Twelve of the last 15 major championships were won by first-time major winners.
So who’s ready to break through to win his first major championship this year?
In an NBC/Golf Channel media conference call advancing the Hyundai Tournament of Champions this week, Johnny Miller, Frank Nobilo and Mark Rolfing weighed in with their choices. Matt Kuchar, Henrik Stenson, Jason Day, Hunter Mahan and Dustin Johnson were prominently mentioned, though Miller believes Kuchar isn’t as primed for a major win as his colleagues think.
“One thing on Kuchar, he seems like such a logical pick, but his driving distance, he's 116th at 284 [yards per drive],” Miller said. “He hits it short, and he drives it crooked. It's amazing to be honest with you, as poorly as he drove it last year, that he was able to do as well as he did finishing third on the money list. That guy is just a magic man scrambling. If he can get his driver in the fairway, I'm not saying he's going to get any more distance, but you can't hit it short and crooked and expect to win too many majors.”
Kuchar was 124th in driving accuracy in 2013. Despite his mediocre driving stats, he has five top-10 finishes in majors in his career, his best a T-3 at the Masters in 2012.
Rolfing likes Kuchar’s chances but also likes Day’s: “Jason Day gets so overlooked in these majors, prior to them. You take a look at how close he has come, and then when they're over and he does so well, everybody goes, `Well, I told you so,’ but nobody really did say beforehand that Jason Day was one of the favorites in any of those majors.”
Nobilo believes the quality of this year’s major championship venues – Augusta National is joined by Pinehurst No. 2, Royal Liverpool and Valhalla – will have something to say about who breaks through: “I think the first time winners this year, they're not going to be fluke winners, because of the venues and the quality of the top 20. You're looking at perhaps Hunter Mahan, Dustin Johnson or Matt Kuchar that stand out more than Lee Westwood or Luke Donald, who slightly sort of went off the block.
“Pinehurst is probably the place where that could happen for the first timer, because of the setup, and what the USGA is like. Wide open, totally different. It'll be a different U.S. Open. So, it'll present a lot more people an opportunity there than perhaps the others.”