How the golf world looked when England last won a MajorJune, 2013
Things were a little different in the world of golf when Nick Faldo last slipped on the green jacket 17 years ago...
John Major was Prime Minister, football was yet to come home for the European Championships and another ‘Tiger’ was about to begin a decade of disappointment on the lawns of Wimbledon. Here’s how things stood in the world of golf when England last had a Major champion:
The world’s top 10 back in April 1996:
1. Greg Norman
2. Tom Lehman
3. Colin Montgomerie
4. Ernie Els
5. Fred Couples
6. Nick Faldo
7. Phil Mickelson
8. Masashi Ozaki
9. Davis Love III
10. Mark O’Meara
A notable absence from the above list is a 20-year-old Tiger Woods, who would turn pro later on in the year after securing a third consecutive US Amateur Championship. He would end 1996 ranked at number 33 in the world.
As a result, the first Tiger Woods video game was another six years away. Youngsters hoping to emulate Faldo’s Masters triumph would have to do so on the St Andrews Old Course Golf game on their original PlayStations.
One such youngster might well have been Rory McIlroy, who had just become the youngest member at local club Holywood at the tender age of seven.
Ryder Cup team mate Lee Westwood, having turned professional in 1993, was just about to claim his first professional title at the Scandinavian Masters.
Europe were reigning Ryder Cup champions, having won from behind at Oak Hill Country Club in America in 1995. Irish rookie Philip Walton sunk the winning putt.
There were also hopes of a new English star, as Warren Bladon won the 1996 Amateur Championship at Turnberry. He now works as a plumber and picture-framer.
John Major was Prime Minister, England were dreaming of victory at the upcoming European Championships and another ‘Tiger’ was wowing the British public.
Golf equipment in 1996
The advancements seen in golf club design year-on-year are astonishing.
The differences between clubs 17 years apart, then, are understandably gigantic.
If you were to delve inside the satchel of a 1996 golfer, you would most likely find some of the following:
Lots of steel shafts
Although first released in the 1970s, graphite shafts still weren’t properly trusted by the masses. A lot of Tour professionals, including Tiger Woods, insisted on using steel in all their clubs.
Loads of long irons
The majority of modern beginner iron sets start from a 5-iron. Seventeen years ago, most package sets came with 2-irons as standard, and some even contained 1-irons. For example, Callaway’s 1996 Big Bertha set had 1, 2 and 3-irons and was aimed at beginners.
In the modern quest for distance, manufacturers have reduced loft on clubs to make customers think they are gaining distance. Indeed, if you compare Callaway’s 1996 Big Bertha with their modern equivalent – the X Hot – there’s a big difference. The Big Berthas had a wedge of 46.5Ëš and a 6-iron of 29Ëš. The Callaway X Hot, which came out this year, has 44Ëš on its wedge and 26Ëš on its 6-iron.
While iron loft has decreased, shaft length has increased. This is again part of the quest for distance. A look back at the Callaway irons from 1996 and 2013 shows that, on average, today’s irons are 0.75″ longer.
Not much titanium
Look at any decent driver currently on the market and you’ll find a titanium head. It wasn’t the same back in 1996. In fact, titanium was only found on the most expensive drivers.
TaylorMade launched the innovative Rescue Mid – the club that inspired today’s hybrids – in 2003. So, Faldo’s 1996 Masters win came a full seven years before these long-iron replacements that have revolutionised the game.
No Nike Golf
When Nike signed Tiger Woods to a five-year deal in 1996, their golf department didn’t exist. It wasn’t until 2000 that they expanded into balls and began growing from there.