Prior to his breakthrough triumph at the Masters, many labelled Adam Scott as the likeliest first-time major winner in the field. With that vacancy up for grabs, Paul Krishnamurty examines the claims of five players whose time is long overdue...
Being called the 'best player yet to win a major' is the most back-handed compliment in golf. It's a label that haunted Phil Mickelson for the best part of a decade before he finally broke through and that will forever be associated with Colin Montgomerie. When Adam Scott threw away last year's Open Championship, many felt the Aussie might also spend the rest of his career ruing that best ever chance to become a major champion. However after Adam turned that near-miss into a mere stepping stone towards eventual glory at Augusta, a host of top stars can see light at the end of the tunnel. Here are five who are well capable of breaking through soon.
Ever since Monty slipped down the rankings, Westwood has assumed his old tag and rightly so. He's achieved everything else in the game, from dozens of worldwide wins to one of the best Ryder Cup records of all-time. He's repeatedly challenged in the final round of majors, usually falling short with the putter. He certainly remains good enough to win one and wasn't beaten far in the Masters, but time must be running out. Lee turned 40 last week, which is older than any major winner on US soil this century. Nevertheless, there can be no question that his long game remains ideal for the US Open and Open Championship, and Westwood can take heart from the fact that fortysomethings Ernie Els and Darren Clarke won the last two renewals of the latter.
The reigning FedEx Cup champion begun Masters Sunday as favourite only to flop for the third time in such circumstances. He also held a substantial halfway lead at last year's Open only to fall away, and famously fled Augusta in tears in floods of tears after fluffing his first major opportunity at the 2008 Masters. So far as his game is concerned, Snedeker is made for major championships because short-game brilliance is always at a premium. Those three previous failures, however, may have left a psychological mark and one must wonder whether he has the mental fortitude to finish the job.
Nobody has been more disappointing in the biggest events than Donald, who became world number one without ever seriously contending for a major. The problem clearly isn't any lack of talent, because there are no specific weaknesses in his game. In fact, like Snedeker, Luke's short-game skills should be gold-dust around most major venues. Rather it seems to be a matter of building his hopes up only to flop when it matters most. It is notable that almost every time Donald has arrived at a major in tip-top form, he's hit a poor opening round. Perhaps reduced expectations can make a positive difference this year
The highest ranked player without a major also ticks plenty of boxes. He's the same age as Scott and clearly improving, consistently challenging in the best events outside the majors. Like his compatriot Donald, however, Justin has repeatedly underachieved in majors, invariably throwing in at least one ruinous round. Incredibly, he's never gone closer in a major than that infamous performance as a teenage amateur in the 1998 Open. While Rose certainly has the game, his odds reflect that and, until he starts challenging regularly for majors, there are more attractive betting options.
Though still one of the great hopes of American golf, Dustin's star has waned slightly after a couple of poor seasons in the majors. Nevertheless, he's made some sort of mark in all four majors and, at the age of 28, has plenty more opportunities ahead of him. With a stellar Pebble Beach record and a second place at Royal St Georges to his name, Johnson clearly likes links golf. He's made the top-15 in the last three Open Championships and must rate one of the likeliest Americans to win our major.
28 April 2013