Looking at the calendar and trying to ignore the snow here in upstate NY, I see there are only 15 weeks separating us from the first Major of 2013. And while it may be too early to cue the commercial in which we we hear Jim Nantz say "A tradition unlike any other---the Masters on CBS," it's never too early to talk about best players who have never won a major.
It's one of the great talking points in all of golf. Because whatever opinion you have, someone else can usually name another player who has better credentials. And in the dead of winter it is a great way to pass a night with your golfing buddies.
When I think about best players who have never won a major, four criteria come to my mind: longevity or age, official world golf ranking, money earned and top five finishes in majors in last five years. Let me discuss these criteria in greater detail.
Longevity or age: I am looking for players who have been around and not some overnight sensations who grab our attention for a year or two and fade away. With that in mind, I established a minimum age of 30 to be included on this list. In their thirties, many players are just starting to reach their peak and have worked through the issues of being on golf's biggest stage. Priorities are in order and the temptations of youth are behind them. And if they are still in the game in their thirties, the golf gods are smiling down on them.
Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR): My standard is that a player must be in the top 25 in the world to meet this criteria. We could talk about all the thirty-somethings that are out there, but if they are below the top 25 in the world then are they really one of the "best" players to never win a major?
Money Earned: Difficult standard given the inflated purses that are out there. But when you combine this element with Longevity/Age, I think a figure of $20 million in career earnings is a fair measure of ability. That dollar figure demonstrates achievement, dedication and perseverance.
Top 5 finish in a major in last five years: A top 5 finish in a major in the last five years shows us golf fans that a player has what it takes to compete in the big events. Of course, the flip side of this is if a player has many top 5 finishes but fails to clinch the deal. Then again, Jack Nicklaus had 19 second place and 9 third place finishes in majors.
So, with these criteria established, I settled down with a bottle of Evan Williams EggNog (highly recommended) and immersed myself in the pgatour.com stats page. Here are the five names, in no certain order, I designate as the best players to never win a major based on the criteria above. I also include some brief statistical notes form 2012 on each player to point out strengths and weaknesses. I will leave it to you and your friends to argue the merits of these selections.
1. Luke Donald: Pretty much a no-brainer selection, this former number 1 player in the world just turned 35 a few weeks ago. Donald has five career victories on the PGA TOUR.
Career earnings: over $28 million.
Majors last five years: T4th 2011 Masters; T 5th 2012 Open.
Stat strengths: No. 3 in Strokes Gained-Putting; No.1 in Total Putting.
Room for improvement: No. 156 on the PGA TOUR in Greens in Regulation Percentage on approach shots from 75 yards or less.
2. Sergio Garcia: Seems like only yesterday when we saw a 19 year old Garcia skipping and scissor kicking down the fairway in the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah in pursuit of Tiger Woods. Garcia, who turns 33 in early January, 2013 has eight career PGA TOUR victories to his credit.
Career earnings: over $30 million.
Majors last five years: T 2d 2008 PGA Championship
Stat strengths: No. 7 in 3-Putt Avoidance; No. 3 in Putting from 3-5 feet (93.48%)
Room for improvement: No. 179 in Greens in Regulation from 75-100 yards; No. 173 in Putting from 15-25 feet
3. Adam Scott: Missed out on his first career Major when he bogeyed the last four holes at The Open earlier this year and allowed Ernie Els to sneak in. Scott has eight career PGA TOUR victories including the 2004 Players Championship and the 2011 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Scott will turn 33 in July, 2013.
Career earnings: over $28 million.
Majors last five years: T 2d 2011 Masters; 2nd 2012 The Open
Stat strengths: No. 6 in Scoring Average; No. 4 in Putting from greater than 25 feet.
Room for improvement: No. 162 in 3-Putt Avoidance; No. 145 in Strokes Gained--Putting.
4. Justin Rose: The man who is probably best remembered for making the big putts on the 17th and 18th holes at the 2012 Ryder Cup to defeat Phil Mickelson. Rose will turn 33 in July, 2013. With four career victories on the PGA TOUR, Rose seems primed for big things in the near future.
Career earnings: over $21 million
Majors last five years: T 3rd 2012 PGA Championship
Stat Strengths: No.1 in Greens in Regulation Percentage; No. 4 in Sand save Percentage
Room for Improvement: No. 181 in Putting from 5-10 feet; No. 129 in Strokes Gained--Putting
5. Matt Kuchar: The 2012 Players Championship winner turns 35 in June, 2013 and has recorded four career PGA TOUR victories.
Career earnings: over $20 million
Majors last five years: T3rd 2012 Masters
Stat Strengths: No. 5 Scoring Average; No. 7 Scrambling
Room for improvement: No. 169 in Greens in Regulation Percentage from 100-125 yards; No. 137 in Putting from 15-20 feet.
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