Not much last hole drama in the 2023 men’s Majors

Ivan Morris

Ricky Elliott and Brooks Koepka embrace after victory at Oak Hill (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Almost all of the drama in golf during 2023 (so far) has been confined to backroom, secretive wheeling and dealing, and grubby money laundering. For the PGA Tour to empty its coffers in a certain to fail attempt to scare off the Saudi’s virtually bottomless Public Investment Fund of €-X billions was extremely foolish and provided most of the more animated talking points.

How Jay Monahan kept his job is a mystery yet to be explained and Keith Pelley too, to a lesser extent. In the circumstances prevailing, it was correct for R&A CEO, Martin Slumbers to express his concern regarding the effect of ballooning purses in the professional majors and how they might affect the sustainability of the amateur game worldwide?

And, it is hard to disagree with 5-time Champion Golfer of Year, Peter Thomson’s son Andrew’s, astute assessment from Australia that: “We have witnessed the self-destruction of the PGA Tour at the hands of a bunch of crass and unpleasant corporate lawyers, opportunistic bankers, and duplicitous business types. These ghastly people make Juan Antonio Samaranch look like a saint”.


One might laugh if it wasn’t so true.

With an anxious Rory McIlroy looking on, Wyndham Clark got down in two putts from all of 60-feet to win the US Open by one stroke, it was the total extent of last hole Sunday drama in the four majors this year and was as close as the Northern Irishman would get to winning a major for the first time in nine years.

Time is running out for Rory. To win a major ten years after one’s last one is rarer than winning a grand slam. Of course, Rory can do both by winning next year’s Masters. His windows of opportunity are closing; only barely ajar, I would say. Everyone knows Rory (now 34) is good enough but, there have been hundreds of golfers down through the years who were good enough without winning even one major, let alone five.

There are no entitlements or foregone conclusions in golf. Among the all-time multi-GOATs who have failed to win majors when younger than Rory are: Tom Watson, winner of 8 majors by the time he was 34. Seve Ballesteros won his last of five majors at 32. Gene Sarazen won his last of 7 majors, aged 33. Bobby Jones won his last of 7 at 28. Arnold Palmer won the last of his 7 in 1964 when he was 34, the same age as Rory is now (until May, 2024).

Brian Harman’s winning haul of only two PGA Tour titles before his CGOY win at Hoylake is but one example of how hard it is to win in pro golf, let alone a major. Harman, after all, has recorded the most top tens by anyone since 2017.

Clark’s playing of that rather odd finishing hole for a US Open at LACC (the fairway was 60-yards wide) and being grateful to be able to use most of it, was the sum total of last hole drama in 2023’s ‘squeezed’ major golf season which, may I add, was much better when the PGA Championship was played in August. The PGA and USO are played too close to each other.

As for the Brian Harman Procession at Royal Liverpool, it was like sitting in class at school and being shown how to go about dismantling a very tough golf course and leaving an entire field (some of them, like Rory, playing very well indeed) in one’s wake and never allowing them to get close enough to cause any worry for him or drama for the onlookers.

As soon Jon Rahm hit the front on the sixth hole in the final round, he steadily and without drama increased his lead to four shots on the 72nd tee. Rahm completely dominated and Rory could do nothing about it because he missed the cut! The Masters begins on the back nine on Sunday, my foot! In 2023, the climax was a damp squib. I could not remember who was second or third without looking it up.

By far, the most exciting major was the PGA Championship won by Brooks Koepka. Viktor Hovland and Corey Conners were making a fight of it at Oak Hill until they both of them fell foul of the same faulty, fairway bunker on No. 17. It allowed Koepka to play the last hole relatively carefree and to debunk the propaganda that LIV’s renegades were not serious competitors because they played in ‘Mickey Mouse’ 54-holes tournaments. The last three holes in any level of tournament play becomes different and anxiety-filled when there is a score or a victory on the line regardless of whether it is contested over 18, 36, 54, or 72 holes.

My appetite for drama all depends on the Hyper (ahem) Ryder Cup in Rome soon. If that fails to provide me with a close finish and some stirring excitement, it may be time to consider ending my lifelong passion for watching other people better than me playing golf and to concentrate solely on my own dramas, which rarely fail to throw up the unexpected, be it good, bad, or indifferent.

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