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Opinion & Analysis

Ranking the 2013 major championships: The significance of each victory



When Jason Dufner gently tapped in his final putt at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club, he both secured his first major victory and ended the 2013 major season.

Dufner’s cruise-control final-round 68 made the Auburn grad the closing entry on the list of 2013’s major winners, following Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson.

Looking back at this year’s four most significant tournaments (apologies to the Tour and Players championships), it’s fitting to examine the significance of each victory within the respective victor’s career.


No. 1: Adams Scott’s Masters win

With his compelling playoff victory over Angel Cabrera at this year’s Masters, Adam Scott did two important things: The then 32-year-old shed the mantle of “best golfer without a major” and became the first Australian to capture the green jacket.

Further for Scott, who famously melted down over the final holes of the 2012 Open Championship, there was a significant element of redemption in the win. For the Australian’s confidence and forward momentum, the major win couldn’t have been more significant.

When Scott stood victorious, replete with his green jacket in the rain, there was a sense of order in the golfing gods’ universe. No other major win this was nearly so poetic or profound. Thus, Scotty tops this list.


No. 2: Justin Rose’s U.S. Open win

In the same way that Adam Scott rid himself of an unwanted epithet, Justin Rose’s last-man-standing-style win at the U.S. Open at Merion removed the Englishman from consideration for the best golfer without a major designation.

Further, outlasting a field of the world’s best, including the charging Phil Mickelson, and holing critical putts, the statistically poor putter’s week was truly inspired. Rose, who fired rounds of  71-69-71-70 at Merion, capitalized on the promise most golf fans first saw at the 1998 Open Championship, where he finished fourth.

His ability to get up-and-down for par at the final hole displayed a steely resolve more often association with another Sean Foley pupil. That, plus the entirity of the experience, from lifting the U.S. Open Championship trophy to the resultant whirlwind media tour, will make Rose a more comfortable and confident major contender going forward … and likely a multiple major winner.


No. 3: Phil Mickelson’s Open Championship win

Until a week before the Open Championship, it was widely believed that Phil Mickelson wouldn’t win in Europe and couldn’t win on a traditional links style course. The left-hander dispelled both myths with his Scottish Open triumph the week before the Open Championship.

Four birdies over the final six holes and a spectacular final-round 66 facilitated Mickelson’s victory at Open Championship, a tournament where he had only two previous top 10s in his career. With the win, Mickelson captured his fifth career major and the third leg of the career grand slam.

Significant, career-defining achievements, all.


No. 4: Jason Dufner’s PGA Championship Win

The winner of the final major of the year brings up the rear in this ranking. It’s not that the Duf’s hoisting of the almost comically oversized Wanamaker Trophy wasn’t significant for the 36-year-old. Rather, the other wins were narrowly more so.

Dufner’s major could mark a quantum leap forward for the runner-up of the 2011 PGA Championship. However, this remains to be seen, as the dip-packing waggler has only announced himself as one of the Tour’s elite over the past couple of seasons, it’s unclear whether he’ll win as many times on the PGA Tour as Scott (9) or Rose (5), and certainly not as many times as Mickelson (42).

Make no mistake about it, though. Dufner’s  first major win is significant. It is redemptive, and it is validating. The wins of the three golfers who precede him in this list are only more significant as a result of the expectations we have for them.

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  1. Mick

    Aug 16, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    Adam Scott was easily the most consistent performer through all the majors and thoroughly deserves the #1 spot

  2. Matt

    Aug 15, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    placing Phil’s win at #3 means the author has no idea what he’s talking about.

    Between the overwhelming agreement from even Phil himself that his game was questionable to conquiring The Open, and the bounce back from an epic 6th runner-up heart break losing The US Open…..Phil’s final round 66 at the The Open was the moment of the 2013 major season.

  3. Tim

    Aug 15, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    I love Duf and his wife is HOT, but it was an absolute bore to watch him win. He is very introverted. Him and Furyk in the last group was a snooze fest.

  4. Troy Vayanos

    Aug 14, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    I agree Ben, you got it spot in. Adam Scott’s win was very significant for himself and Australian golf. Justin Rose’s win did the same for him and his country England.

  5. John75402

    Aug 14, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I’d rank Phil’s Open Championship as first… it was pretty riveting to watch. I would also rank Scott’s Masters as second, because it was such a gutty finish for both him and Cabrera… then the deciding birdie putt was amazing. Justin Rose comes in a close 3rd… He was a rock on a Sunday when everyone else was falling away, and he just kept hitting superb shot after superb shot. The PGA was a very good contest, but the course detracted some… very straight lines, single doglegs… The course was beautiful and well manicured, but kind of repetitive. The quasi match play final group made for great viewing, and Dufner played amazing golf, but it was a little anti-climactic, partially because of how stoic he is.

    All in all, it was a great year of majors and I can’t wait for the Masters to roll back around.

    • MB

      Aug 15, 2013 at 3:45 am

      The UK coverage hardly showed Phil until the 5 or 6 holes when he started his run, and once he finished that was it, tournament over with several groups still to come in. So while I agree it was top class golf from Phil to win on a links course, I wouldn’t describe it as riveting. The way that Scott and Cabrerra birdied 18 in regulation then went at it in the playoff, especially with Scott’s record … now that was riveting. So Scott for me a clear first, then toss up between Phil and Justin. Sorry Duff, you played great golf and totally deserved it but it was by far the least interesting major of the year.

      • John75402

        Aug 16, 2013 at 10:21 am

        Well, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion…

  6. Nevin Wilson

    Aug 14, 2013 at 9:03 am

    I’d put Phil’s win first.

  7. Henrik

    Aug 14, 2013 at 4:47 am

    It as been a great Majoryear with great tournaments.
    However, Phil deserves more than 3d place…

  8. Mateo

    Aug 14, 2013 at 12:47 am

    And the most exciting tournament of the year was The Players. The only reason I bring it up is because IT SHOULD BE A MAJOR.
    Either have 5 majors or change The Masters to what it always has been……. an invitational. An invitational should not be a major. Augusta gets way too much hype.
    I’m sure I won’t get a single reply on this one. 🙂

    • aaron

      Aug 15, 2013 at 1:22 am

      Agreed….The Players should be a major…I also think there should be more emphasis on more tournaments that arent majors….it sucks that we only have the intensity that comes with the majors 4 times a year within a 4 month period…I think we would like to see more of the major quality fields and excitement from the players

  9. Mateo

    Aug 14, 2013 at 12:36 am

    The best major of the year was BY FAR Phil’s win at the BRITISH Open (hate when people call it “the open”. It’s the British Open).
    I’ll call the rest a 3 way tie. Actually no……… I’d say it’s a tie for second between The Masters and the US Open.
    The PGA was a distant 4th. It felt more like the John Deere Classic than a major.

  10. James

    Aug 13, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    All of the wins this year were great for their own reasons and relevant to the winners. I’d agree with the article, but certainly think no-one played better (or to a higher standard) than Duffman. His ironsand distance control were especially amazing.

    I thought the course setup at Oak Hill was AWFUL – sure it looked beautiful, and the greens / conditioning etc were lush and groomed to the highest standards, but the course may as well have been the same one played the week before at Firestone.

    No variation in rough, fairway width, approach options etc, just driver/iron over the flag with boring 4 – 6 inch cabbage rough. Lucky the hole numbers were on the broadcast, as almost every Par 4/Par 5 tee box and drive was the same.

    Huge Kudos to Duff though – his was just so solid and holed some great long and short putts under immense pressure whist Furyk and Stenson just kept coming and making amazing pars putts also.

    Woeful course. Amazing Tournament. Great Win.

    PS. I thought that one of Ross’ key design principles was to encourage run-up shots (Pinehurst No. 2(+1+3)?), Seminole, Pine Needles? etc etc.

  11. John

    Aug 13, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    you got it wrong. phil’s OC was the number one major of the year. close second is scott becoming the first aussie to win at ANGC.

    • aaron

      Aug 13, 2013 at 11:30 pm

      Agreed…5 shots back in a tournament nobody including himself thought he would ever win….bettering the field average by over 7 strokes….birdies on the last 2 holes….no way the best major victory of the year doesnt go to Phil….then Adam then Justin then Dufner

    • ev

      Aug 17, 2013 at 9:19 am

      Easily. I’m really happy for Adam Scott, but his win was #2 behind Phil. Or at least 1b. We’ve assumed for the better part if 2 decades Phil wouldn’t win the British.

  12. paul

    Aug 13, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    Lol. yeah, she’s a babe.

  13. Winmac

    Aug 13, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    The moment he married Amanda, Jason Duffner is already a winner 😉

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On Spec

On Spec: A deep dive into iron specs and “loft jacking”



With so many new iron releases being announced, host Ryan Barath gets deep into the world of iron design and specs—most specifically loft.

The topic also revolves around trying to fit an iron-based on handicap and why that is a flawed model.

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Opinion & Analysis

The death of the 3-iron and what it means for your bag setup



The 3-iron is almost extinct. It sounds like an odd statement, but it’s very true. Don’t believe me? Go try and buy one in a set. They are not easily found.

As we evaluate this topic, I’ll refrain from specs from “players” clubs as these are not the irons normally purchased. Yeah, it might skew the data, but even the players capable of playing the long irons are opting out of the 3 iron. And let’s be honest, should any of us be playing a blade 3-iron?

Mizuno only offers 4-PW in the JPX line now. Titleist only offers a 3-iron in T100s, while the rest are void of 3-irons. TaylorMade provides 4-PW in the P790, P790Ti, and P770. Callaway has done the same, only offering a 3-iron in the “players line” of clubs, while the rest is again void of the-iron. Cobra golf has also followed suit.

So are 3-irons just too hard to hit? Is that why no one is buying them, thus causing the OEMs to stop making them? The only ones left to buy are the “players” 3 irons, and those aren’t even reasonable unless you’re a professional.

What if I told you we were being deceived? What if I told you the 3-iron is still very much alive in all the iron sets available but under the guise of a different number?

Let’s hop into the “wayback machine” and take a quick look at the history of iron lofts.

The year is 1970, and the vast majority of irons available are blades. You know, the razor-sharp leading edges that are ready to break your wrist with a deep divot.

The image above is an actual snippet from a catalog from the ’70s. At this point, the 1-iron was virtually extinct, and in 1975, Lee Trevino was immortalized by his joke about how God couldn’t hit a 1-iron, which typically fell in the 18-degree range at the time. 2-irons were standard issue in the set, and the lowest loft you might find is 20 degrees.

Then the ’80s came, and things started to progress. As you might expect, lofts started to decrease. It wasn’t because of flight windows, or launch numbers, because they didn’t have that kind of technology readily available to measure those attributes. It was simply a quest for distance.

Then in the ’90s, you’d pretty much see all iron sets with 21-degree 3-irons, down to 48-degree PW’s, and 21 degrees being the norm for the lowest lofted 3-iron. 2-irons at this time were typically 18 degrees and available by request only.

Then came the 2000’s, an era we all should be familiar with. This is where things started to get interesting. Not only because lofts continued to be strengthened, but because the hybrid became a new option to replace the long irons. Adams Golf made a killing as it perfected this golf club, creating the Idea line that was in the bags of most of the senior tour players and many of the PGA Tour players. These were a fan favorite at retail too. The hybrid was an easy long iron to hit and quickly started to replace 3-irons in golf bags across the country and even on tour.

By this time the pitching wedge lofts started to get pushed to 46 degrees, which was a big jump, to be honest. In the 1970s, MacGregor was making pitching wedges with 49 degrees of loft. So, for the 90’s to be around 48 degrees, it wasn’t too much of a shock. But in the 2000s, we now saw PW’s drop to 46 degrees; a half club stronger. This is where the downfall began, in my opinion.

The first decade of the 21st century needed the gap wedge, also known as the approach wedge or utility wedge or just plain old “wedge.” Now, keep in mind, this club wasn’t anything new. The gap wedge existed ever since the beginning because at 50-52 degrees it was simply a pitching wedge from the ’70s. But it became a necessary element for the bag since the lofts of every iron were starting to move farther and farther away from the sand wedge.

Now in 2020, the average loft of the PW is 43.5 degrees, and the average 4-iron loft is 20.6 degrees. Turns out, the 4-iron from 2020 is .3 degrees stronger than the average 2-iron (20.9 degrees) from 1970. We have come full circle! Instead of maintaining those classic numbers, of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, PW, the new sets are labeled 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, P, G.

I wonder how many golfers out there carry a 4-iron thinking it’s a club they can hit? Probably too many! Obviously, the 3-iron is dead at this point, since it would actually carry the loft of the elusive 1-iron Trevino claimed was unhittable!

Now, it’s time to discuss how we got to this point. You’ll hear a lot of companies talk about “flight windows” or “launch angles” and how it was changed by engineering, lowering CG’s, and increasing speed through thin faces. Some will talk about how the ball has changed, and it just launches higher, and it requires the lofts to be strengthened, or it will just go too high!

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that is all a bunch of baloney, and here is why: They started making gap wedges as part of the set. If the launch was too high or the window was too different, why make a matching gap wedge with the same technology and have the loft of a pitching wedge from the 1990s? Wouldn’t that launch or window then be too high for that club too? And yet you still need to buy another gap wedge to fit the 52-degree range. If the average golfer bought a 2020 game improvement set today, they would find the set make up to be 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, PW (43.5 degrees), Gap #1 (48.6 degrees), Gap #2 (52 degrees). That means if you happen to carry a 56 and a 60 degree, you now have the same amount of label wedges (5) as you do irons (5)!

Five wedges in the bag! Does anyone think this is weird?

Furthermore, when was a higher launching iron shot a bad thing? Wouldn’t average golfers benefit from a steeper angle of descent so the golf ball stops quicker on the green?

I conducted a study where I tested a Titleist 716 MB 8-iron with 39 degrees of loft to a TaylorMade P790 9-iron with 40 degrees of loft. All the data was captured on the Foresight GC2 launch monitor. It wasn’t a perfect test since they didn’t have the same shaft or loft, but my findings were surprising none the less. They went the same distance, almost down to the decimal. The Titleist went 165.2 yards, and the TaylorMade went 165.1 yards. Launch was only .6 degrees different while peak height was less than four feet different. So, unless you are Tiger Woods, you are not noticing a difference out on the golf course.

Some of you might think, “so, the label on the bottom of the club changed, it’s all going the same distance. So, what’s the big deal?” To me, it’s the confusion it creates more than anything. By decreasing the lofts, you’re just making the numbered iron go farther, and you are creating even bigger problems by having large gaps with the sand wedge when all amateurs need those clubs. It’s also putting clubs into the hands of golfers when they have no business hitting, like the 4-iron with 20 degrees of loft. Titleist has already made a T400 5-iron with 20 degrees of loft, and that’s just silly.

There also is the argument that golfers love distance, and when they start playing and can hit a 7-iron relatively far, it helps grow the game. Growing the game isn’t a bad thing, but if they are new to the game, they shouldn’t have any preconceived notions of how far to hit a 7-iron, and that means loft at that point becomes irrelevant.

I will not refute that a 40-degree lofted game improvement iron will be slightly longer than an identical lofted players club, but I think you’d be surprised to see the actual difference is a maximum of about three yards longer. The technology works, but by no means is it so substantial that we need to change the label on the bottom of the golf club.

The bottom line is that loft is king, regardless of the technology involved, and I have seen, but one equipment company make a change backwards! This is TaylorMade with their P770 irons. In comparison the P790, they increased the loft by one degree in the short irons and up to two degrees in the long irons, to add height and spin to the irons to improve performance. Imagine that, more spin and height are an advantage! And that was backed by their testing and their data.

Now to even further nail down my point, it is worth noting that TaylorMade Golf offers the highest lofted Pitching Wedge in the industry at 49 degree, which are in the Tiger lofts of the P7TW irons. That same iron set has a 22.5-degree 3-iron. At 22.5 degrees, it is typically the lowest-lofted iron in the golf bag of the best iron player on the PGA Tour in 2019. Of course, he has the skill to play an iron with lower loft, but the point that history reveals to us is that the effective loft of playability for an iron is about 22 degrees and higher. Anything lower lofted than that is typically replaced with a hybrid. This is not just a trend for the amateur golfer either, and it is even happening on tour with the best players in the world.

We will probably never see the lofts rolled back, but the least we can do is update Lee Trevino’s quote, “if you ever find yourself in a thunderstorm, lift up your 4-iron, because not even God can hit a 4-iron.”

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The Gear Dive: Going scorched earth on Tiger documentary



On this episode of TGD, Johnny goes in hard on the HBO documentary Tiger.


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