There was nothing lucky about Louis Oosthuizen’s victory at the 139th Open Championship.
The guy went out and demolished the field by seven strokes, and the margin would have been even greater had he not played the 17th and 18th holes so conservatively, as anyone would expect from a guy holding an eight-stroke lead with two holes to play (Oosthuizen was leading by eight before bogeying the 17th).
Nothing was handed to Oosthuizen at last week’s Open Championship. He went out and took control of the tournament, and in doing so, put forth the most dominant display of golf seen by anyone other than Tiger Woods in the past two decades.
But Oosthuizen also gave us a glimpse into the future of golf, and it may be either bright or dark depending upon how you look at it.
For those of you looking for complete parity in the game, the future will be bright. With the absence of a dominant force, we are at a point where literally any of the 160 players in a major championship field can win.
Case in point, six of the past 10 major champions have been first-time winners.
For those of you looking for a dominant force or even a small handful of players that comes together to form a dominant force, well, those days might have ended the moment Woods’ SUV struck a fire hydrant outside of his Orlando home last November.
So, what is good for the game of golf as we head toward these uncharted waters?
Well, parity is good in a way. It makes for some exciting tournaments, like last week’s Open Championship.
When the first tee shot was struck early Thursday morning at St. Andrews, we had absolutely no idea who the last man standing was going to be come Sunday evening, and no one in their right mind thought it would be a guy by the name of Lodewicus Theodorus Oosthuizen.
But parity is not good for any sport over an extended period of time; this is particularly true when it comes to golf.
For example, does anyone remember Andy North, Hubert Green, Bob Tway, Scott Simpson, Larry Nelson, or Jeff Sluman?
You may have heard the names before, but what do you really remember about these guys?
Well, they all won major championships between 1985 and 1988.
Anyone remember the years between 1995 and 1998?
Not a single player won more than one major championship during that four year stretch.
Talk about parity. The game of golf has never experienced more parity than it did between the mid-80s and early 90s, yet this era is commonly referred to as golf’s Dark Age.
So why is that?
It’s because the popularity of any sport is driven by superstars.
The '60s are not considered one of golf’s golden ages because Bob Charles won the 1963 Open Championship, or because Gay Brewer won the 1967 Masters or because Don January won the 1967 PGA Championship.
The '60s are considered one of the game’s greatest eras because Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Billy Casper dominated the major championships.
Would you have rather seen 35 guys win the 40 majors between 1960 and 1970?
Or would you have rather seen Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, and Casper win 20 of those 40 majors?
Woods has been arguably the most dominant force the game has ever seen over the past 13 years, and it’s no coincidence the game has experienced an unprecedented growth in popularity during this same period of time.
For the past decade there have been a lot of people looking for more guys to win major championships. And now that Woods is clearly struggling with his game and his life in general, those same people seem to be taking joy in Woods’ struggles, both on and off the course.
So, now you have your parity.
If Woods continues on his downward spiral, we are going to see Louis Oosthuizens popping up at nearly every major championship.
That may be interesting for a year or two, but one can’t help but think those same people who have been crying out for parity for the past decade will be turning off their television sets on major championship Sundays in the not so distant future.
Because that is what always happens during a time of extreme parity in the game of golf.
Would it be too cliché to say be careful what you wish for?