HAVEN, Wis.—It is obvious that golf is transitioning into a different time. The Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson Era is near the end of the road.
We have new stars like Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and others to replace them.
What this means, though, is that the list of Best Golfers Who Haven’t Won a Major Yet has been shot all to hell. Golf enjoyed a nice five-year run of first-time major-winners from 2009 through 2013—15 of 20 major champions during that stretch were first-timers.
In 2014, we had no first-time major-winners and this year, we’ve had only Jordan Spieth, who won a pair. A better list now would be the Best Golfers Who Won Only One Major, indicating who didn’t validate their victory. Let’s save that for another time.
The point is, there aren’t a lot of players right now where you consider the injustice of them not having won a major. It is not that easy to even come up with ten players to put on this list. Most of the players who need to win a major, or should win a major, have one.
The PGA Championship here is the last chance this year for everybody on the list. And by the way, this is a ranking of the best major-less players based on their form this year. It’s not a lifetime achievement award. Therefore, there is no Monty (Colin Montgomerie) while Lee Westwood has slipped in the rankings as his play has slipped. This ranking is based on play this season and a player’s relevance in golf.
1. Dustin Johnson
This guy has let four major championships slip through his fingers, from the Pebble Beach meltdown to the Whistling Straits bunker incident to the British Open 2-iron out of bounds to the Chambers Bay putting mishap. Factor in the weekend disaster that was St. Andrews this summer and hey, it’s not farfetched to say that he could be sitting with five major titles right now. Instead, he’s got zero and the scars to prove it.
2. Jason Day
The Aussie has worked himself into the mix in a few majors, bravely playing through a vertigo bout at Chambers Bay, but he hasn’t given away any titles. He’s got game, no doubt about. Can his putter get it done on the back nine on Sunday?
3. Sergio Garcia
After a series of close calls, Sergio felt like the gods of golf were conspiring him. He’s still trying to get his mind right. The better news is, his putting using the claw grip has continued to improve. He can still win his way off this list.
4. Henrik Stenson
There aren’t many (maybe any) better ballstrikers on the European Tour than this Swede. His clutch putting can be iffy—see Valhalla last year—but he’s a guy to watch.
5. Jimmy Walker
A late bloomer, Walker tends to start the season fast and then level out. He hasn’t busted out in a major yet but then, he hasn’t played all that many majors in his career—the PGA is his 13th.
6. Hideki Matsuyama
He appears to have a complete game and he’s got surprising power. His putting stroke looks solid, too. He has had three top-tens in majors. If you’re going to bet on who will be the first Japanese major-winner, Hideki is your guy.
7. Brandt Snedeker
He had a few chances early on in his career, at the Masters and a British Open, and has four top-10 finishes in the last four years. You hang around the top 10 long enough, you usually wind up winning a major that somebody else fumbles at the goal line.
8. Matt Kuchar
The man known as Kooch is slow and steady good, consistent when he plays his best golf. He racks up top-20 finishes like it’s easy. He hasn’t had that spectacular week in a major yet, although he had a chance at the 2012 Masters after he eagled the 15th on Sunday. He finished third then. He hasn’t cracked the top 10 in a major since he was fifth at the 2014 Masters.
9. Lee Westwood
He had a short run at No. 1 in the world rankings and has been a good player for a long time. He’s 42 now, moved to Florida to try to improve his game and hasn’t gotten the boost he was hoping for. Westwood’s last PGA Tour win came in 2010. He has finished third or better in all four majors but didn’t crack the top 45 in this year’s first three majors.
10. Patrick Reed
Yeah, I’m running out of guys to throw on this list. Reed has cooled since winning the small-field Hyundai Tournament of Champions to start this season. He finished 22nd, 14th and 20th in the first three majors this year and has played in only seven in his career. He’s got promise and four PGA Tour wins but it’s been a quiet summer for him.