GULLANE, Scotland — British Open champions at Muirfield are more likely to be found on a ballot for the Hall of Fame than the bottom of a betting sheet. It has never been known as a haven for long shots, which would seem to bode well for someone like Tiger Woods.
Even so, Woods struggled to find the right definition of an “outsider” when asked yesterday about the trend of high-caliber winners at Muirfield. Because if an “outsider” is someone who had never won a major, then all bets are off.
“You probably can’t say that given the fact that over the past, what, five years or so ... that we’ve had first-time winners at virtually every single major,” Woods said. “The fields are so deep now and the margin between the first player and the last player in the field is not that big anymore. It’s very small.”
Eighteen players have won the last 20 majors, the most diverse collection of major champions in some 25 years. Fourteen of them had never won a major.
Perhaps it was more than just a coincidence when Woods dated this trend to the last five years.
Because that’s when he stopped winning them.
“There’s certainly a connection between so many different winners and Tiger not winning one,” Graeme McDowell said. “Because we all know when he gets in the mood, he likes to win a few. I think in the period when Tiger kind of went missing for a couple of years there, it gave a lot of players a chance to step up to the plate and show how healthy the game of golf is, get their confidence up and win the big ones and really get a bit of belief in themselves.
“But I think Tiger has been responsible for raising the bar,” he said. “I think he certainly has set the standard for how good guys can be.”