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Golf’s 5 biggest underachievers

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Tony Jacklin recently called Sergio Garcia “golf’s biggest underachiever”. Garcia, a notoriously poor putter, has won more Ryder Cup points than anyone, pulled on the green jacket, triumphed at the Players Championship and currently sits in the top-10 in career earnings at the age of 40.

Maybe he should have won more, but to call him golf’s biggest underachiever is a gross exaggeration.

Golf is one of the toughest sports out there, and there are several extremely skilled players that at one stage looked to have the world at their feet, and who it just never happened for – the real underachievers of the game.

Here are five players, loaded with talent yet trapped in golf no man’s land, who I sincerely hope can all showcase their best game again on the biggest stages.

Anthony Kim

Let’s deal with the elephant in the room right off the bat. AK broke onto the scene over a decade ago finishing in a tie for second on his very first start. He wowed fans with his swashbuckling style that led him to three PGA Tour victories and a record 11 birdies in a single round at Augusta – all before the age of 25.

Speaking in 2010 on his runner-up finish on his debut, the party-loving Kim said

“Worst thing that could’ve happened to me. When I jumped out on Tour, I was attracted to shiny things, shiny people. I got sucked into a whole different world. I don’t know if things ever got out of control, but they were moving way too fast.”

Nostalgia is powerful, and when it comes to Kim, golf fans are not prepared to let him go, with his legend seemingly growing the longer he stays away from the sport. AK hasn’t played since 2012, where due to poor form and injuries he was only able to play four consecutive rounds at an event twice out of 10 attempts.

He remains away from the sport and away from the spotlight.

Sean O’Hair

An entirely different character to AK, yet their career paths were eerily similar back in the day. At the end of 2010, the 20-something O’Hair had won 3 times on Tour – like Kim. O’Hair had finished in the top-20 at majors 35% of the time – like Kim. O’Hair had dismantled one of the sport’s greats (Els) at the Presidents Cup 6&4, just like Kim had destroyed Garcia a year earlier at the Ryder Cup.

Yet the Texan was a different beast altogether. There has always been a quiet, philosophical and almost melancholic nature to O’Hair – likely owing to his tough upbringing. By the age of 30, the family man had put family life first – living in his wife’s home state of Pennsylvania where practice during winter months wasn’t possible. Naturally his game suffered.

O’Hair, now ranked 618th in the world, has since relocated and has shown flashes of the supreme talent he possesses since then, such as when he pushed Spieth and Reed all the way in a playoff at the 2015 Valspar.

At just 37, O’Hair has time on his side, and he’s also just about the easiest guy to root for.

Andres Romero

Anthony Kim made 11 birdies in a single round at The Masters, and people still talk about it. Andres Romero fired 10 birdies on a Sunday at Carnoustie at The Open while in contention, and nobody seems to recognize the achievement.

The Argentine stood on the 17th at Carnoustie in 2007 with a 2-shot lead before spectacularly blowing up, playing his last two holes in three over par to toss away the Claret Jug. 

In 2015, Romero, who is known for enjoying the finer things in life, teed off with his putter to finish a round at the Barracuda after breaking his hand punching a sign. Then, in 2017, he missed four straight cuts to start the year, turned up to the European Tour’s BMW International Open on a sponsor’s invite ranked 837th in the world and won. A true maverick.

As far as mercurial talents go, Romero is a beauty with a bunch of talent undoubtedly unfulfilled – which probably makes him so interesting a character.

Nick Watney

A man well and truly stuck in golf’s twilight zone.

Everyone knows how talented Nick Watney is; he showed us all pre-2013. At the age of 31, the American had won 5 times on tour, including a WGC, and had threatened at multiple major championships – most notably at the 2010 PGA Championship where he had a three-shot lead after 54 holes.

Post-2012 Watney has never been able to recapture that form. One of the main reasons may be his ill-fated club switch to Nike at the time, followed soon after by his split with coach Butch Harmon after the legendary swing instructor regrettably tweeted: “Wow N Watney +15, didn’t see this coming. Must be having some personal problems.” following Watney’s rounds of 82 and 77 at the 2013 Memorial.

Once ranked as high as ninth in the world, Watney now languishes at 229th – seemingly unable to cash in on his immense talent.

Ryo Ishikawa

A decade ago Ryo Ishikawa was destined to become Japan’s first-ever major champion – now he struggles to get into the events. Ryo is still just 28, the same age as Hideki Matsuyama, but unlike his fellow countryman, he has continuously failed to make any impression stateside.

Matsuyama earned his PGA Tour card in 2014, and by then Hideki had won five times in Japan – half the number of wins Ryo had achieved. Since then it’s been the complete opposite. Matsuyama has recorded five victories on the PGA Tour and is a mainstay at the majors, while Ryo hasn’t qualified for a major in five years and has made one appearance stateside since 2017.

The strangest part about Ishikawa? He still remains prodigious on the Japanese Tour, winning three times last year.

Nicknamed ‘The Bashful Prince’, there’s more than a good chance Ryo’s introversion is stifling his immense ability, which going by his final round 58 to win in Japan in 2010 on the same weekend McIlroy was winning at Quail Hollow, is bordering on a gift.

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Gianni is the Assistant Editor at GolfWRX. He can be contacted at gianni@golfwrx.com. Follow him on Twitter @giannimosquito

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Scott

    Jun 5, 2020 at 10:23 pm

    Great article but I guess it would depend on how it was defined. Montgomery never winning in the states or a major while dominating the euro tour seems like an under achievement. Michele Wei would have to be at the top of any list.

    Part of under achieving would be longevity. Sure AK looked like he would be great, but we all know the pursuit of perfection, injuries, and family problems have ruined many golfers quickly. You are only guessing at potential in a small sample size. Who knows, maybe a few years from now Speith will be on this list.
    Just shows how hard this game is.

  2. JJM

    Jun 5, 2020 at 9:26 pm

    I’d throw Dustin Johnson in this mix. Yes, he has plenty of wins over the years but his talent was and is miles above some of the likes on this list. To only have 1 major and never a dominating force like we’ve seen out of Tiger, Phil, Rory, I think you have to consider him underachieving based on his talent level.

  3. ChipNRun

    Jun 5, 2020 at 8:30 pm

    This article hurt me beyond belief. I should be No. 5!

  4. Felipe

    Jun 5, 2020 at 8:11 pm

    El PIGU! Damn that Open was a heartbreaker.

  5. Carl

    Jun 5, 2020 at 7:28 pm

    Hunter Mahan and Bobby Clampett should be on the list as well. How about Eddie Pearce… immense talent and threw it all away.

  6. Shelby

    Jun 5, 2020 at 12:11 pm

    Charles Howell and Boo Weekly I’d probably say. I like your Romero choice! What about guys who were really good? Like Brett Wetterich and Brad Adamonis and then disappeared? I know Wetterich had a wrist injury, but prior to that he was a talent. Scott Hoch and Mark Calcaveccia come to mind for Champions Tour golfers. Calc could’ve won 30 times he was so good! He’s like a Sergio to me.

  7. anonymous

    Jun 5, 2020 at 5:45 am

    Ty Tryon anyone?

    Possibly Charles Howell III? There was a point in the 2000s where we all thought he would challenge Tiger et al.

    So harsh calling any of these guys underachievers; they have such talent!

  8. Brandon

    Jun 4, 2020 at 8:20 pm

    Fowler?

    • Shane

      Jun 5, 2020 at 10:16 am

      Rickie was my first thought. Always around, but only 5 wins. Great putter at all times except Sunday on the back nine. By all indications, he is a great guy, but has certainly not achieved what he could or should have.

  9. Frank

    Jun 4, 2020 at 7:52 pm

    Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson are golfers you’d think would win more than 1 major by now but they underachieved by a lot.

    • Matt Howard

      Jun 5, 2020 at 11:22 am

      Totally agree. This article is more a list of people whose talent was misevaluated than a list of underachievers.

  10. Shallowface

    Jun 4, 2020 at 3:45 pm

    From an earlier era, Greg Norman comes to mind. With the incredible talent he had and the competition of the day, he should have won at least ten majors. Davis Love III is another that never got the most out of his otherworldly talent and pedigree. As far as the list and era above, Michelle Wie belongs right at the top.

    • Gianni Magliocco

      Jun 4, 2020 at 7:13 pm

      Wie is a really interesting call. But like Garcia, she had ‘underachieved’ until she finally broke through ‘late’ in her career to land the elusive major. If she had have broken through early and never done so again, I would have considered her for sure, but winning that one major after so many struggles was enormous and enough to dodge the list.

      • Shallowface

        Jun 5, 2020 at 8:46 am

        There are many golfers throughout history who won one major, and one could consider many of them flukes. I don’t consider one major a breakthrough for historical purposes.
        While Wie had some injuries, it seems many of her struggles may have come from other sources. She was never the same player after leaving the instructor Gary Gilcrist.
        Re: Sergio. I don’t know that Jacklin’s criticism was all that harsh. I always considered Sergio to be overrated. He had neither the temperment nor the putting prowess to be a truly great player.

  11. Ty Webb

    Jun 4, 2020 at 2:49 pm

    Hunter Mahan is another name that comes to mind. He was once one of those guys that seemed destined to become #1 in the world and win consistently year in and year out. Nowadays I don’t know if he even has status.

  12. Ben Fever

    Jun 4, 2020 at 2:17 pm

    Pretty unfair analysis on Watney. Failed to mention Watney having to take year long medical absence with back issues similar to Tigers and we see how long it has taken Tiger to come back and he’s the best ever. Bad back makes good golf very tough. I don’t think a Butch Harmon tweet has any effect on his golf game like a bad back does. Kim is in a league of his own.

    • Gianni Magliocco

      Jun 4, 2020 at 7:08 pm

      Hi Ben, yes, I focused more on the cause of his demise rather than his struggles returning to the top of the game. His play was suffering before any back issues, likely due to equipment changes, and the tweet is relevant as it caused the dismissal of Harmon which was a split which certainly didn’t improve Nick’s performance on the course.

  13. Action Jack

    Jun 4, 2020 at 10:24 am

    Sean O’Hair playoff was at Valspar not Valero.

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19th Hole

GolfWRX Classifieds (07/08/20): TP Mills, Titleist TS4, Miura irons

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At GolfWRX, we love golf equipment plain and simple

We are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment for the game in many ways. It’s that sense of community that drives day-to-day interactions in the forums on topics that range from best driver to what marker you use to mark your ball, it even allows us to share another thing – the equipment itself.

One of the best ways to enjoy equipment is to experiment and whether you are looking to buy-sell-or trade (as the name suggests) you can find almost anything in the GolfWRX BST Forum. From one-off custom Scotty Cameron Circle T putters, to iron sets, wedges, and barely hit drivers, you can find it all in our constantly updated marketplace.

These are some of the latest cool finds from the GolfWRX BST, and if you are curious about the rules to participate in the BST Forum you can check them out here: GolfWRX BST Rules

Member GreenDot1001 – Miura MC 501 Irons

Pure forged Miura 501’s, what more could you ask for in an iron that has to go through more quality checks than a packed parachute.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Miura 501’s

Member Golfva28 – Hand Made TP Mills Putter

The term handmade gets thrown around a lot but this putter is the definition of one-of-one, seriously handcrafted, won’t see another one like it. So if it catches your eye, act fast!

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Hand Made TP Mills

Member rickdarris2004 – Titleist TS4 driver

If you struggle with too much height and spin and need something to knock you flight down faster than a Mike Tyson left jab – this is the combo for you.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Titleist TS4

Remember that you can always browse the GolfWRX Classifieds any time here in our forums: GolfWRX Classifieds

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19th Hole

Tiger Woods reveals his at home putting practice routine

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In Episode 8 of GolfTV’s and Golf Digest’s mini-series “At home with Tiger Woods”, the 15-time major champion explained his primary putting practice routines when at home in South Florida.

Explaining to GolfTV’s Henni Koyack, Woods revealed how he consistently focuses on his putting from 6 feet and in before going straight into a heavy workload of lag putting.

“I end up doing a few sets of chalk lines from probably about 6 feet and in. I work on my start line (and) I try and get that dialed in. And then I really don’t spend a whole lot of time in the 8-15 foot range.

Once I get a lot of my dialed-in time on my putting, then I’ll lag putt a lot and start trying to get my feel in my fingers and how I like to release the putter and feel it in my stroke. I like to do designated tee drill, line drill and then lag putt to death.”

Woods also explained to viewers that he likes to keep his home green running at a “baseline” of 13 on the stimpmeter, which he finds easiest to then make adjustments from at tournament events.

“So, here I like to keep the greens running about 13. And then we go to certain tournaments, and they’re faster. Ok, I make the adjustments. At certain tournaments, they’re slower. But, I use a baseline right around 13. 

At golf courses, the greens have gotten so much faster over the years. Like the standard, it used to be like 10. Maybe 10.5 was a really fast green. But now, some greens are getting up to 14 or so. So, I like to keep mine on the faster side.”

Check out “At home with Tiger Woods – Ep 8″ here.

 

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19th Hole

The 6 best #GolfWRX photos on Instagram today (7.8.20)

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In this segment, we’ll be taking a look at some of the best #GolfWRX tagged photos on Instagram. In case you aren’t already, there’s a whole load of action going on at our page, so follow us: @golfwrx

Let’s get to it then, here are six of the best #GolfWRX photos from the past 24 hours.

PXG irons finished in a shined copper with a satin face from The Golf Garage.

Great shots of the slopes at Gamble Sands.

Nike blades in oil can copper.

Jimmy Walker’s Scotty ready for action.

‘Smokey Vokey’

Great clean up work on this blade from Embrace.

Get hashtagging your golf posts #GolfWRX for your chance to feature in our best of Instagram posts in the future!

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