It’s time again to talk about the best player without a major


Let the 19th hole chatter begin.

Seven major championships will be conducted in the next 11 months, barring further postponements due to COVID-19. The major stretch begins this week with the first major of 2020, the tournament formerly known as “Glory’s Last Shot,” the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.

The abundant majors in such a short period of time provides ample opportunity for fans to debate who is the best player never to have won a major and deliberate over who will become the next player to win his first major.

The best player never to win a major has been a double-edged tag over the years, to some an annoying attachment next to their logoed wardrobe, to others a dose of praise despite not having a major triumph on the resume.

Curtis Strange heard about it before he won the U.S. Open in back-to-back years. Ben Crenshaw, Payne Stewart, Fred Couples, Tom Kite, Davis Love III and Adam Scott all got an earful before joining the major fraternity.

Phil Mickelson finally left the conversation when he leaped for joy in the 2004 Masters, snapping a frustrating 0-for-42 stretch as a pro. Sergio Garcia ended his 0-for-73 futility in majors at the 2017 Masters. Dustin Johnson’s name stopped coming up with his win in the 2016 U.S. Open, as did Henrik Stenson’s a month later at the Open Championship.

Recent play in the majors offers optimism for those looking to crack the major equation – 10 of the most recent 16 majors have been won by first-timers. Leading into the 102nd edition of the PGA Championship, with the massive Wanamaker Trophy awaiting the victor, here are 10 of the best players in the world who could break their major maiden at TPC Harding Park.

Honorable mention: Lee Westwood

Lee Westwood Photo by Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports

The Englishman and former world No. 1 would have been in the top 10 but elected to not travel to the United States out of concerns for COVID-19. Unknown if he’ll play in the U.S. Open next month or the Masters in November. The winner of 44 titles worldwide has 12 top-5 finishes in majors (including three runner-up finishes), the most of any player who hasn’t won a major.

10. Paul Casey

Paul-Casey Photo by Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports

The Englishman has 20 worldwide victories, has been superb in the Ryder Cup and has nine top-10s in majors. One of the best ball-strikers in the game and an excellent driver.

9. Hideki Matsuyama

Hideki Matsuyama Photo by Joseph Maiorana/USA TODAY Sports

The most prolific winner from Japan in the history of the PGA Tour with five titles (he’s won 14 times around the world) has finished in the top-10 in majors on seven occasions. But he hasn’t won since 2017, the last year he posted a top 10 in a major. He’s always battling his putter but is a supreme ball-striker and has plenty of power.

8. Patrick Cantlay

Patrick Cantlay Photo by Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

The two-time winner on the PGA Tour is one of six players in the top 15 of the official world golf rankings who has yet to win a major. He won the Memorial, which is always akin to a major championship test. His two top-10s in majors came in 2019 – he briefly led the Masters in the final round. Played very well in the Presidents Cup last year, as well. One of the longest accurate drivers in the game who is a solid iron player.

7. Tony Finau

Tony Finau Photo by David Berding/USA TODAY Sports

Yes, a guy who has one PGA Tour win – that coming in an opposite field event in 2016, no less – is among the best to never win a major. The man with uber talent who can hit the ball as far as anyone has 30 top-10s since he won the Puerto Rico Open. In the majors, five of his six top-10s have come in the last eight majors played. Gained a lot of experience and confidence playing in the final group on the final day of the 2019 Masters alongside Tiger Woods.

6. Matt Kuchar

Matt Kuchar Photo by Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

The winner of nine PGA Tour titles has won a World Golf Championships event, a Players Championship and the Memorial. Five of his 12 top-10s in majors have come since the start of 2017, including his runner-up finish to Jordan Spieth in the 2017 Open Championship. His best chance could come in the Masters, where he has four top-10s since 2012. Consistency is his trademark.

5. Tommy Fleetwood

Tommy Fleetwood Photo by Joe Rondone/Memphis Commercial-Appeal

Yes, a guy who hasn’t won on the PGA Tour is included. England’s star from the 2018 Ryder Cup has eight titles worldwide, including five on the European Tour. He’s been ranked in the top 15 for more than a year and he finished runner-up to Brooks Koepka in the 2018 U.S. Open and to Shane Lowry in the 2019 Open Championship. Also finished fourth in the 2017 U.S. Open. Plenty of firepower and moxie.

4. Rickie Fowler

Rickie Fowler Photo by Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

He’s been in the conversation of best player never to have won a major since 2014 when he joined Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth as the only players to finish in the top-5 in each of the four majors in one season. Has 11 top-10s in majors, including a tie for sixth in the 2019 Open Championship, the last major conducted. He’s won five times on the PGA Tour, including the 2015 Players Championships, and two times on the European Tour, but has been called an underachiever by many in golf’s circles. He’s struggled to work through swing changes he started making late last year and has fallen to No. 32 in the world rankings.

3. Bryson DeChambeau

Bryson DeChambeau Photo by Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports

The jury is still out on whether or not the bulked up Bison Bryson – he’s added close to 50 pounds of mass to his already large frame since last fall – can win with his newfound (and outrageous) power on the game’s toughest stages, where the fairways are tight, the rough is up and the greens are usually resembling small parking lots. At No. 7 in the world, he’s the highest-ranked player not to have won a major. A recent run of seven consecutive top-8 finishes included his sixth PGA Tour title at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July. But he missed the cut in the game’s toughest test since golf returned from a COVID-induced break at the U.S. Open-like setup at the Memorial. And in 12 majors since turning pro, he has yet to have a top 10, with a tie for 15th in the 2016 U.S. Open his best finish.

2. Xander Schauffele

Xander Schauffele Photo by Raymond Carlin III/USA TODAY Sports

While he hasn’t won in 19 months, he’s a big-time player on golf’s biggest stages. Three of his four PGA Tour titles came in the 2017 Tour Championship, the 2018 WGC-HSBC Champions and the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions. Was a stud in the 2019 Presidents Cup. He also lost in playoffs in the 2019 HSBC Champions and the 2020 Sentry Tournament of Champions. In the majors? He has five top-6 finishes in 11 starts, including four of the last seven played. He tied for second in the 2018 Open Championship, tied for second in the 2019 Masters and tied for third in the 2019 U.S. Open. He finds fairways, finds greens and quickly finds a way to get the ball in the hole. Great temperament, too.

1. Jon Rahm

Jon Rahm Photo by Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

In brutal U.S. Open-like conditions and facing one of the strongest fields in memory at this year’s Memorial, Rahm became the fifth youngest player to become No. 1 in the world with his win at Jack Nicklaus’s Dublin, Ohio, gem. It was his fourth PGA Tour title to go with six victories on the European Tour – all before turning 26. The Spaniard is a bull who doesn’t have a weakness in his game, or as Phil Mickelson said, is a great driver of the ball, has plenty of firepower, is a great iron player, strong putter, superb around the greens. Anger management issues have plagued him but he has gotten a better hold of his inner rage of late, though mini outbursts remain. Mickelson said it wouldn’t take long for Rahm to become a top-10 player after he turned pro in 2016 – and Rahm became just that in 2017. Now it seems it’s just a matter of time before he adds a major championship triumph to his already impressive resume.



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