Ranking the top 10 majors of the last 20 years

Rory McIlroy was part of one of the best majors of the last 20 years. (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy was part of one of the best majors of the last 20 years. (Getty Images)

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After watching the end of the 2014 PGA Championship I knew some context was needed -- I knew I would need to look at the last few majors of a given period of time and see where this one fit in.

It's near the top, for sure, but how close to the top? And what period of time should I include? I thought about using my entire lifetime (essentially Jack Nicklaus' Masters win in 1986 and on) but I remember very few of those late 1980s and early 1990s majors.

So I picked basically the Tiger Woods Era. From 1995 to now, or the last 20 years -- 80 majors worth of golf. 

I ranked these based on how memorable they were, how grand the champion was (sorry, Shaun Micheel), how great the finishes were, how compelling the leaderboard was, and the simple (yet strong) question of whether or not I would tell my kids about them 10 or 20 years from now.

This gets complex because, for example, I think the 2011 Masters was probably better from a competition standpoint than the 2010 Masters but I ranked the 2010 Masters higher simply because its champion (Phil Mickelson) is a more historic figure than the 2011 champ (Charl Schwartzel). 

I dont' know if that's the right way to do it and I'm sure there will be qualms with the list but I gave it my best shot.

In reverse order:

Honorable mention: 1995 Masters, 1995 British Open, 1996 Masters, 1999 British Open, 2000 British Open, 2001 Masters, 2011 Masters, 2013 US Open, 2013 Masters.

10. 2013 British Open: I'm biased, probably, but that Sunday leaderboard included the following names:

Adam Scott
Tiger Woods
Henrik Stenson
Ian Poulter
Lee Westwood
Zach Johnson
Hunter Mahan

And Phil Mickelson probably shot one of the 10 greatest final rounds in a major ever to win his first British Open. It gets severely docked because there was zero drama over the last hour, but it was still terrific. 

9. 2000 US Open: Tiger Woods by one over Miguel Angel Jimenez. Oh wait, that was after the first round. Tiger Woods by six over Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thomas Bjorn. Oh wait, that was after the second round.

Tiger Woods by 10 over Ernie Els. Oh wait, that was after the third round. Tiger Woods by 15 over Miguel Angel Jimenez and Ernie Els. Fifteen!

8. 2010 Masters: I was at this one and it was incredible. The roar on No. 7 after Tiger made eagle to draw within five of Westwood was as loud as I've ever heard Augusta (Woods made two eagles that day). Then Mickelson came home with a 32 including that joke of a shot on No. 13 to beat Westwood.

A wonderful show.

7. 1999 PGA Championship: Sergio Garcia hit this unbelievable shot and stared down Tiger Woods on a Sunday in his primed before getting ransacked coming home. Twitter would be no more if this happened in 2014.

6. 1997 Masters: How many majors can say they changed the trajectory of the sport itself? This one can. It wasn't dramatic or close or maybe even that fun. But it was sure as hell historic.

5. 2004 Masters: I'd forgotten this but preceding his four-inch leap on No. 18 Phil Mickelson birdied four of the six holes before that (and five of seven after the putt on No. 18) to beat Ernie Els by one for his first major. He shot a 31 on the second nine at Augusta to win his first of three green jackets. A 31!

Els had a three-stroke lead after eagling 13, parred in, and lost.

4. 2014 PGA Championship: It's difficult to turn this one around so quickly and figure out where it fits into the historical context of golf mostly because we don't totally know how great Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler are going to be. 

What if McIlroy wins 10 majors and Fowler wins four? Don't we look at this tournament differently in 15 years? Doesn't it climb the list the more those guys win? You could end up with something like 15 majors combined between Mickelson, McIlroy, and Fowler and all of a sudden this becomes one of the great majors ever, not just of the last 20 years.

It does get a deduction for a poor, bizarre finish. If Mickelson had holed that chip at No. 18 I might have slid it all the way to No. 1.

3. 1999 US Open: I have to admit Payne Stewart's untimely death probably propelled this one higher than it otherwise would have been. Still, everything that was going on between Stewart and Mickelson and Father's Day and Amy and Tiger was in it and it was at Pinehurst and....that putt.

Until Justin Rose is acting out putts from the 2014 PGA Championship 10 years from now then the 1999 US Open was better.

2. 2000 PGA Championship: I really struggled with pitting this one against the 2014 version. The 2014 leaderboard was vastly superior (in 1999 you had Bob May, Tiger, Thomas Bjorn, Sturat Appleby, and Greg Chalmers...not great!) but when Tiger goes 31 down the stretch and you get the hall-of-fame Tour Sauce moment of him running and pointing at his putt on No. 16, well, there were no chills-inducing moments of this magnitude at this year's PGA. 

There was a lot of breathtaking golf but there was nothing like this:

1. 2008 US Open: I'm not sure if or when this is getting topped. The second-greatest golfer in history on a broken leg dragging himself to his 14th major ever with a birdie finish on the 72nd hole to get into a playoff against a journeyman underdog.

My thoughts:

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CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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