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Majors producing a variety of winner

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A peculiar piece of history will be on the line at the British Open.

U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson became the 15th player to win the last 15 majors, matching the longest such streak since the Masters began in 1934. There also were 15 consecutive different major champions from the 1994 through 1998.

There are a couple of similarities between the streaks. The first one started with the 1994 PGA Championship when Nick Price won his second straight major that year. The latest streak began with the 2008 PGA Championship when Padraig Harrington won his second straight major.

In both cases, the streak reached 15 different winners at The Olympic Club.

The first streak ended with Masters champion Mark O’Meara winning his second major of the year at the British Open, so maybe that bodes well for Bubba Watson.

More interesting, however, is that Simpson’s win made it nine straight first-time major champions. According to research specialist Tom Ierubino, the longest previous streak of first-time major winners was eight, from Steve Jones at the 1996 U.S. Open through O’Meara at the 1998 Masters.

Does this mean that the depth of talent is greater than ever? Possibly.

Then again, Tiger Woods probably has something to do with that. He won 12 out of 35 majors from the 1999 PGA Championship through the 2008 U.S. Open. And it would make sense that with Woods recovering from a myriad of issues _ plus the fact he’s getting older _ there is more opportunity for others.

There are plenty of turning points that kept alive the streak of 15 different winners. Louis Oosthuizen could have just as easily won the Masters this year. Woods gave up a Sunday lead for the first time at Hazeltine in 2009. Phil Mickelson had the look of a winner at Royal St. George’s last year until missing a 2-foot putt on the 11th hole.

The streak ends only if one of those 15 major champions _ Simpson, Watson, Keegan Bradley, Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy, Charl Schwartzel, Martin Kaymer, Oosthuizen, Graeme McDowell, Mickelson, Y.E. Yang, Stewart Cink, Lucas Glover, Angel Cabrera or Harrington _ wins next month at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

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CASEY RETURNS: Paul Casey, who had to withdraw from the U.S. Open because of an injury, returns this week in Germany for the BMW Championship. He can only hope he will be healthy enough the rest of the year to avoid being left off another Ryder Cup team.

“It was tough having to sit at home watching the U.S. Open on TV when you really want to be playing,” he said. “But doctors said my shoulder needed another week’s rest. I’ve been having the shoulder massaged but it’s meant also having to cut down my practice sessions.”

Casey, who dislocated his right shoulder while snowboarding over the holidays, ended last year at No. 20 in the world. He has slipped to No. 60. Worse yet, he is 30th on the European Ryder Cup world points list, and 56th on the list based on European Tour money.

Only 10 weeks remain to qualify for the team.

“This week will only be my sixth tour event this year, so in many ways, this week really now is the start of my season,” Casey said. “The shoulder injury has meant a lot of time away from the game. But I’m coming back, firmly believing that if I can get going I can still qualify and make the European team.

“It’s going to be a case of winning golf tournaments and that’s all I will focus on, and I refuse to focus on the alternative.”

The alternative would be the same one he had last week at the U.S. Open _ staying home to watch on television.

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SILVER MEDAL AND A FOOTNOTE: Michael Thompson had the lowest opening round (66) and closing round (67) at the U.S. Open. It was that 75-74 in the middle that cost him at The Olympic Club, although he did earn a footnote in history.

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