach by 15 shots, breaking Old Tom Morris’ record for largest margin of victory in a major. Asked about that, battered runner-up Ernie Els said, “Old Tom Morris? If Old Tom Morris were around today, Tiger Woods would beat him by 80 strokes.”

Woods then cruises by eight at St. Andrews, where your correspondent somehow asked Van de Velde on the 18th tee of a practice round: “If you come here with a three-shot lead Sunday, what do you hit off the tee?” Van de Velde looked at me with darty eyes and said sternly, “I hit a (freaking) driver on the (freaking) green.” As my heart pounded, Van de Velde lightened and said, “Or, maybe off the (freaking) buildings.”

A moment later, Jack Nicklaus walked onto the tee and told Van de Velde he would’ve kicked his butt had he caddied for him last year. This was a classic meeting of the German and Frenchman. “It is only golf,” Van de Velde said. To which Nicklaus replied, “It is not only golf. It’s a major.”

As for the PGA, Woods beats underdog Bob May in one of the best major duels anyone will ever see. As a sidelight, radio broadcaster Bob Bubka falls into a pond while playing Valhalla the next day and comes out looking like a swamp creature.

• • •

2001

Woods completes the historic Tiger Slam at Augusta, winning his fourth major in a row after sleeping on three straight for about eight months. Afterward, Earl Woods says several interesting things, again. Retief Goosen beats Mark Brooks at Southern Hills and the world learns Goose had more personality before he was struck by lightning. Duval finally cracks the code, at Lytham, and David Toms uses a magical 5-wood in denying Mickelson in Atlanta.

• • •

2002

Woods repeats in Georgia, then wins at Bethpage Black, then has his Grand Slam bid ruined by a bad-weather draw at Muirfield. Els wins that four-man Open playoff that somehow featured a pair of twosomes. Rich Beem has a magical week at Hazeltine, and afterward runner-up Woods tells intimates, “Can you believe I lost to Rick ‘Freaking’ Beem.”

• • •

2003

Mike Weir wins Masters playoff after Len Mattiace hooks a 6-iron shot into a spot of bother left of No. 10. Jim Furyk cruises at Olympia Fields, where early low scores prompted the headline, “Olympia Yields.” Little-known Ben Curtis comes out of nowhere, beats several heavyweights at Royal St. George’s and gets people talking about Francis Ouimet. Shaun Micheel has a career week in beating Chad Campbell at Oak Hill.

• • •

2004

Phil Mickelson birdies five of the last seven holes at Augusta and jumps about three inches in the air upon winning his first major title. The Goose then prevents Mickelson from winning the second Grand Slam leg at Shinnecock. Todd Hamilton wields a mean hybrid and stuns Els at Troon. Singh hits terrific shots on the first two playoff holes in beating Leonard and Chris DiMarco at Whistling Straits.

• • •

2005

Before beating DiMarco in a playoff, Woods hangs his swoosh-logoed ball on the lip at No. 16 before it drops in for an improbable chip-in birdie. Michael Campbell comes from nowhere and beats Woods at Pinehurst, where the Payne Stewart statue looks like someone other than Payne Stewart. Woods cruises again at St. Andrews, and Mickelson gets up-and-down from high rough to win at Baltusrol.

• • •

2006

Mickelson wins another jacket. Geoff Ogilvy wins an Open at Winged Foot known more for the Category 5-like blowups on No. 18 by Mickelson and Montgomerie. Woods bludgeons the field using long irons at Hoylake, where Sergio Garcia walked off quietly after loudly dressing in a canary suit. Woods wins again at Medinah.

• • •

2007

Zach Johnson carves up the National’s par-5s with his wedge. Power player Angel Cabrera establishes himself as golf’s ultimate out-of-left-field player in outdueling Woods and Furyk at Oakmont. At Carnoustie, Padraig Harrington denies a whiny Garcia, who suggests the divine universe is against him. Woods then wins at Southern Hills, overcoming at a supposed equalizer course where everyone hits to the same spots.

• • •

2008

Trevor Immelman denies Woods a fifth jacket two months before Woods somehow bags the Open at Torrey Pines on a broken leg. Greg Norman contends into Sunday but can’t handle Harrington at Birkdale. Nor can Garcia outduel the Irishman at Oakland Hills.

• • •

2009

Cabrera wins a Masters that Kenny Perry loses control of. Lucas Glover holds off the likes of Mickelson and reclamation project David Duval at Bethpage. Tom Watson, almost 60, comes an inch from stunning the world at Turnberry. Y.E. Yang makes history at Hazeltine, overhauling Woods on Sunday at a major.

• • •

2010

Phil Mickelson weaves his magic with a 6-iron shot off of pine needles from the trees at No. 13 at Augusta. Graeme McDowell rules at Pebble after Dustin Johnson blows up. At St. Andrews, someone named Louis Oosthuizen demands people learn how to spell and pronounce his name. At Whistling Straits, Martin Kaymer wins after Dustin Johnson doesn’t recognize a bunker.

• • •

2011

Rory McIlroy implodes, Charl Schwartzel finishes with four straight birdies and your correspondent overdoses on pimento cheese. McIlroy rebounds with an eight-shot Open victory at Congressional. Darren Clarke has a miracle week at St. George’s. Keegan Bradley rallies against Jason Dufner in Atlanta.

• • •

2012

Bubba Watson shows just how much someone can hook a wedge shot. Webb Simpson rules Olympic. Adam Scott blows a four-shot lead with four left at Royal Lytham. McIlroy wins another major by eight, this one the PGA at Kiawah Island, virtually assuring he will be the first Marx brother inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Some bus rides to and from Kiawah reportedly still are in progress.

• • •

2013

Scott takes his broomstick and whisks away bad Lytham memories in winning the Masters.

That brings us to this week at Merion. Bad weather and logistics aside, a lasting major memory of some sort will be served. Maybe even a winner before Monday.

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