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Opinion & Analysis

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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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: What makes a golf course ‘tough?’

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I found this past weekend’s golf to be some of the most entertaining and thought-provoking of the season. While the men of the PGA Tour found a challenging and tough Muirfield Village, the women of the LPGA were getting a taste of a true championship-caliber layout at Olympic Club, the sight of many historic U.S. Opens.

In both cases, the best players in the world found themselves up against courses that fought back against their extraordinary skills and talents. Though neither course appeared to present fairways that were ridiculously narrow, nor greens that were ultra-fast and diabolical, scoring was nowhere near the norms we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on the professional tours.

So, that begs the question – what is it exactly that makes a course tough for these elite players? And is that any different from those things that make a course tough for the rest of us?

From my observation, the big difference for both the ladies and the men was the simple fact that Muirfield Village and Olympic shared the same traits – deep rough alongside each fairway, deep bunkers, and heavy rough around the greens. In other words — unlike most of the venues these pros face each week, those two tracks put up severe penalties for their not-so-good shots — and their awful ones.

Setting aside the unfortunate turn of events for John Rahm – who appeared to be playing a different game for the first three days – only 18 of the best male players in the game managed to finish under par at Muirfield Village. That course offered up measurable penalties for missed fairways and greens, as it was nearly impossible to earn a GIR from the rough, and those magical short games were compromised a lot – Colin Morikawa even whiffed a short chip shot because the gnarly lie forced him to try to get “cute” with his first attempt. If you didn’t see it, he laid a sand wedge wide open and slid it completely under the ball — it didn’t move at all!

On the ladies’ side, these elite players were also challenged at the highest level, with errant drives often totally preventing a shot that had a chance of holding the green — or even reaching it. And the greenside rough and deep bunkers of Olympic Club somewhat neutralized their highly refined greenside scoring skills.

So, the take-away from both tournaments is the same, the way I see it.

If a course is set up to more severely penalize the poor drives and approaches — of which there are many by these players — and to make their magical short game skills more human-like, you will see these elite players struggle more like the rest of us.

So, I suggest all of you think about your last few rounds and see what makes your course(s) play tough. Does it penalize your not-so-good drives by making a GIR almost impossible, or is it too challenging around the greens for your scoring skills? Maybe the greens are so fast and diabolical that you don’t get as much out of your putting as you think you should? Or something else entirely?

My bet is that a thoughtful reflection on your last few rounds will guide you to what you should be working on as you come into the peak of the 2021 golf season.

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: My 3-wood search, Mizuno ST-Z driver, and Srixon divide golf ball review

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I am on the search for a 3-wood this year and talk a little about my top 3 that I have been hitting. Hit on the pros and cons of each option and what might be in the bag next week. The Mizuno ST-Z was on the course and a really good driver for players who want forgiveness but don’t need any draw bias. The Srixon Q-Star Tour Divide is a cool 2-tone ball that makes short game practice more interesting.

 

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: How to turn technical thinking into task-based think in your golf game

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The mind can only be in one place at a time at 40 bits of information per second. To build a golf swing this way would be like an ant building New York City this way: a most impossible task. When you are task-based you are using the human self-preserving system, that works at 40 million bits per second, choose wisely.

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