Who is the best golfer to never win a major and who will be victorious at Augusta? The NCG team discuss in this week’s fourball.
There’s a change of line-up due to factors beyond my control so we welcome, on a trial basis, twenty-somethings Joe Hughes and Matthew Beedle and a fellow old-timer Dan Murphy….
Vijay Singh nearly won on the PGA Tour at the age of 56, where do you hope your game/handicap is when you reach such an age?
Dan: Despite any and all evidence to the contrary, I remain convinced that my best golfing days are ahead of me. In fact, just answering this question has made me realise that they are probably not. How sad is that?
However, one of golf’s greatest virtues is that it is a game you can play throughout your life. Skill and nerve and patience are every bit as important as athleticism and power. That’s cheered me up again.
Matthew: As the likes of Vijay and Phil Mickelson have showed, you don’t always lose your power. Then again these players get to train in the gym should they fancy it. I’d like to say that I’d still be fairly competitive and playing off a handicap in the single figures. However, when you’ve got a back made of glass at the age of 21, there’s not much hope for later in life…
Joe: Just last weekend I was playing a casual round with my dad and of course, as seems to be the case whenever I decide to play, it took us five hours and we were waiting on every tee box.
Stood on the tee of the 175-yard 3rd whilst the fourball of older gentlemen ahead chipped their second shots onto the green, I said to my dad, “If I am still playing at the stage where I need to hit driver on a par 3, then that’ll do me.”
Ideally, I’d like to still have the length to keep up a decent pace of play but I very much doubt that I’ll be at all bothered about my handicap by then, I hope to be playing for the fun of it.
Mark: Joe, Vijay isn’t 86, he’s still in the prime of his life! I must admit I do worry what sort of shapes and sizes of clubs that will be at the bottom of my bag to assist me with my chipping in eight years’ time.
One part of my brain tells me that I’ll such a good grasp on my game and course management by then that I’ll be alright and still clinging to single figures, what’s left of my brain tells me that I’ll be playing on a medical exemption and happy to shuffle around nine holes.
It’s the question that will never go away, who’s the best golfer to never win a major?
Matthew: There’s plenty to choose from; Xander Schauffele, Tommy Fleetwood and Bryson DeChambeau all would be in a top five list but I’d have to go with Rickie Fowler. His major record is exceptional and I know we say it every year but it’s only a matter of time before he claims his maiden major crown.
Me. Oops. I was getting carried away after ending the previous answer on such a high. I think the answer would have to be Fowler at the moment. The guy has finished second in three majors and third in the fourth (which actually is the fourth, the PGA). You can’t get any closer than that. He’s currently in great form so perhaps this will be his year.
Joe: I’d say Tony Finau. He’s such a frustrating yet brilliant player to watch in the big events, particularly over the last year or so. There’s no question that his game is worthy of way more than the one PGA title he currently has, and with previous top 10s in all of the majors, I believe and hope that he tears it up this year.
Mark: This is quite a tasty question again with four of the top 10 in the world still major-free. But I’ll go with someone who’s on the periphery of this cluster and a personal favourite (and wannabe friend) of mine, Tommy Fleetwood. If he was in a showdown with Fowler, Rahm, DeChambeau or Schauffele I’d definitely fancy him and he’s so solid that he’ll repeatedly threaten in the coming years.
We’re a month away from The Masters. Give me a sneaky outsider for Augusta, so anyone at 25s or more and show your workings?
Joe: Marc Leishman can be found at odds as big as 50s right now and I’m more than happy to stick a quid or two on that. He became a top-10 machine when he teed it up on the PGA Tour in 2018 and importantly finished 9th at Augusta last time out.
He’s been in contention at The Open too, so he knows what a major Sunday feels like. I fancy him to go really well next month.
Dan: Can I have Bubba? He’s won twice here before and looks to have started 2019 much better than he finished 2018. If ever there were a player to back in The Masters but not The Open it’s Bubba.
In fact, his record in all of the other majors beyond Augusta is haphazard at best. His mind does not work conventionally and you sense that he just feels comfortable here. You don’t need me to remind you how well he can play round here so at 33s he is a great punt. In fact, I think I’ll back him now.
Matthew: It’s hard to ignore Schauffele at the moment, especially when he’s over 30/1 with the majority of bookmakers. Even when it looked like he was going to have a bad week at Riviera he fought back to finish in the top 15. He struggled at Augusta last year but I’d expect him to fare much better this time around, especially when he hasn’t finished outside the top 25 since October.
Mark: Matthew, stop saying Schauffele. I’ll be honest, the original question was someone at 33s but then I started obsessing about this person and he’s a 25/1 shout.
I think Jason Day is going to have a HUGE (yes, that big) year. He’s been very tidy early on this year and he won’t get too much attention, unless he wins in the next few weeks, given how obsessed we all are about JT, Rory, DJ, Tiger, Spieth, Phil et al. Yes, and you Brooks. A few years ago we all wondered if he would be the one to dominate the game, now it’s time, at 31, to win another biggie.