OK so S. African Louis Oooooooslkdhzzn has won the British Open. It seems that the major winners these days, particularly with Woods in a distracted state, are often not exactly household names. But even when Woods was on fire he wasn't winning every major, yet no other big guns ever seemed ready to really take on the champion's role (other than Mickelson, with limited success).
I've felt that Woods has benefited from there being a less than gutsy pack of challengers, compared with Nicklaus. Jack had to contend with Arnie and Player when he started, then he had to battle the likes of Trevino and Watson in his thirties. Tiger's competitors just seemed to wilt away. While one might attribute that to his intimidating play in tournaments, that doesn't explain what happens in those tournaments where he didn't dominate.
So has the game become less dominated by elite players, or is it just my the-older-days-had-more-heroes prejudice? Here's a chart that shows the combined number of career major wins for each major winner by year. The way this works is if four players with 3 career major wins won the four majors one year, that would count for 12. If all four winners had only one career win, then that would be 4. It's intended to measure how much the game is dominated in one year by accomplished players.
There is a slight downward slope, but pretty much it's all over the place with an insignificant correlation. But these are dominated by two super-outliers - Woods and Nicklaus. So let's look at it by excluding Woods and Nicklaus (which is what we're really trying to get to, anyway - the prevalence of tour studs other than
those two). To avoid undercounting the years in which Nicklaus or Woods won, I substituted the average # of career major wins, 2, for their totals (18 and 14) in each of their winning majors. Here we see a clearer trend:
Here the r-squared is a more robust 0.26, suggesting a definite trend in the sport of less dominance by by a cadre of elite players. It also supports the notion that Woods has had less of a challenging field during his run of dominance than Nicklaus had in his heyday. Put another way, Nicklaus seems to have faced much gutsier challengers than has Tiger.
These are relative comparisons, of course - golfers on the whole are no doubt superior today - bigger, better-conditioned, better-equipped - so the trend of less dominance by a few top players is probably an expected result of more, better players entering the field. Looked at that way, you could make the argument that Woods's dominance is all the more remarkable given the generally higher standard of overall play. Still, there just seems to be an element of toughness missing in the game today.
UPDATE: Steve Sailer has some interesting comments below, as well as on iSteve
Here's the basic data in spreadsheet
form if you'd like to play with it yourself.
UPDATE: It occurred to me that this analysis is potentially flawed: there is built-in bias against later tournament winners as they haven't had time to build up wins. For example, when Watson beat Nicklaus in 1975, that was his first tournament. Perhaps Graeme McDonald will go on to win a whole bunch more tournaments before all is said and done.
So to address this, I compared Woods and Nicklaus at similar points in their careers. There have been 55 majors starting with Woods's victory at Augusta in 1997. So I've compared them to the 55 majors for Nicklaus beginning with his U.S. Open victory in 1962, again counting only 2 for the majors where Jack or Tiger won. I've also limited the # of career wins from the Nicklaus eras to those won prior to 1976. That means, for example, that Tom Watson and Ray Floyd are only credited with 1 career major. These results still suggest stiffer competition for Nicklaus - other major winners had a combined 135 career major wins by 1975, while Tiger's only had 79. By the way, through this period The Golden Bear had 14 major wins - the same as Woods.