Top five players to never win the British Open

By Associated PressJuly 18, 2012, 11:00 am

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Mark Calcavecchia won the British Open in 1989 at Royal Troon and asked a question that surely was on everyone's mind.

''How's my name going to fit on that thing?'' he said.

Here's another question. How can the oldest trophy in golf - a silver claret jug - be missing some of golf's greatest players?

Byron Nelson might have won if he had bothered going to Britain more than once, though Ben Hogan won on his only try in 1953 at Carnoustie. Phil Mickelson went more than 10 years without even cracking the top 10. Ben Curtis won the Open in his very first major championship.

Here are the five best players to never have won golf's oldest championship:

5. COLIN MONTGOMERIE

Colin Montgomerie has to be considered among the best of all time to never win any major, much less the British Open. He won eight Order of Merits on the European Tour, reached as high as No. 2 in the world and won more than 30 times around the world. That alone qualifies him for the list.

The downside? He not only didn't win the Open, he never seriously sniffed it.

Montgomerie seemed to play his best at Royal Troon, where his father was a secretary. He tied for 24th one year, and tied for 25th another. Amazingly, he had only a pair of top 10s, and despite his runner-up finish to Tiger Woods at St. Andrews in 2005, the engraver never had to worry about the proper spelling of his name.

He had a 36-hole lead at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and was only one behind going into the Sunday, yet tied for 13th. He made a strong run at Woods on Saturday at St. Andrews, but not when it mattered on Sunday.


4. VIJAY SINGH

Vijay Singh, the man from Fiji, cut his teeth on the European Tour and desperately wanted to win a claret jug. He came over to America for good in 1993, and went on to a Hall of Fame career that featured a record 22 wins after turning pro (for a total of 39 PGA Tour wins), and three majors. He won the Masters in 2000, and the PGA Championship in 1998 and 2004.

And he played well on links golf - just never good enough.

Singh made his debut in the Open in 1989 at Royal Troon. He played 10 straight times before finally missing the cut, and he went 22 successive years at the Open until he wasn't eligible in 2011. Nothing hurt more than 2003 at Royal St. George's, when he was just starting to hit his stride. He was two shots behind Thomas Bjorn going into the last day, paired with Tiger Woods in the second-to-last group. Singh couldn't get a putt to fall down the stretch, closed with a 70 and finished one shot behind Ben Curtis.


3. RAYMOND FLOYD

Only two players other than Raymond Floyd have won at least four majors without getting their names on the claret jug: Phil Mickelson and Byron Nelson. More on them shortly.

Floyd was the Masters champion in 1976 when he went into the final round at Royal Birkdale, trailing by five shots to 19-year-old Seve Ballesteros. Johnny Miller shot 66 to beat everyone. Two years later, he was runner-up to Jack Nicklaus at St. Andrews, though never really close. And in 1981 at Royal St. George's, he started too far behind to catch Bill Rogers and tied for third. He never got any closer.

Floyd at least flirted with the idea of a claret jug in 1992 - the year he was runner-up to Fred Couples at Augusta National. He opened with a 64 for a two-shot lead over Nick Faldo at Muirfield, but that was that. Faldo had a 64 the next day to put Floyd five shots behind, and the American never broke par the rest of the week.


2. PHIL MICKELSON

The British Open is all about imagination and creativity. Phil Mickelson built a Hall of Fame career on imagination and creativity.

Just not on links courses of the Open.

Mickelson played the Open 10 times before he cracked the top 10. That was in 2004, his great year in the majors, and playing overcautiously at Royal Troon when it was still and soft enough for him to make a charge, he wound up one shot out of a playoff. Nearly another decade of mediocrity followed, with a collection of middle-of-the-pack finishes and missed cuts, when out of nowhere he nearly won last year at Royal St. George's.

Mickelson made a thrilling charge on Sunday, only to be stopped when he missed a 3-foot par putt. He finished tied for second, three shots behind.

The British Open is his worst major, but the quality of his game - four majors, 40 wins on the PGA Tour - make him the second-most accomplished player in golf history who doesn't have his name on the silver jug.


1. BYRON NELSON

Of the six players in PGA Tour history with more than 50 wins and at least five majors, Byron Nelson is the only player without a British Open title.

There's a reason for that. He hardly ever played.

The Open Championship didn't pay much during the 1930s and 1940s, when Nelson was at his peak. And remember, Nelson was trying to stash away enough money from his golf career to buy a ranch in Texas. This wasn't a good fit.

Nelson had won his first major in 1937, setting a tournament record with a 66 and beating Ralph Guldahl by two shots. After losing in the semifinals of the PGA Championship and finishing 20th in the U.S. Open, he came across the Atlantic for his only appearance in golf's oldest championship.

Lord Byron never had a chance at Carnoustie. He opened with a 75 to fall five shots behind, trailed by nine shots going into the final day, and closed with respectable rounds of 71-74 to finish fifth, six shots behind Henry Cotton.

It didn't make sense for him to go back the next two years before World War II suspended play in the Open.

''It took a week to get there and a week to get home,'' Nelson later said. ''I was low American. And what it came down to was I lost a good part of my summer, won $185 and spent $1,000 on boat fare alone.''

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

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Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

It was too much “socializing.”

“I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

“Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

His plan for doing that?

“Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

So much for easing into the new year.

So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.