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Golfers who could shed the “best without” title at Oak Hill

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Every time a major championship rolls around, debate rages over which player is the best in the world without one. So far, 2013 has been especially kind to those players, removing the likes of Adam Scott (Masters) and Justin Rose (U.S. Open) from that list. Those two gents’ respective successes should serve as inspiration to the following players, who should be on everyone’s radar this week at Oak Hill as contenders for the Wanamaker Trophy and maiden major titles.

Matt Kuchar: #6 OWGR*

The highest ranked player in the world without a major, Kuchar does have the next-best thing: a Players Championship title, which he captured last May.

All of his most recent four wins have come in big-time events: The Barclays (2010), The Players (2012), the WGC–Accenture Match Play (2013) and The Memorial Tournament (2013). One of golf’s most complete players, “Kooch” has shown an ability to compete on a number of different courses, racking up top-10 finishes with abandon across the PGA Tour calendar in recent years. It would stand to reason, then, that he should get the job done on the biggest stage soon enough. Oak Hill may be the place.

Brandt Snedeker: #7 OWGR

One spot behind Kuchar, Sneds has settled into a similar role in the last couple years. He is one of the best putters in the world, and his ball-striking seems to improve every year.

His 2013 has been an especially torrid campaign: two wins, three other top-three finishes, and top-20 finishes in all three majors. He’s knocked at the door a lot, but major champions don’t knock — they break the door down. When will Snedeker let himself into the house of major champions?

Lee Westwood: #12 OWGR

Speaking of knocking on the door, Westwood seems to have worn a hole in the “Welcome” mat by now. At age 40, Westwood’s prospects continue to become more “Will he ever?” than “When will he?”

He squandered a perfect opportunity when his usually exquisite ball-striking failed him a few Sundays ago at Muirfield, marking his 16th top-ten finish in a major championship career that spans parts of three decades. As good a player as he has been for so long, Westwood is starting to enter Colin Montgomerie territory as a player with a good career who has just never broken through when it’s mattered most.

Luke Donald: #9 OWGR

Luke-Donald-640

The same things said of Westwood may also turn out to be true of Donald in five years, when he is 40. He has half as many top-tens in majors as does Westwood, with an excellent opportunity going by the wayside this year at Merion in the U.S. Open, where Donald and other players yielded to Justin Rose over the weekend.

Donald is an opposite case to Westwood, with an excellent short game often forsaken by shoddy driving and iron play. Still, Donald was No. 1 in the world for a period in 2011 and 2012, which shows great potential. Could he turn that potential into hardware at Oak Hill this week?

Sergio Garcia: #18 OWGR

271715-sergio-garcia

Ah, Sergio. In 1999, when you finished runner-up to Tiger Woods at Medinah, who would’ve thought you’d be on this list 14 years later?

It has been a long, strange trip with little true consolation outside of a 2008 Players Championship and five winning Ryder Cup campaigns for Europe. But those 17 major championship top-10 are becoming more of an albatross than a symbol of good play, aren’t they? Believe it or not, Sergio is only 33 years old, and Oak Hill should set up well for him this week. What do you say about erasing those demons, Sergio?

All five of these players are likely to appear on their respective sides for the 2014 Ryder Cup in Scotland. But will they own any more than the zero collective major titles they currently claim as a group? The answer begins to reveal itself this weekend.

*Official World Golf Rankings

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Tim grew up outside of Hartford, Conn., playing most of his formative golf at Hop Meadow Country Club in the town of Simsbury. He played golf for four years at Washington & Lee University (Division-III) and now lives in Pawleys Island, S.C., and works in nearby Myrtle Beach in advertising. He's not too bad on Bermuda greens, for a Yankee. A lifelong golf addict, he cares about all facets of the game of golf, from equipment to course architecture to PGA Tour news to his own streaky short game.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Boo

    Aug 6, 2013 at 9:22 am

    Snedeker has been hot of late, so hes the my horse!!!

  2. AndyJ

    Aug 6, 2013 at 9:03 am

    Kuchar’s turn this week he is long overdue and with 2 wins at The Memorial, and the WGC, a 2nd in Canada, the smiling giant will prevail.

  3. ola

    Aug 6, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Shouldnt henrik Stenson be on this list soon? Higher OWGR than both westwood and Gacia atm 18th in masters, 21 in Us open, 5th in players, 2nd in the open 2nd in WGC bridgestione, and in addition to this throw in a 2nd place at houston and a 3d in scottland.

  4. tallPK

    Aug 6, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Lee Westwood will never win a major… he doesn’t have mental game. I believe there will be an american flag in the #1 position at the PGA.

  5. Jaime

    Aug 6, 2013 at 6:29 am

    …”But those 17 major championship top-10 are becoming more of an albatross than a symbol of good play, aren’t they?”

    Yeahhh..I don´t know exactly how to rate that sentence into the most stupid quotes in golf journalism… maybe fourth?

    • Nick

      Aug 7, 2013 at 1:13 pm

      I would venture to say it won’t even rank because it is a true statement. Like Westwood, noone denies Sergio is a very skilled player, but coming that close taht many times and never snagging one stinks of mental blockage and choke-artistry. See Woods, Tiger (post hydrant); Westwood, Lee; and Garcia, Sergio.

      • Jaime

        Aug 8, 2013 at 12:15 pm

        ok, 17 top tens on Majors isn´t a symbol of good play.

      • Jaime

        Aug 8, 2013 at 12:18 pm

        Being second on the Open against Paddy… is snagging something or not.

  6. dakota jones

    Aug 5, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    My pick would be Jimenez

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: The best drill in golf (throwing the club)

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If you are struggling with weight shift, clearing your hips, or have issues freeing up your golf swing, then what you want to do is start chucking that golf club. No joke! In this podcast, we will explain how to properly throw the golf club from a safe area and the results will be absolutely transformational.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

Ways to Win: A New No. 1 – How Justin Thomas overcame a poor putting performance

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In the final tuneup before the PGA Championship in San Francisco, many of the world’s best teed it up at Memphis’ TPC Southwind in the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational. The final day showcased a stacked leaderboard and plenty of volatility, but in the end, it was Justin Thomas who came from four back to win for the third time this year. This was a quick bounceback after a letdown at The Memorial just a few weeks ago. Winning on the PGA Tour certainly takes stellar play and, typically, a little luck like Thomas’ pulled drive on 15 that skirted off a cart path, over a bridge and into prime position for a late birdie. Had that tee ball found the hazard instead, this article would likely be about Brooks Koepka and his late charge.

Golf is a game of misses and taking advantage of good breaks. That is not to take away from JT’s week of stellar ball striking. He finished the week first in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green and second in Strokes Gained Approach. That’s no surprise for the new number one in the world. What is surprising is how poorly Thomas putted throughout the week. It is extremely rare for a PGA Tour winner to lose strokes to the field with the putter, but that is exactly what Thomas did.

In Ways to Win, it is rare that we highlight Short Game as a differentiating factor for winners. That is typically because to excel in the short game, one has to miss quite a few greens. When you miss greens, it’s hard to score. However, Justin Thomas was able to consistently get himself out of difficult situations, minimize damage, and turn bogeys into pars throughout his four rounds.

If you want to be an elite player, you can’t do it with your short game alone. It sure comes in handy on those off days, though. Just how good was Thomas’ short game? He finished fourth for the week in Strokes Gained Around the Green and got up and down inside 75 yards more than 80 percent of the time (including several clutch up and downs late on Sunday). His touch was particularly crucial, given that his putter wasn’t really cooperating.

Again, it is very rare for a PGA Tour winner to lose strokes with the flatstick. Typically the winner is the best putter out of the best ball strikers, but not so this week. Thomas only three-putted twice for the week. However, he lost strokes to the field from three out of nine distance buckets that we analyzed using V1 Game’s putting breakdown.

In four other buckets, he was almost “net zero” in strokes gained with the putter. He only gained strokes with the putter from inside six feet. Making short putts is certainly a big key to golfing success. That is why short misses are highlighted in V1 Game’s post-round analysis: missing short putts is a quick way to compound errors. Thomas is not an elite putter by any means, but he is typically solid in the clutch.

V1 Game makes it easy to keep track of personal bests and track progress in a tournament. Any stat that the PGA Tour gives can be recreated with V1 Game. Here are some quick stats for Thomas’ week using V1 Game’s Personal Bests feature:

Total Score: 267
Best Round: 65
Worst Round: 70
Longest Drive: 347 yds
Longest Holeout: 28 ft
Most consecutive holes without a bogey: 24
Scrambling Streak: 9 in a row
Holes without a 3 putt: 20
Most birdies in a round: 6

Thomas certainly played well when it mattered, resisting the urge to look at a scoreboard throughout the final round and focusing on the job at hand. His patience paid off with his 13th victory in a young career. Short game play is a fantastic equalizer and a great tool for any golfer’s bag. However, Thomas really separates himself with ball striking.

The best way to improve your short game is to miss fewer greens, like JT. For most amateurs, short game practice should focus on eliminating mistakes, such as “two-chips” when you do miss the green. Once you can consistently get on the green and have a putt to get up and down, focus should shift to the long game. Tee to Green play is where the game’s best separate themselves from the weekend warriors.

V1 Game can help you with each of these items.

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On Spec

On Spec: Talking Kirkland wedge, LPGA Tour, and teased irons from TaylorMade & Mizuno

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In this episode of On Spec, host Ryan talks about the recently discovered Kirkland Signature wedges on the USGA Conforming list, as well as what recently spotted TaylorMade and Mizuno irons may have in store
Also with the LPGA Tour back in action, Ryan also discussed why it is a good idea to check out how LPGA players gap their bags compared to players on the PGA Tour.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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