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Punch Shot: Who is the next maiden major champion?

Brandt Snedeker
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Adam Scott has the major monkey – or koala bear – off his back. Who will be next to win their maiden major championship? writers weigh in with their predictions.


Brandt Snedeker.

He keeps putting himself in the mix on Sundays – his T-6 at the Masters was his seventh top-15 finish in a major – even if major weekends remain a work in progress: the 75 last Sunday at Augusta; the 73-74 weekend at Lytham; the Sunday 77 at the ’08 Masters.

Learning experiences, all of them.

Sneds is 32, in the prime of his career, and one of the hottest players on Tour. Driving accuracy, greens hit, birdie average, scoring average and all-around ranking – he is ninth or better in all of those statistics. Three top-10s in his last four majors show that he’s learning and, more importantly, trending upward.

Yes, Tiger Woods is the favorite to win every time he tees it up. But at Merion, Snedeker will be a close second.


Brandt Snedeker.

For those of us who are paid to read tea leaves, this one is written in 40-point bold type – Snedeker will be the next first-time major champion.

Sneds is our pick because for the first month of the season no one played better than he did – starting his year with a third-place showing at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, runner-up finishes at Torrey Pines and TPC Scottsdale, and a victory at Pebble Beach.

Since then he’s been sidelined with an ailing intercostal muscle, but he rebounded last week to put himself in contention, again, at the Masters.

Sneds also has the look of the perfect prototype player for Merion, which just so happens to be the site of the next major championship – June’s U.S. Open. The tight layout will play to just under 7,000 yards with a premium on accuracy off the tee and clutch putting.

In fact, Merion may turn out to be more of a putting contest than Augusta National, which began the week with surprisingly slow greens on Thursday and ended in a steady drizzle on Sunday which mitigated the layout’s normally glassy putting surfaces.

But most of all, Snedeker seems like the most-likely candidate to win his first major because he is ready and resilient.


Matt Kuchar.

With the last 18 majors going to 17 different men, predicting the next player to hoist one of golf’s biggest trophies for the first time is clearly an inexact science. The player I’ve circled, though, is one that has already demonstrated the ability to win on some of golf’s biggest stages: Matt Kuchar.

Kuchar has assembled a quality track record in majors; his tie for eighth last week at Augusta National is his third top-10 finish in the last five majors, and he has notched a top-10 finish in each of the four majors at least once since 2010. In the interim, Kuchar captured a FedEx Cup playoff event (The Barclays in 2010), won the Players in 2012, an event that arguably boasts the strongest field in golf each year, and earlier this season claimed his first WGC title.

Having rebounded from a rough patch earlier in his career, Kuchar has been remarkably consistent since 2010, finishing inside the top 11 on the Tour’s season-ending money list each of the last three years. He’s also been inside the top 26 in strokes gained putting each year since 2010, showing that when potentially faced with a 15-foot putt to lift a trophy, he is among those for whom the ball is more likely to find the bottom of the hole.

A consistent game tee-to-green, a dependable putting stroke and the proven ability to win top-tier events. Kuchar has all three, and I believe that shortly he’ll be able to add a fourth attribute: major champion.


Brandt Snedeker.

From Luke Donald to Justin Rose, Jason Day to Ian Poulter, there are plenty of viable candidates on the list from which to choose the next first-time major champion, but I’m going with Snedeker for the same reason Adam Scott just won the Masters on Sunday.

Too often players are criticized for getting into the heat of contention on the back nine of a major championship, only to falter down the stretch. What many observers fail to recognize is that experience breeds confidence. Sure, it’s better to win than lose in crushing fashion, but in most scenarios it’s better to lose in crushing fashion than miss the cut altogether.

If you don’t believe that, just ask Phil Mickelson. Or Padraig Harrington. Or, yes, even Scott, who famously butchered the final four holes at last year’s Open Championship, but quickly learned from the heartbreak and won soon thereafter.

Like them, Snedeker has now found his share of disappointment. The next time he gets into a situation with a major title on the line, he will be more prepared, confident and ready to succeed.

And it could come sooner than later. Merion, anyone?