Sergio Garcia removed himself from an inglorious list with his Masters victory. The 37-year-old Spaniard, who had started in 74 majors before breaking through, is no longer the best player without a major championship victory.
Why do golf fans love this discussion so much? Well, the barstool “who’s the best without a major” debate is a great one because, well, it gets at the heart of who the great ones are. It requires a nuanced definition of how we define “the best” players overall.
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It requires, too, a discussion of the window we give young players. If you’re a great young player, say Jon Rahm, you’re expected to win a major in short order. If you’re a good young player, say Matthew Fitzpatrick, you’re given more latitude to rack up major experience before we saddle you with the “best without” label. Is this fair? Maybe not.
But while it’s fun for us to discuss the Tour’s best without major victories, it’s certainly not a distinction the players in question are proud of. How do you think Phil Mickelson felt in the years leading up to his breakthrough at the Masters?
Anyway, in framing the “best without” debate, the question shouldn’t be “Who are the best golfers without a major,” but rather, “How shocking is it that player X hasn’t won a major?” So while, say, Lee Westwood isn’t the same caliber of player as Justin Thomas, it’s infinitely more surprising Westy never managed to get the job done in his 70-plus major starts relative to Thomas’ seven.
With that said, here are the 10 best PGA Tour golfers (who are still playing on the PGA Tour) without a major victory (Thus, no Colin Montgomerie or Thomas Bjorn here).
While he plays primarily on the European Tour, Lee Westwood, at age 43, is still the No. 52-ranked golfer in the world. He’s won 42 times around the world. With 76 majors under his belt and a top-20 finish at the Masters, Westy is the historically greatest player on this list. (Photo source/Wikimedia)
Seven times a winner on the PGA Tour, Matt Kuchar is the embodiment of cut-making steadiness and back-door top-10 finishes. It’s easy to forget, though, that with a bevy of major experience (45 starts), Kuchar has finished top 10 his four of the last six Masters. At 38, he looks poised to, at the very least, win a green jacket before his time on the PGA Tour is done. (Photo source/Wikimedia)
Paul Casey is one of those players you feel like won a major in the mid-2000s but actually didn’t. A pro for the last 17 years and a 16-time winner on Tour, Casey has nine top-10 finishes in 52 major starts. This includes three top-10s in the last five majors. In other words, he’s very close. (Photo source/Wikimedia)
There’s no doubt Patrick Reed has a competitive fire bar none and wants a major as badly as anyone on this list. Unfortunately, his ball flight, a sweeping draw, doesn’t work well at Augusta National, U.S. Open venues, or British Open venues. Simply, when Reed finds the right venue (likely at a PGA Championship), he could put the pedal down and run away with a major title. (Photo source/Twitter)
Rahm has burst onto the PGA Tour scene with a combination of power, touch, and confidence unseen since, perhaps, Tiger Woods in the late 90s. Already a winner on the PGA Tour, Rahm’s rocketing up the Official World Golf Rankings shows how this fearless player compares to his peers (quite favorably). Expect him to be among the top five in the OWGR in short order. (Photo source/Twitter)
Once deemed the most overrated golfer on Tour by his peers, Rickie Fowler has silenced critics with three wins in the last couple of seasons. And of course, he finished inside the top five at all four majors in 2014. That fact alone suggests Fowler is well-positioned to break through in a major. Certainly, his steely finish at the “fifth major” (The Players Championship) in 2015 suggests Fowler has the “extra gear” major winning requires. (Photo source/Twitter)