'90s Golf Short of Regular Contenders

MAMARONECK, New York -- Even with the arrival of Tiger Woods, the game is searching for the one player or group of players who contend in every major tournament. And perhaps the runaway victory by Woods in the Masters created unrealistic expectations.

"Dominate?'' Woods repeated Tuesday when asked if fans underestimated how difficult it is to dominate the majors. "How about just be in contention.''

Perhaps Woods will be it, but since his win at Augusta he was 19th in the U.S. Open and 24th in the British Open and was never a factor in either.

The last 12 majors were won by 12 different people and the 31 majors played in the 1990s were won by 24 different people. And of those 24, 15 have won one -- and only one -- major championship.

Remember when Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, Seve Ballesteros and Tom Watson seemed to contend in every major? Or Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer?

Who contends every time now?

Well, among those who have won major championships, Ernie Els and Tom Lehman come the closest.

Since his victory in the 1994 U.S. Open, Els not only added this year's Open but was in the top 10 six other times.

After winning the British Open last year, Lehman finished 14th, 12th, third and 24th in his next four major championships.

The record of other major championship winners is not as impressive.

Since winning the 1996 Masters, Faldo has one top 10 in six tries and in his last four majors was 51st, 48th, cut and 65th.

After winning the 1993 British Open, Norman finished in the top 20 in his next 13 majors. But this year he was 36th in the British Open and missed the cut in both the U.S. Open and the Masters.

Nick Price won the PGA Championship and the British Open in 1994 but has only one top 10 in 11 tries since.

And the record among those who got their one and only major championship in the 1990s is pretty grim.

Mark Brooks has missed the cut in all three majors this year after winning the 1996 PGA Championship. Since he won the 1996 U.S. Open, Steve Jones has missed three cuts in majors and finished 48th and 60th.

Steve Elkington has missed three of seven cuts in majors since winning the 1995 PGA and John Daly has not finished better than 27th in a major since winning the British Open in 1995.

And then there is Ian Baker-Finch, who appeared headed for stardom after the 1991 British Open, but has missed the cut in a major 11 times since, including 10 in a row.

Perhaps the best that can be expected from the players is one major championship every few years.

"The majors test every facet of your game,'' Woods said.

And that's why winning them is so difficult.