SPRINGFIELD, N.J.—There was a lot of rain Saturday at the PGA Championship. What golf really needs is a lot of reign.
The sport’s narrative works best when there’s a clear-cut top dog. Whether it’s Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson or Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones or a Big Three of Palmer-Player-Nicklaus. Even last year’s temporary Big Three of Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy infused the game with a tremendous shot of energy. The latter has not been quite the thrill as last year since none have tacked on another major.
Tiger spoiled us by playing for history, something we’re not likely to see in the next decade. Especially with this string of first-time major champions we’re experiencing—four in a row; 16 since 2009.
I have periodically ranked the Best Players Without a Major Yet based on their current levels of play. After Dustin Johnson won at Oakmont, there weren’t 10 strong candidates to put on the list.
Golf needs its one-hit wonders, the players who have won only one major, to start adding to their resumes and inject a little more historic significance into events. Players like Darren Clarke, Lucas Glover, Michael Campbell, Shaun Micheel and Stewart Cink may have to be satisfied with one major, not that there’s anything wrong with that: One is a big achievement.
But golfers with Hall of Fame aspirations need more than one major. Multiple majors make the game more compelling.
Here’s a look at some one-win wonders who could add to their list.
1. Henrik Stenson. This 40-year-old just snagged the British Open title with a closing 63, and he’s among the top contenders at Baltusrol. A second straight major title might be all he needs for the Hall of Fame, given his list of wins that includes the Race to Dubai and the FedEx Cup in the same year, a unique achievement. At 40, how high can the Swede really climb on the all-time major victory ladder? After Royal Troon, I’m not ready to set any limits.
2. Adam Scott. It was a big deal for Australia when Scott became the first Aussie to finally win the Masters. How many TV talking heads predicted the floodgates would open for him, major-wise, after that? It didn’t happen, and then the anchored putting ban came along. He still won twice early this year and swings it great. Scott is 36. Is he really going to finish his career with only one major title? Say it ain’t so…
3. Dustin Johnson. Now that DJ has won the U.S. Open, all of his previous near-misses in majors are seen as positives instead of the negative he-can’t-close light they were seen in before. There is no doubt that he’ll win more majors, maybe many more. He is 32, and his fearless attitude and unlimited power makes him likely to win more majors than Spieth (two); Day (one) or McIlroy (four). This could make for an interesting race. Lucky us.
4. Jason Day. Last year, Day’s length, stellar short game and putting seemed to vault him ahead of McIlroy and Spieth as far as whose best game was the best. Now with DJ in the mix, it’s all being reconsidered. There is no way Day doesn’t win multiple majors, too, and with him and Johnson competing, it’s going to be that much tougher for Rory and Jordan to add to their collections.
5. Jason Dufner. The Duff was a late bloomer but a terrific ballstriker. After he won a PGA at Oak Hill, personal issues negatively affected his play, and he looked pretty vulnerable with the putter at times. He’s 39, so time isn’t on his side.
6. Danny Willett. Your reigning Masters champion is a solid player. He hits it straight, putts pretty well and is the kind of pesky player who has the potential to get into major contention on a regular basis. That said, Spieth should’ve won the Masters in April. But Willett could follow in Nick Faldo’s footsteps. Faldo, an exceptional technician, racked up six major titles, and many of them came from putting himself into position and picking up the trophy when somebody else lost it.
7. Justin Rose. The Englishman outdueled Phil Mickelson at Merion in 2013 and, again, it was predicted that the gates would open for him. His best golf is very good, but he doesn’t have the length of the big hitters or the consistent putting of, say, Spieth and Day. Rose just turned 36 Saturday—happy birthday! He has posted a lot of low scores in early rounds of majors. I like his chances for a second win.
8. Webb Simpson. The anchored ban threw a wrench into the 2012 U.S. Open champ’s chances. He seems to be dealing with that situation, however, but he survived the Olympic Club more than anything. Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell probably both feel as if they, not Simpson, should have won. He seems like a good player who was in the right place at the right time and came through.
9. Graeme McDowell. The Northern Irishman known as G-Mac has managed only two wins in the U.S. and two victories in Europe since he won the 2010 Pebble Beach U.S. Open. He has gotten more involved in business interests and admittedly refocused on his game last year to get back to being a major contender. He turned 37 Saturday—There’s still time!
11. Louis Oosthuizen. The South African won in a runaway at St. Andrews in 2010. He suffered a near-miss at the Masters the year he made a double eagle at the par-5 second hole in the final round, eventually losing to Bubba Watson in a playoff. He’s got a pretty swing, and he seems cool under pressure. He won six European Tour titles after his big week at St. Andrews, but hasn’t won in the U.S. He’s only 33, however, and has another decade of prime years ahead of him.
12. Charl Schwartzel. The man who won the Masters with birdies on the four closing holes was quiet and seemingly not ready for the global fame that comes with a green jacket. Like his countryman, Oosthuizen, he’s always had a swing to lust after and a can’t-miss label. He won early, too. It’s hard to believe he’s only 31. There should be more to come from him.