Back 9: Who Needs a Major Most? Tiger, Phil, Steve, Luke, Adam or Lee?Written by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
A major victory certainly gives a gigantic boost to any touring professional’s career and it is the standard by which all great players are measured.
Young guys like Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson, Nick Watney, Gary Woodland, and Matt Kuchar are all capable of capturing their first major at any time.
Sand keeps slipping through the hour glass and in this article I want to focus on a few of the veteran players for whom time may be getting short but they still need that major title to complete their resume’.
Currently the No. 14 ranked player in the world, K. J. Choi made it into the top ten and all the way to No. 5 on the OWGR in 2008. He has 19 world wide wins including eight wins on the PGA Tour. Highlights include wins at the Memorial and the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club in 2007, plus he beat a top quality field at the 2011 Players Championship. Choi has been a contender in the past with top tens in all four of the majors. At 41 years old his chances are dwindling, a major trophy would validate the career of a very steady performer and underappreciated golf professional.
32 year old Sergio Garcia is regaining his passion for golf while at the same time trying to restart his golf career. The volatile Spaniard was one of the young can’t miss kids when he joined the professional ranks at age 19 and has been one of the best Ryder Cup performers of all time. Garcia has seven PGA wins and another ten wins on the European Tour, but he has not been a contender in major championships since a T-2 at the PGA Championship in 2008. Two wins late in 2011 on the European Tour shows that there might be a glimmer of hope for Sergio.
Another can’t miss kid Adam Scott is only 31, he does have a little time remaining. The long putter seems to have helped him regain his world class form and put him back at the top of leader boards around the world. A win at the WGC-Bridgestone at Firestone and seven top tens on the PGA Tour in 2011 helped him earn over $3.7 million and finish No. 16 in the FedEx Cup. He has a somewhat less than a stellar record in majors, however, with only six top tens in 43 career major events. Adam Scott is just too good of a player to go through his golf career without more than one major trophy.
Englishman Lee Westwood turned professional in 1993 and has 37 professional wins including, 21 on the European Tour, and two PGA Tour wins. Currently at No. 2 on the OWGR, he held the No. 1 ranking for 22 weeks. In the last 16 majors since 2008 Westwood has seven top ten finishes. He has been in contention several times, but just has not been able to close the deal. Westwood has been a standout performer on the last seven European Ryder Cup Teams and will most likely be a Ryder Cup Captain in the not too distant future. Hall of Famer? Probably, but he sure could use a major to round out his stats.
Steve Stricker has won 12 times on the PGA Tour. He has been Comeback Player of the Year twice and has been a stalwart on Presidents and Ryder Cup teams. Strix has also won the WGC-Accenture Match Play and two FedEx Cup Playoff events. At No. 5, he is the highest American player on the OWGR. A major win would get the dreaded “best player to never win a major” monkey off of his back and punch his ticket to the World Golf Hall of Fame.
The player most in need of a major title is world No. 1, Luke Donald. He made history in 2011 by winning the PGA and European money titles in the same year. He has been the most consistent player in the world over the past two years. His short game is impeccable and the envy of every player on tour. Without a major trophy, however, he doesn’t get the respect he deserves from the world’s golfing press. Luke held a meeting in December with his team and they laid out a plan for capturing majors in 2012. I wouldn’t bet against him accomplishing his goal.
That brings us to the two most decorated golfers of the last 20 years. Why do Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods need more major hardware?
41 year old Phil Mickelson has four major titles, three Masters and one PGA Championship. He has thrown away at least two U. S. Opens and finished T-2 just last year at the British Open. Cancer issues for his wife and mother, as well as, a personal arthritic condition have hampered Phil’s performance over the past couple of years. He is a huge fan favorite and it would be great for golf if he could complete his “Career Grand Slam”.
For Tiger it is the completion of his life’s mission. With 14 major titles, he still needs four more majors to tie Jack Nicklaus and a fifth to surpass the Golden Bear. Tiger just turned 36 at the end of 2011. He has ten more years or 40 more majors to get his five wins. Divorce, personal problems, injuries, coaching and swing changes have prevented TW from winning a major event since the 2008 U. S. Open. Everyone remembers the broken leg, and 20 hole playoff with Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines.
Will 2012 be the year that he gets back on track and into the Butler Cabin for a fifth Green Jacket?
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