Best player on Tour without a title


Who is the best player on the PGA Tour without a victory? In this edition of Punch Shots, senior writers Rex Hoggard and Randall Mell weigh in with their opinions.


Ted Williams once said the hardest thing in all of sports is to hit a round ball with a round bat, but then the famed slugger never had to sleep on a 54-hole lead. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson & Co. make winning on the PGA Tour look easy, but the truth is closing the deal on a Sunday is hard like quantum physics.

Just ask Tim Clark or Brett Quigley, the two highest ranked active players on the career money list (Nos. 60 and 87, respectively) without a Tour bottle cap. Combined, the two have 559 starts and not a single Sunday keepsake. But the South African, with seven also-rans on his resume, is atop the “Best Player without a Tour title” list.

Based on current form, however, to say nothing of the often-confusing World Ranking, Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter are the two most likely to break the seal.

Poulter has improved statistically every year since joining the circuit in 2005 and has the confidence to survive any Sunday second-guessing, while McIlroy has already proven he can win (’09 Dubai Desert Classic) and compete in the United States (7 top 25s in 12 starts).

Neither, however, can hit a major league fastball.

The head and heart are at odds on this one.

The head says Ian Poulter, the heart Tim Clark.

Poulter, 34, seems to possess more potential when he puts it all together than Clark. He’s ranked substantially higher than Clark (No. 11 to No. 39) in the world rankings. He has won a lot more internationally than Clark (Eight European Tour titles to Clark’s three), but he plays more in Europe.

The heart likes Clark because of the 34-year-old South African’s gritty nature. So often, when we think a golf course is set up to benefit power players, Clark is the short-hitting contrarian who gets himself in the hunt. He showed us the nature of the fight in him knocking off Tiger Woods in the second round of the Accenture Match Play Championship last year. He has shown it in his seven career second-place PGA Tour finishes. He’s shown it finishing second at the ’06 Masters, in tying for third at the ’05 U.S. Open and in his third-place finish at the ’03 PGA Championship.

The heart wins. Clark’s knocking on the door more often in the events that matter most. His nature tells us he won’t stop knocking until the door opens.