Who is the best player without a major?

By Doug FergusonApril 3, 2012, 10:39 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. - The list of contenders has rarely been this strong. The credentials are as impeccable as ever. Indeed, the competition is more wide open than ever at the Masters.

Only it’s not just about the green jacket.

It’s a label - best to have never won a major championship.

And it’s a long list these days.

Much of the attention is divided between Luke Donald, currently No. 1 in the world, and Lee Westwood, a former No. 1 who has finished among the top three in six of his last 14 majors, including being the runner-up at Augusta National two years ago.

But the list is deeper than that.

Going into this year’s Masters, six of the top 10 players in the world - and 18 of the top 25 - have yet to win a major.

Phil Mickelson remembers what it was like to be tagged the “best to have never won a major.” He carried that burden - and with his talent, it was an enormous burden - for some seven years before he drained that 18-foot birdie putt in 2004 to win the Masters. From that point on, he drove down Magnolia Lane with more joy than trepidation.

“After winning in 2004, the pressure has not been the same,” he said. “Because there was this burden of having never won a major. There was this burden of wanting to win the Masters so bad and being a part of the history of the tournament. When I won in 2004, it was no longer pressure I felt. It was excitement.”

That might explain why he came close to winning the next three majors, why he won the PGA Championship the following season, another green jacket in 2006, and why he likes his chances of joining Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer as a four-time Masters champion.

Mickelson was easy to identify on that dreaded list. Ditto for a half-dozen others before him - David Duval, Mark O’Meara, Davis Love III, Corey Pavin, Paul Azinger and Tom Kite. The missing major was more obvious because of their world ranking, money titles, close calls in the majors, number of wins, or a combination of those measures.

That’s what makes this list as strong as it has been in years.

Donald was asked Tuesday how he would define the best player to have not won a major, and once he settled on a definition, whom he would rate at the top of the list.

“That’s a tricky question,” he said. “Obviously, my name would be in the hat. Lee has been around quite a bit, and he’s obviously had probably more opportunities that I have to win majors.”

Who else?

Sergio Garcia soon came to mind, as did Steve Stricker, who has reached No. 2 in the world and for a short time was the highest-ranked American. That distinction currently belongs to Hunter Mahan, who won for the second time this year at the Houston Open on Sunday.

Dustin Johnson is working his way onto the list, though he won’t have a chance this week because he withdrew with a sore back. Justin Rose is forcing his way into the conversation, with four wins in the last four years, including a World Golf Championship at Doral last month.

Darren Clarke could be considered the last player to remove his name from the list. He won the British Open last year at Royal St. George’s, but much like O’Meara in 1998, most thought his best years were behind him. That was a pleasant surprise.

Before that was Padraig Harrington at Carnoustie in 2007, when he overcame a double bogey on the 18th hole and beat Garcia in a playoff. It looked then, as it did eight years earlier, that Garcia’s time was coming.

But it hasn’t. There is no guarantee it will.

Garcia went two years without winning anywhere until back-to-back wins in Spain which brought him back into the top 50. He is No. 21 now, and he has finished among the top 12 in the last three majors.

No one has more scars from major chances - twice in the final group with Tiger Woods (U.S. Open at Bethpage, British Open at Hoylake), the runner-up finish at age 19 at Medinah, in a playoff at Carnoustie in 2007, and a runner-up finish to Harrington again at Oakland Hills in the 1998 PGA Championship.

But it’s all about the now, which puts Donald and Westwood at the top of the list. They are the only two players to have been No. 1 without ever winning a major.

“Over the last couple of years, his performance has gotten stronger and stronger,” Nick Faldo said of Donald. “Now he’s climbed to No. 1, and he’s looking at the next rung on the ladder, which is being a major champion.”

The last year should serve Donald well, not just because he has won five times in the last 14 months, but because he realized he only played truly great golf in one of those wins - the Match Play Championship a year ago.

“I’ve been able to win tournaments without playing my best golf, and I think majors are a similar deal,” Donald said. “I think a lot of people put too much pressure on yourself, and you go out there and you press a little bit too hard, and suddenly you’re a few shots back and trying to play catch up.

“Know that just playing my game is good enough is a good thought to have for me.”

Memories from last year won’t hurt. Donald was in the thick of contention until he pushed his 8-iron ever so slightly on the wrong hole - the par-3 12th - and it went in the water for double bogey. He rallied strong, though, chipped in for birdie on the 18th for a 69 and wound up in a tie for fourth. He knows his game will work here.

Ditto for Westwood, who did little wrong with a one-shot lead going into the final round at Augusta in 2010. Trouble was, Mickelson did everything right, including that sensational shot through the trees on the 13th.

“It’s quite frustrating at a time when you keep coming close,” Westwood said.

It can make for a frustrating four weeks out of the year - unless, or until they win.

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''