Best Players Never to Have Won a Major
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
The title used to belong Sergio Garcia but, after his stunning victory at The Masters in April he can no longer be described as 'the best golfer never to have won a major'. So who, among current players, do we now think should be saddled with the sobriquet?
There are several contenders and here we list 10 of them. Some are serial offenders, while others are men we do not expect to be on the list for terribly long.
1. Rickie Fowler
In 2014, Fowler finished fifth at The Masters, second at the US Open, second at The Open, and third at the PGA Championship. It came soon after he was voted as the most overrated player on the PGA Tour. The following year he played the final four holes in five under par at the Players Championship to force himself into a playoff, which he went on to win. And his game continues to go from strength to strength. To be honest, his record in the majors, apart from 2014, is poor, with only two other top-10 finishes. But he has now won four times on the PGA Tour and twice on the European Tour and goes from strength to strength. Best player not to have won a major? Fowler, without any shadow of a doubt.
2. Lee Westwood
Oh Lee, what can we say? The veteran Englishman has won all over the world, but that major victory eludes him and, sadly, the chances of him ever being able to change the situation look increasingly slim, especially as he is surely destined to continue his slide down the world rankings - and if you are not in the top 50 then you can't play in majors. He has 42 victories to his credit and in his 76 major appearances he has been a runner-up three times, finished third six times and finished in the top 10 on EIGHTEEN occasions. He hasn’t missed a cut in a major since the 2014 Open Championship, and finished second in The Masters in 2016, when Danny Willett won.
3. Hideki Matsuyama
It is surely only a matter of time before Matsuyama sets the record straight and lands a major. He has won four times on the PGA Tour and, crucially, seems to contend almost every week. The more challenging the course, the better he seems to play. The whole of Japan waits with baited breath for him to make the breakthrough, and it will surely come. He has only played in 18 majors but already has five top-10 finishes to his credit. He couldn't possibly become another Westwood. Could he?
4. Matt Kuchar
Is there a more consistent performer? Kuchar is a money-making machine who has won some big tournaments, including the Players Championship in 2012 and the WGC World Matchplay in 2013, both from world-class fields. He does not hit the ball terribly far and would be the first to admit that he is not the greatest putter the game has ever seen but boy does he get the job done. He has eight top-10 finishes in the majors, which kind of sums up his career to date. But nobody would be surprised to see him cross the line at some stage.
5. Justin Thomas
It may seem unfair to include a player in this list who is only 24 years old, but Thomas is a very special talent, as he has demonstrated by winning four times, including three from October 2016 to January 2017. He hits the ball a mile and has every shot in the book within his armoury. Thomas is also a wondrous putter and has a glorious touch around the greens. He has only played in seven majors but his record in those tournaments is abysmal, with a best finish of tied 18th at the 2015 US PGA.
6. Brandt Snedeker
Snedeker is a class act who has won the Tour Championship and the Farmers Insurance Open, which is played at the notoriously tricky Torrey Pines. You might be surprised to learn that he has eight PGA Tour wins to his name, and nobody achieves that without being able to play the game. Refreshingly, he also likes to get on with it, and is one of the quickest players in top-level professional golf. And he can putt. He can putt really well. He finished third in The Masters back in 2008 and again at The Open in 2012. He is also a terrific competitor who loves to play tough golf courses. It would be a crying shame if he were to finish his career without winning one of his sport's four biggest prizes.
7. Branden Grace
Grace is a beautiful ball striker blessed with a wonderful temperament. In six years as a professional, he has already won 11 times, which is impressive by anybody's standards. He has also won on the PGA Tour, taking the 2016 RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links, rated as one of the most difficult courses in the world. Sadly, he has one big weakness - you might even describe it as a major weakness. Grace possesses a suspect putting stroke. But it hasn't prevented him from enjoying two top-five finishes in the US Open and another two at the US PGA Championship. He will surely win The Open at some point but it will be despite his putting stroke, rather than because of it.
8. Alex Noren
Noren truly arrived last year, winning not once, not twice, not three times but on four occasions on the European Tour. It was a phenomenal performance, but it should have surprised nobody. The Swede has always been a superb player, capable of low scoring on the toughest courses, but has suffered with injury. He missed most of 2014 because of tendonitis in both wrists. It might have finished lesser players. Not Noren. He returned in 2015 and won the Nordea Masters in Sweden. And then came his astonishing 2016. His best performance in a major is his tie for ninth at The Open in 2012. But that will surely change.
9. Jon Rahm
There is one guarantee - the young Spaniard will not be on this list for long. He was the world's top-ranked amateur for more than a year and was the low amateur at last year's US Open. Prior to that tournament he was ranked 551st in the world - now he is just outside the top 10. He turned professional and promptly qualified to play at The Open at Royal Troon after finishing third at the Quicken Loans National, his first tournament as a professional. He then came within a whisker of winning the Canadian Open, promptly gaining his Tour card. And he has gone from strength to strength since then. He has played in two WGC events, finishing third and second, and won his first PGA Tour event, the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. Rahm has played in three majors and made the cut every time. Like we say, he will not be on this list for long.
10. Paul Casey
The Englishman is a mercurial talent, capable of producing some incredibly low scoring. He has also become a beautifully consistent golfer, but he does not win often enough, so it should be little surprise that he has failed to win a major. In saying that, he has had his chances, most notably at The Masters and The Open. He has only won once on the PGA Tour, in 2009, when he also reached number three in the world rankings, but he has won 13 times on the European Tour. Has finished in the top 10 at The Masters on five occasions, including this year, when he was sixth, and could have won The Open at St .Andrews in 2010, when he eventually finished third. Many knowing sages question his hunger. When you can earn in excess of $3m in a season without winning, perhaps there is no real incentive to try harder.
Best Player Never to Have Won the US Open...
In a category of one, that would be Phil Mickelson. Lefty has won everything else there is to win in the game but has finished second in his national Open on a mind-boggling six occasions - 1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2013. His most famous meltdown came at Winged Foot in 2006. He had already bogeyed the 16th and got away with a miraculous par at the 17th after driving his ball into a rubbish bin. Needing a par on the 18th hole for a one-shot victory, Mickelson hit a driver off the tee; he hit his shot well left of the fairway (he had only hit two of 13 fairways all day). The ball bounced off a corporate hospitality tent and settled in an area of trampled-down grass that was surrounded by trees. He decided to go for the green with his second shot, rather than play it safe and pitch out into the fairway. His ball then hit a tree, and did not advance more than 50 yards. His next shot plugged into the left greenside bunker. He was unable to get up and down from there, resulting in a double bogey, and costing him a chance of winning the championship outright or getting into a playoff with Geoff Ogilvy. Ironically, he shared second place with Colin Montgomerie, who also took six on the hole. Monty is probably the greatest player of all time never to have won a major.
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