With the Players Championship in the books and with the US Open fast approaching, I thought it would be good to reflect on some of golf’s best moments in the four majors during the past decade. Here are 5 moments picked from a wide variety of great moments in golf.
5. Ben Curtis wins The Open Championship in 2003
When talking about challengers to Tiger Woods at the 2003 Open Championship at Royal St George, no one talked about Ben Curtis. Curtis had been struggling just to keep his PGA Tour card, placing in the Top 25 just once in 2003. That one Top 25 at the Western Open gave him a spot in the Open Championship. Curtis, a 300-1 shot to win the title, was playing in his first major. Curtis finished 1 under the Championship, turning in the only overall score under par, and holding off Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods. Curtis climbed from 396th to 35th in the World Golf Rankings, and was the first player to win his major debut since 1913. Curtis found little success after the Open Championship win. He has just 3 titles overall, but has turned in some good performances recently, including a 2nd place finish at the 2008 PGA Championship.
4. YE Yang dethrones Tiger Woods at the 2009 PGA Championship
Tiger Woods was automatic as a leader on Sunday. Tiger Woods had never lost a major after leading after 54 holes. That all changed at Hazeltine, when YE Yang played steadily along side Tiger, who shot a 75 to fall from 2 shots up to 3 behind Yang. Tiger lead all tournament, including a 4 shot lead after the 2nd round. Another major title seemed a look for Woods. Yang started the day 2 shots behind Woods, tied with Padraig Harrington, a much more seasoned vet. But Harrington collapsed even more dramatically than Woods, and Yang finished alone in first by 3 strokes. He became the first Asian born player to win a major championship
3. Tiger Woods Dominates Pebble Beach in the 2000 US Open
The US Open is not known for having scores much below par. But Tiger Woods was just starting to peak, and this would be the first of 4 consecutive major titles for Woods. It wasn’t even close. Woods turned in a 12 under for the championship, an amazing 15 shots clear of 2nd place. He lead wire to wire, and took a 10 shot lead in to Sunday, where he fired a 67 to stretch his lead even further. Tiger became the first player to finish double digits under par in US Open history, and also claimed the record for margin of victory.
2. Tiger Woods Holds Off Rocco Mediate in a Playoff at the 2008 US Open
Woods entered the final day of the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines with a 1 shot lead over Lee Westwood. But Rocco Mediate stayed near the top the entire tournament, and made his move on Sunday, firing a 71 to make up 2 shots on Woods and force a playoff. The two played a playoff round the following day, but that wasn’t enough either as they were tied again after 18. Woods finally took the title on a sudden death hole. Woods was battling knee injuries, and would miss the rest of the season. Mediate, a fan favorite, would have his best finish at a major in his career.
1. Phil Mickelson Finally Breaks Through at the 2004 Masters
For years Phil Mickelson was known as a golfer who couldn’t seal the deal. Long a fan favorite, Phil had has share of flops at major championships. Unlike Woods, he was familiar with squandering leads on the final Sunday. Mickelson began the 3rd round 3 shots off the pace but turned in a stellar performance to tie for the 54 hole lead. Ernie Els played great on Sunday, and kept the pressure on Mickelson. But Mickelson hit a dramatic birdie on the final hole. It was an amazing end to a thrilling back 9, and it gave Mickelson his long overdue first major championship.