Ernie Els British Open: Putting Sunday's Win into Historical Context
In winning the 2012 Open Championship on Sunday, Ernie Els made a serious impact on golf history––a feat that is far more momentous than people give it credit for.
Baseball is lauded for its lush, seemingly-primordial history. Its records are considered sacrosanct because they've withstood the test of time.
Golf should be viewed the exact same way.
Here's a stat for you: The MLB was founded in 1869; the first golf major was played in 1860. So when I say Ernie Els made history on Sunday, I promise you I understand the gravity of what I'm saying.
Let's look at exactly what he did:
Length of Time Between Major Championships
Els becomes the sixth player in golf history to win a major championship a decade after his last victory. Here's how the entire list shakes out:
|Name||Previous Major||Next Major||Gap|
|Julius Boros||1952 U.S. Open||1963 U.S. Open||11 Years|
|Henry Cotton||1937 British Open||1948 British Open||11 Years|
|Ben Crenshaw||1984 Masters||1995 Masters||11 Years|
|Hale Irwin||1979 U.S. Open||1990 U.S. Open||11 Years|
|Ernie Els||2002 British Open||2012 British Open||10 Years|
|Lee Trevino||1974 PGA Championship||1984 PGA Championship||10 Years|
A couple additional things to note:
(1) Els ended his decade-long major drought 17 years after Ben Crenshaw did the same. That 17-year gap is longest difference of all-time, two years longer than the span between Henry Cotton and Julius Boros.
(2) It can't be a coincidence that all six players ended decade-long droughts at the same tournament they won their previous major at, can it? Perhaps it is: Other than Ben Crenshaw, nobody on the list won their two majors on the same course.
The Four-Plus Major Club
The difference between the "Three-Plus Major Club" and the "Four-Plus Major Club" cannot be overstated.
The list of golfers shrinks from 43 to 27, which means Els can now make a specious claim as one of the 30 best golfers of all-time. It would take some serious gerrymandering of the data, sure, but the case could still be made.
Here's some more fun for people who like to misleading statistics: It's been 162 years since the first major, and only 27 guys have been talented enough to win four of them––which means, ostensibly, a golfer of Els' caliber only comes around once every 5.6 years.
That is, he should be considered one of the one-or-two most dominant players of at least one decade.
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