Fairly or not, pro golfers are judged and measured by the number of majors won.
Of course Jack Nicklaus leads the way, and there is probably near unanimous opinion among those of a certain age group (mine) that he is the greatest of all time, much of which centers on his long-time standing of No. 1 among major winners with 18.
By the numbers and what many golf fans would concur with No. 2 is Tiger Woods, with 14 majors.
And with a major coming up next week – the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills – a lot of people enjoy the guessing game of who’s going to win, who’s the favorite, and who can either add to his major total or become a member of an increasingly growing club of winners of their first major.
A surprisingly low number of players in the field next week in New York have won more than one major – Woods, Phil Mickelson (5), Rory McIlroy (4) and Jordan Spieth (3).
Much more likely in the field of 156 is a player who will earn his first major – nine of the last 10 majors have been claimed by first-timers, the only exception over three-plus seasons is Spieth’s British Open last summer.
Some of the top players in the world are looking for their second major – Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jason Day, Henrik Stenson.
Others, like Rickie Fowler, are still looking to break through with that first signature win.
The list of very good and maybe great golfers who won just one major is long and illustrious – Fred Couples (1992 Masters), Tom Kite (1992 U.S. Open), Tom Lehman (1996 British Open), Paul Azinger (1993 PGA Championship), Tom Weiskopf (1973 Bristish Open) and David Love III (1997 PGA).
All had long and distinguished careers, all considered among the best of their eras, but none was able to win a major title more than once.
And all came from earlier eras, and none play now on the PGA Tour.
According to the history books, multiple major winners are going the way of the persimmon wood. Of the top 13 winners of most majors, Tiger is the only current player in the group.
Mickelson is tied for 14th, McIlroy and Ernie Els are tied for 20th and Spieth’s three majors rank him tied for 29th.
Since Woods’s major domination ended in 2008 – his 14 titles accrued in 11 seasons – there have been 41 major winners over 10-plus seasons. More than half – 22 – are first-timers.
Can we see a multiple major winner hoist the gold medal a week from today at Shinnecock?
If someone gave you Tiger, Phil, Rory and Jordan and took the rest of the field, you would take that bet all day.
But recent history suggests it will be someone new like Fowler, or perhaps a younger star like Thomas, Johnson or Day will break away and become a member of an ever-exclusive group – a multiple major winner.
Keith Jarrett is a sports correspondent for the Times-News. Care to comment? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org