Always a Bridesmaid (Never a Bride)
“Best player never to have won a Major” (BPNTHWAM) is a title no golfer likes associated with their name. In one respect, being acknowledged by your peers and the golf media as someone long overdue to win a major championship is a compliment. The implication, of course, is that you aren’t a closer. That denies the fact that some, maybe most, majors are won, not lost.
This article will try to identify the talented guys who unfortunately bear this label. We will begin with players in their 50’s and work our way down through the decades.
52-year old Colin Montgomerie has won 31 times on the European Tour. He won 8 European Tour Order of Merit (money title) awards, including 7 in a row between 1993 and 1999. He has been spectacular in the Ryder Cup posting a record of 20-9-7. By any measure, it’s been a great career. Monty’s major championship record is interesting. With his resume, it is shocking that he has posted only 9 top-10’s in the major championships, a mark that has been eclipsed by golfers 15-20 years his junior including Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia (don’t worry, we will get to them later). Where Monty’s record shines in majors is how close he got to the championship. Colin finished 2nd or tied for 2nd in 5 major championships, including playoff losses in the 1994 U.S. Open and the 1995 PGA Championship.
Kenny Perry is 55 years old. He’s won 25 times as a professional, including 14 PGA tour wins. He’s won 3 “senior” majors, which both he and Colin Montgomerie will tell you are a nice consolation prize, but not quite the real thing. Perry has 6 top-10 finishes in the majors, including a runner-up finish at the Masters and the PGA Championship where he lost in playoffs to eventual champions Mark Brooks and Angel Cabrera respectively.
Steve Stricker turned 49 in February of this year. The Wisconsin native’s professional career took a long-time to take off, but his resume now includes 22 professional wins, including 12 PGA Tour victories. Stricker has 12 top-10’s in the majors, including 4 top-10’s at the U.S. Open, the championship that places the highest premium on straight tee-shots.
Lee Westwood is 42-years old. He has already won 42 times worldwide, including 23 times on the European Tour. He’s a two-time European Order of Merit winner and was World #1 in 2010. Naturally, he’s played very well at major championships. He has 17 top-10’s. He finished runner-up at both the 2010 Masters and Open Championship.
36-year old Sergio Garcia is probably today’s biggest BPNTHWAM posterchild. Supremely talented and consistent, Garcia already has 20 top-10 major finishes, including 9 top-10’s at the Open Championship. He holds a record of 18-9-5 in the Ryder Cup. Most of us remember his storming on the scene as a 19-year old at the PGA Championship and finishing a single shot back of Tiger Woods. A major seemed just a matter of time. The close calls would continue, including a runner up finish at the 2014 Open Championship.
Quickly approaching Garcia in major frustration is Dustin Johnson. Johnson is 5 years younger than Garcia and has 10 top-10’s in the majors. He’s been a runner-up twice – the 2011 Open Championship and famously last year at Chambers Bay and the U.S. Open where he missed a 3 ½ foot comeback birdie putt to miss out on a next day 18-hole playoff with Jordan Spieth.
When you look at the crop of players under 30, the list obviously gets smaller. After all, they’ve had fewer chances to win. And, with Spieth and Jason Day getting their first (and in Spieth’s case second) majors in 2015, the pressure now seems squarely on Rickie Fowler’s shoulders. Fowler has only played in all 4 majors since 2011. In 2014, he placed in the top 5 at all 4 majors, including runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open and Open Championships. If Fowler remains one of the top players in the world, but doesn’t break through at a major championship, the press will start this drumbeat. Rickie’s win at the Players Championship last year shows he certainly has the right stuff.