THE GOOD news for Jim Furyk is that he won't have to hear the word major for the next half year or so. The same for Tiger. The same for Phil. The majors, the majors, the majors. Enough already!
The fact is, the just-concluded 2013 m-season was a study in excellence. Adam Scott in April at Augusta. (Classy!) Justin Rose in June at the U.S. Open. (A man, and an engineer, in full.) Phil Mickelson in July at the Open Championship. (Best British redemption story since A Christmas Carol.) Jason Dufner at the PGA Championship. (Give the man an Oscar for keeping that game face on.)
Here's to you, A-Rose McDuf. (A contraction, not a Belfast metal band.) You've had the m-word served up to you by newspaper reporters and TV interviewers, by fans and pro-am partners, by your agents and your in-laws, and you lived to tell the tale. Mazel tov.
Your why-the-majors-are-different quotes won't be needed again until next year's Florida swing, when the scribes from The Augusta Chronicle will come around to report for their 2014 Masters preview stories. So go off and enjoy yourself. Just one thing before you do. Do you think, Messrs. Scott, Rose, Mickelson and Dufner, that you'll ever win another major?
There's a reason veteran talents like Furyk, David Toms and Zach Johnson, to cite three players from last week's top 11 finishers at Oak Hill, have been stuck at one major each for a combined 28 years. Winning a first major is hard enough. Ask Dustin Johnson, who had his sixth top 10 in a major last week. Winning two or more? Since the end of World War II only 42 men have done it. So should it come as any surprise that since the start of the 2009 season, the 20 majors have been won by 18 players, 14 of whom remain stuck on a single title?
This year alone produced three first-time major champions. (Phil got his fifth.) There's a proven recipe to get that first one. You win on Tour. You take your talent to Olympia Fields, Augusta National, the Atlanta Athletic Club, Oak Hill—wherever the schedule tells you to go for the major golf fun. You treat the course as a course and not some priceless Oriental rug that may be walked upon only in surgical slippers. You grind for 72 holes, you accept that some of those holes will be played imperfectly, and come Sunday night your name will (maybe) be engraved alongside the gods.
Now you're looking for a second. On nearly a daily basis somebody asks you how you won your major. When you miss back-to-back cuts, you start looking at tape from ... the week you won your major. Your new endorsement deals all have clauses that will pay you big bucks for ... your second major. It's a nice problem to have, but it's a problem nonetheless. Shaun Micheel won the 2003 PGA Championship at Oak Hill and nothing since. No minors, no majors—nothing. He missed the cut last week, just as he did in the other nine events he has played on the PGA Tour and the Web.com tour in '13.
Furyk won his major two months before Micheel got his, at the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields. He has won eight tournaments since then, and he has been a serious contender in eight majors since his Open win. But in each of those eight majors something went wrong, most commonly on Sunday. Furyk knows how to win. He knows how to close. His struggles in the majors over the past decade have nothing to do with his skills. They have everything to do with his head. And that's why we love the majors.
On Sunday night, Furyk was asked, "Is it hard to treat majors differently from ordinary tournaments?"
"Yeah," said Furyk, who took a one-shot lead into the final round last week but finished second, two shots behind Dufner. "It's hard to talk yourself into the fact that a major is [just] a golf tournament. I realize it's a major. We're judged by how many tournaments we win. The best players are judged by how many major championships they win. You get four pops a year."