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Ten best players without a major title

Steve Stricker, Best Without
Kohjiro Kinno/SI
Steve Stricker has won four of his last 15 tournaments.

Based on Steve Stricker's performance last weekend at Riviera Country Club — his fourth win in 15 starts — and the fact that he has moved up to second in the Official World Golf Rankings, Stricker now deserves to move up in another ranking: He is now the unofficial Best Player Who Hasn't Won a Major... Yet.

When we last updated these rankings in August 2009, Kenny Perry was the No. 1 major-less best player. With Stricker's stretch of good play, plus the rise of several young players like Martin Kaymer, this felt like a good time to revise the list.

As always, these rankings are meant to be complimentary. They are a compilation of the players who haven't won major championships (yet) and a ranking of who is currently playing the best among those players. Here's how the new list looks:

1. Steve Stricker
No. 5 on the 2009 list
World Ranking: 2
Wins: 8
Stricker is the hottest golfer on the planet and making it look easy. He ranks among the best wedge players and putters and, in fact, led the Tour in putts per green hit in regulation last year. That stat is a combination of excellent putting and good iron play. Stricker also ranked ninth in average distance from the hole after his approach shot. His game is solid and he's gotten better at finishing. Last year at Riviera, Stricker faltered ever so slightly at the end and was edged by Phil Mickelson. This year, in a similar spot against Luke Donald, Stricker finished strong and won.
Most Likely Major Breakthrough: 2010 U.S. Open, Pebble Beach

2. Lee Westwood
No 4 of 2009 list
World Ranking: 4
Wins: 21
Like Stricker, Westwood has played consistently well for an extended period. He won twice on the European Tour last year, including the Dubai World Championship in November, was third at Qatar and second last week in Dubai again. He's also been lurking in several recent majors, including third-place finishes at last year's PGA Championship and British Open and the 2008 U.S. Open. Westwood drives it well and is an excellent iron player.
Most Likely Breakthrough: 2010 PGA Championship, Whistling Straits

3. Martin Kaymer
No. 7 on 2009 list
World Ranking: 6
Wins: 5
The young German won twice on the European Tour in 2008 and 2009 and won this year's Abu Dhabi Championship. He's long off the tee and strong on the greens. Just watch the Golf Channel on weekend mornings and you'll see this guy hit the cup with more putts from outside 30 feet than anybody. He tied for sixth at last year's PGA Championship and hasn't had much experience in majors yet. With apologies to the others, he and McIlroy look like the soon-to-be class of the European tour.
Most Likely Breakthrough: 2011 Masters

4. Kenny Perry
No. 1 on 2009 list
World Ranking: 13
Wins: 14
Perry racked up another good season in 2009 — what's going on with these guys playing their best golf in their 40s? Perry won twice, in Hartford and in Phoenix, and appeared to have won the Masters before he finished bogey-bogey, then lost in a heartbreaking playoff. He's an admitted streaky player, but when he's on, he's all the way on. He drives it fairly long and reasonably straight and can get hot with the putter. Pretty good for a guy pushing 50. No, very, very good.
Most Likely Breakthrough: 2009 Masters (Dang, what might have been)

5. Rory McIlroy
No. 10 on 2009 list
World Ranking: 7
Wins: 1
Maybe you think this 20-year-old from Northern Ireland has been overhyped. It's possible, but watching him play says otherwise. McIlroy is a natural talent and he plays a mature game. On his first trip around the majors last year, he was 20th at the Masters, 10th at the U.S. Open and third at the PGA. He won in Dubai last year and had 11 other top-10 finishes. Once he gets a little more polish and experience, his potential is unlimited. Geoff Ogilvy described him last year as a future No. 2 in the world-type player.
Most Likely Breakthrough: 2011 British Open, Royal St. George's

6. Sergio Garcia
No. 3 on 2009 list
World Ranking: 15
Wins: 18
The mighty have fallen. Garcia was No. 1 in this ranking for some time but his game has slipped since losing the 2008 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills to Padraig Harrington. The putter has been a problem for Garcia, and that's a problem that typically works back through every club in the bag and, eventually, into the player's head. Garcia has taken some steps forward and some steps back. A down year like 2009 may prove to be good for him in the long run. Every great player needs some re-invigoration now and then, in other words, he might have needed a kick in the pants. Expect Garcia to come back strong sooner or later.
Most Likely Breakthrough: 2010 British Open, St. Andrews

7. Henrik Stenson
No. 6 on 2009 list
World Ranking: 9
Wins: 8
Though he hasn't won in Europe since 2007, the lanky Swede bounced back strong last year. He won the Players with a dominating final-round 66 and played solid golf in the majors: ninth at the U.S. Open, 13th at the British Open, and sixth at the PGA. Stenson has a knack for looking like a world-beater when he plays well, like when he won the World Match Play Championship. Despite his good play last year, he got more headlines for undressing to play a shot from a hazard at Doral, a fact that no doubt amused his offbeat sense of humor.
Most Likely Breakthrough: 2011 U.S Open, Congressional

8. Paul Casey
No. 2 on 2009 list
World Ranking: 8
Wins: 11
Casey is a hard player to get a handle on. He's had flashes of brilliance at a few majors. Remember that 65 he shot at Oakmont in the '07 U.S. Open? Or at the '08 Masters, when he was seven under par through three rounds and in serious contention and closed with a horrid 79? He got nosed out at last year's World Match Play Championship by his buddy Geoff Ogilvy, then bounced back to win the Shell Houston Open. He's got game, he's got length and he's golf-smart. A rib injury shelved him late last year but he seems OK now.
Most Likely Breakthrough: 2011 PGA Championship, Atlanta Athletic Club

9. Ian Poulter
Not ranked on 2009 list
World Ranking: 11
Wins: 9
Poulter won in Singapore last year, his first victory since 2006. He's gotten a lot of mileage out of some close calls — being runner-up to Padraig Harrington at the British Open and runner-up last year to Stenson at the Players. He's also milked his Ryder Cup performance for all its worth. Poulter has never won in the U.S. and to be honest, doesn't seem like he ought to be ranked as high as 11th based on his record. That said, Poulter has grit, he's colorful, fans like him and he's a smart interview. It would be good for golf is he had more high finishes.
Most Likely Breakthrough: 2011 British Open, Royal St. George's

10. Anthony Kim
Not ranked on 2009 list
World Ranking: 27
Wins: 2
It remains to be seen whether Kim really gets what it takes to be hugely successful. He talked a good game in 2008 about dedicating himself to practice and cutting down on partying, but he didn't appear to walk the walk in 2009. He isn't helping his game by chasing appearance fees around the world, not that you can blame him for that. He played well only a few weeks last year and seems pretty far removed from the brash young talent that won twice in '08. With luck, the '09 letdown was a slap in the face that got his attention.
Most Likely Breakthrough: 2012 Masters

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