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In the 17 majors since Woods won his last one at Torrey Pines in the 2008 U.S. Open, only four players with a share of the 54-hole lead have gone on to win a major _ Angel Cabrera at the 2009 Masters (tied for the lead), Louis Oosthuizen at the 2010 British Open (four-shot lead), Rory McIlroy at the 2011 U.S. Open (eight-shot lead) and Darren Clarke at the 2011 British Open (one-shot lead).

During the dominant era of Woods, dating to his 1999 PGA Championship win, 27 of 35 major champions started the final round atop the leaderboard.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, a cycle, like Europe once going seven years without a major.

“I don’t read anything into that,” said Strange, who made up a three-shot deficit against Tom Kite at Oak Hill in 1989 to win his second straight U.S. Open. “Golf is a game where you have no defense for their offense, except for playing better. Someone from behind can go out early and beat them all.”

Strange is among those who think Els never hit a shot on the back nine at Lytham when it occurred to him that he might win. Scott had been too solid, too steady, for too long. Els played freely, made putts, posted his 68 and won when Scott couldn’t buy a par.

Strange also doesn’t think Woods did anything wrong by sticking to his conservative game plan off the tee at Lytham despite trailing by five shots on the final day.

“I never changed a game plan,” Strange said. “My game dictated how I played a golf course. If I was five behind, I didn’t go out there and fire a 2-iron to the corner of greens. You play really well and the other guy has to falter. Can you shoot 61 or 62? At the U.S. Open or the British Open, no. At Hartford, yes. Didn’t that happen at Hartford?”

Yes.

Marc Leishman, six shots behind, closed with a 62 and finished more than two hours before the leaders. He discovered he won on the practice range.

It’s not just the majors. Across the PGA Tour, this has been the year of the comeback.

In the week leading up to the PGA Championship, only 10 players in 33 tournaments have converted a 54-hole lead (or share of the lead) into a victory. Snedeker came from seven shots behind at Torrey Pines and won a playoff over Kyle Stanley, who made triple bogey on his last hole. A week later, Stanley rallied from an eight-shot deficit in Phoenix with a 65, winning when Spencer Levin shot a 75. And that was just the beginning. The PGA Tour had nine consecutive tournaments, from the middle of May to the middle of July, when the winner won from behind.

“It’s parity in the game, guys being so tight up there on the leaderboard,” Hunter Mahan said. “It’s not one or two guys. It’s 10 guys within one or two shots of the lead. To do it four straight days against this competition is difficult. And it’s so easy to stop playing golf and start protecting a lead.”

Throw in those elements with what figures to be a mystery of a golf course at Kiawah Island, and there’s no telling what the PGA Championship might deliver.

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island hasn’t been on the golfing radar since the 1991 Ryder Cup, where there were plenty of leads blown in the matches. It has been softened around the edges over time, the scores will be dictated by the wind, as always.

Only a few players in the field have competed at Kiawah, such as Jose Maria Olazabal in the Ryder Cup, and Furyk and Padraig Harrington in the two World Cup events. Woods, McDowell, Scott and others have gone to The Ocean Course to get a feel for a course. With recent rain, it was playing every bit of its 7,776 yards, the longest ever for a major championship if it is played to its full length.

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