Top 10 Players Without a Major
How hard can it be to fill out a top 10 list? When it comes to ranking the Best Players Without a Major, it's never been harder.
Rory McIlroy's PGA Championship ended a streak in which 16 straight major championships were won by 16 different players. Twelve of those, by the way, were first-time major-winners. The last time golf enjoyed such a depth of major champions was probably 1998, when Mark O'Meara won the British Open a few months after the Masters and ended a run of 15 different major winners in a row.
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In short, we have very few truly needy major-seeking golfers. Almost everybody who should have won a major championship by now has won one.
Almost. But not quite. So here are my rankings. This is not a career achievement list -- sorry, Monty. This is a look at who has played the best over the last year or so among those players who haven't won majors (world ranking in parentheses).
1. Luke Donald (2). During the long reign of Tiger Woods at No. 1, we never thought Donald would be one of his replacements, but he was. His year tailed off a bit after he won a playoff at Innisbrook in March. He hopes surgery will correct his sinus issues, but no matter what, he should continue his reign as golf's Mr. Consistent. Merion and Muirfield, two shortish courses where the premium is on accuracy and strategy, should be great chances for him to break through in 2013.
2. Lee Westwood (6). The clock is ticking on England's Westwood, who turns 40 next April. He was third at the Masters last year and 10th at the U.S. Open after a disappointing final-round 73. He keeps giving himself chances in majors, which is good, but he keeps coming up short, which is frustrating. His short game isn't always his friend, especially on Sundays in majors. Maybe his move to Florida, where he can practice year-round, will be the missing piece of the puzzle. But don't dawdle, man.
3. Justin Rose (4). What is this, the All-English Top 10? Yet another Englishman is knocking on the door. Rose, 32, seems to have finally come into his own the last few seasons. He stepped up and won at Doral, a World Golf Championship event. He was third at the McIlroy's runaway PGA last year and eighth at the Masters. He has a history of being among the first- and second-round leaders at some majors, but seldom has he had a chance to win on the back nine Sunday. It'll be interesting to see if he can take that last step.
4. Adam Scott (7). Scott has become a regular contender in majors. In 2011, he was among the posse that Charl Schwartzel zipped past with four closing birdies to swipe the Masters. This year, he held the British Open in his hands until stumbling on the final holes and losing to Ernie Els. His putting isn't great even with a long-shafted model, which will be banned in 2016. So the question remains: Can he make enough putts to claim a major? He was awfully close this year.
5. Steve Stricker (16). You wouldn't necessarily expect a player who will turn 46 in February to be on this list, but his career has defied most conventional logic already. He has played his best golf in his 40s and has been in the mix on Sunday in some majors, though he hasn't been able to stay there for long. A big concern is his putter, which became less magical last year. He was 67th in the Strokes Gained-Putting category, which is not what you would expect from a man who was considered the tour's best putter a year earlier.
6. Ian Poulter (13). Would you believe that Poulter, the Englishman who was the star of this year's Ryder Cup, has never won a full-field, stroke-play PGA Tour event? His two wins came in WGC events, the World Match Play (64 players) and the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, with only a slightly bigger field. He's a clutch putter with a great short game, and he has had the occasional brush in a major. He was runner-up to Padraig Harrington at the 2008 British Open, but he has enjoyed few chances on the final nine of majors on Sunday.
7. Brandt Snedeker (9). This was the year we started taking Snedeker more seriously as a major candidate. He won the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup along with it, and hung in there at the British Open better than expected. He may have replaced Stricker as the game's best putter. Does he have the killer instinct to take a major? After the Tour Championship, it seems like the answer is yes. At 32, he's in the prime of his career.
8. Jason Dufner (8). If Keegan Bradley hadn't gone off on the closing holes, Dufner might already have claimed his major at the PGA in Atlanta in 2011. Fellow pros are enamored of his swing and his consistent ball-striking. He impressed at the Ryder Cup, too, with clutch shots. The Duf wears a who-cares look of ambivalence, like this winning thing is easy, but he's an intense competitor. He was fourth at the U.S. Open, which would seem to be the major he's most likely to win first. Hogan and Mickelson didn't win their first majors until they were 34. Dufner will be 36 next spring.
9. Dustin Johnson (21). The big-hitter from South Carolina fumbled a pair of chances early in his career. He had the final-round meltdown at Pebble Beach in the 2010 U.S. Open and the bunker incident in the 2010 PGA at Whistling Straits. He made a run at Darren Clarke in the 2011 British Open, too, but blew a 2-iron shot out of bounds on the final nine. It's a great sign that he's already nearly won three different majors, but winning isn't about how far you hit it, it's about getting the ball in the hole. That's where he has to continue to improve.
10. Sergio Garcia (22). It was nice that Garcia rediscovered his game the last two years, winning a pair of minor European tour events in the fall of '11 and then the Wyndham Championship this summer. He's getting better and more confident with the claw putting grip, and he's included on this list for his improved form and his career achievements. There still seems to be something missing, though, in his confidence and/or his enthusiasm. Still, he'll turn a mere 33 next month, so he has plenty of time.