Mark O’Meara did not win any of his first 57 majors. He then won two out of the next three. After victory in the 1998 Masters, O’Meara also won The Open at Royal Birkdale to become, at the age of 41, the oldest winner of multiple majors in the same year.
His late surge, after 17 years as a professional, was doubtless sparked by practising alongside a new neighbour at Isleworth in Orlando.
He had taken under his wing the game’s hottest new star, Tiger Woods, and playing with his young protégé, winner of the 1997 Masters by no less than 12 strokes, had a beneficial effect on the older man’s game.
“Tiger’s rejuvenated me,” O’Meara said. “He has been a driving force. I look at Tiger’s talent and his technique and his swing and I think he is a better player than I am. That motivated me. He keeps telling my friends, ‘You know Mark can really play and he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves.”
O’Meara birdied the last two holes to win at Augusta and then beat Brian Watts in a play-off at Royal Birkdale, where Woods had finished one stroke behind.
The pair returned to Britain later in the year when O’Meara beat Tiger in the final of the World Match Play at Wentworth. He reached No 2 in the world and was a five-time Ryder Cup player.
At the 2013 Open at Muirfield, O’Meara, then 56, was lying second after the first round and said: “I take tremendous pride in the fact that’s I’ve won The Open, because it is the Championship. Links golf is a little different.
“It is not about power, it is about creativity, shot process, thinking about where you need to land the ball. Links golf is so much more enjoyable and what golf should be like.”