Two months ago, I was asked to do a piece on the best players of all-time who never won a major.
It required no small amount of research and I concluded that No. 1 on the all-time list was Colin Montgomerie. I also concluded that pretty much everyone who should’ve won a major did. You can debate the merits of Monty, Europe’s finest player for a decade. The point is the story was a long run for a short slide.
If you were a great player, you won a major. If you weren’t, you didn’t. End of story.
I’d say the same thing now for the list of current best players who haven’t won majors. I was thinking about updating that list, since those rankings got jumbled with the departure of Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Jason Dufner from the ranks of the un-majorly. Upon further review, who’s left among the major-less that would truly be shocking if he never won a major?
Lee Westwood is 40 and he’s had a very nice career, though less spectacular than Monty’s. And yes, he’s had quite a few close calls in majors. His ballstriking is major-worthy, but his short game has come up, well, short. He’d be a terrific story if he wins a major but I don’t know too many players who start making more putts after the age of 40.
Luke Donald, like Westwood, had a brief reign as the No. 1 ranked player in the world. He’ll be 36 next month and oddly, despite that No. 1 title, he has never been a prolific winner — five U.S. titles, six in Europe. He’s a nice player, a determined player, but he’s not a can’t-miss major champion.
Dustin Johnson just notched his eighth PGA Tour victory and has botched a couple of chances to win majors, notably that PGA at Whistling Straits when he didn’t know a bunker was a bunker. He’s 29, he’s got the power game that we all drool over, and he’s got a lot of potential. Winning golf, though, is all about scoring, and that’s all about putting and par saves — not necessarily D.J.’s strength.
Steve Stricker? He’s 46. If he were going to win a major, he probably would’ve done it by now, although if he does pull it off after all these years it would be a hugely, hugely popular win.
The rest of the list is made up of guys who could win majors but aren’t players that you absolutely expect to do it. Henrik Stenson. Matt Kuchar. Brandt Snedeker. Ian Poulter. Sergio Garcia. Jason Day. Jordan Spieth.
Let’s face it: If you’re not capable of winning 12 or 15 tournaments in a career, you’re not a player we expect to win a major. Maybe these guys will do it, maybe they won’t. Great players win majors.
Right now, we’re in a place where a lot of major champions need to take it up a notch and get that second major title, proving they’re not one-hit wonders. Who’s the best player with only one major title? I’ll get to work on that list.
Meanwhile, the Van Cynical Mailbag:
Van Sickle, Why won’t the PGA direct some cash to minor tours? Dial [the WGCs] back to $7m and you have 4 new Web.com events. -kokomice via Twitter
It’s not the PGA Tour’s money, Koko, it’s the sponsors’. And they’re going to spend it on the big names, not the hard-working, up-and-coming and underpaid minor-leaguers. When you think about it from a different viewpoint, the PGA Tour has been able to keep finding replacements for 90-plus tournament sponsors on the PGA, Champions and Web.com tours. That’s not all bad.
Van Cynical, Saw you were at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for that long drive final. When was the last time you were at a racetrack for golf, or any other reason? -William via email
I don’t suppose covering the Olympics of Drag Racing at a drag strip in Wisconsin counts. I don’t think I’ve ever attended a motor-sports race at a track. I was brought in as the ace ringer a couple of times for a pre-Indy 500 golf pro-am. That course was right outside the Brickyard, and was subsequently redesigned so a couple of the holes are now in the infield. I didn’t do my job as the ringer and we didn’t contend in the scramble, although it didn’t help that each group drew an Indy driver for the team and both years our driver was pretty much a non-golfer.
Gary, What’s your favorite course in Scotland? -David M. via email
All of them. It’s easy to go for the obvious ones, and you’d never be unhappy playing the Old Course, Crail, Turnberry or North Berwick, to name just a few. Dunbar and Gullane are two more that I would dearly love to revisit. Two relics off the beaten path, because they’re fun and not because they’re great, are Girvan and its front eight (that’s right, eight holes!) and Kinghorn, a crazy par-65 course in the middle of town with the strangest 18th hole in the world — its tee box is at the bottom of a stairway down in a crater.
Van Cynical, Have you played golf all your life? -Dennis via email