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Punch Shot: Who will win their first major in 2014?

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Out of the last 15 major champions, 12 were first-time major winners. As we prepare for another year of golf, our writers select their favorite to be a first-time major champion in 2014. 

By REX HOGGARD

If 2013 was any indication the new season could be another banner year for first-time major winners and one should look no further than Augusta National to predict the game’s next first-timer.

Jason Day is a perennial potential party crasher having finished in the top 10 in half of the majors he’s played, including a runner-up outing last year at the U.S. Open, a third-place showing at the Masters and a tie for eighth at the PGA Championship.

But it is at Augusta National where the Australian seems so well suited to score the first of what many believe will be multiple majors.

In three starts at the Georgia gem, Day has finished second twice, two strokes behind Charl Schwartzel in 2011, and last year’s near miss, which included two bogeys over his last three holes.

And there seems to be little chance Day will suffer a letdown this year at the Masters following his individual victory at the World Cup in November at Royal Melbourne, which Geoff Ogilvy calls Augusta National without as much green grass.

Although he has just one PGA Tour victory, no one in the game is bettered prepared to join the major champions club and no place is a better fit for him than Augusta National.



By WILL GRAY

Majors are often won and lost on the greens, and right now there might not be a better putter than Brandt Snedeker.

The former FedEx Cup champ has now contended multiple times on golf’s biggest stages and finished T-17 or better in each of the first three majors in 2013. He’s won twice on Tour in each of the last two years, and his stat line from last season bodes well for future success: fourth in strokes gained putting, sixth in birdie average and 11th in the all-around ranking.

Sundays at the majors have not exactly gone according to plan in the past, but Snedeker appears to be trending in the right direction. If he’s able to stay healthy in 2014, there’s a good chance that he’ll be lifting a major trophy by year’s end.


By JASON SOBEL

Love him or hate him, Ian Poulter is primed to win a major championship.

He certainly owns both the talent and desire. We know that already. This is a guy who shows up to the Ryder Cup every other year with the swing of Ben Hogan, the putting stroke of Bobby Jones and the intensity of Ray Lewis. And yes, this is a Ryder Cup year.

All of which should have Poulter more determined than ever. Like his countrymen Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, he finds himself in his late-30s with the window to this opportunity beginning to close ever so slightly.

It may only be a matter of time until Poulter starts pouring in putts at a major like he does at the Ryder Cup. We’ve seen it from him in brief spurts in the past; especially in top-three results in both the 2008 and 2013 editions of the Open Championship. This could finally be his year at Hoylake.

Plenty of players are worthy of consideration in winning their first major. I like the chances of Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Bill Haas, too, but Poulter might be the most ready to pull it off. 


By RANDALL MELL

Jason Day isn't knocking on the door to a major championship breakthrough. He's hammering away at it.

Day was top 10 in three of the four majors last year. He tied for second at the U.S. Open and finished third at the Masters. He finished second at the U.S. Open in 2011 and tied for second at the Masters that same year. He's looking comfortable late on the big stages. That's more than half the battle.