Posted on: July 15, 2008 7:18 pm
I am going with the same criteria as I did for the 25 worst golfers to win a major championship, with one change: I am making it a top-26.
Why 26? It's simple. Steve Elkington is not in the same class as these other golfers, but his accomplishments make him appear to be. While everyone else arguably underachieved winning only one major, Elkington overachieved. But unlike every other overachiever in golf, Elkington time and time again stepped his game up in prestigious events. That deserves a mention, and thus he makes this list.
No winners since the 2002 PGA Championship are eligible. Yes, Jim Furyk will be on this list if he doesn't win another major, but I'm giving him more time since he won in 2003. Padraig Harrington also has a chance to get on here some day.
Also, the rankings are done based on performance. I don't care if you think someone was talented; if he didn't perform, he doesn't make the list. I am looking at how the players did in other majors and how they did overall. I got some flack for having John Daly on my last list because he was more talented than most of the other players. But statistically, he has been a mediocre golfer, one of the most mediocre to win a major championship, let alone two.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy.
26 Best Golfers to Win Only One Major Championship Since World War II
26. Steve Elkington – 1995 PGA Championship
Elkington is an interesting character. He won 10 PGA Tour events, one Asian Tour tournament, and once more on the Australasian Tour. Among his PGA Tour victories are two PLAYERS Championship and two triumphs in the winners-restricted event that begin each season. Elkington only won five normal tour events. He has been runner-up in the both the Open Championship and the PGA Championship, as well three other times in which he has finished third in a major. More so than any mediocre golfer, Elkington has stepped it up big time in the important tournaments and that earns him a place on this list. Most of the other golfers got on here because they underperformed; Elkington is a classic over-performer.
25. Al Geiberger – 1966 PGA Championship
Geiberger won 11 times on tour, including a Tournament Players Championship and MONY Tournament of Champions. He did not win an event after his PGA in 1966 until 1974, although he was runner-up in the 1969 U.S. Open. Overall, he recorded six top-five performances in majors. In 1977, he became the first player ever to shoot a round in the 50s.
24. Gay Brewer – 1967 Masters Tournament
Brewer recorded 11 top-10s in majors besides his one victory, at least two in all four majors. He also won 11 PGA Tour events. After his only major victory, Brewer never finished better than sixth in a slam and did not win a PGA Tour event for five years.
23. Bobby Nichols – 1964 PGA Championship
Besides his one victory, Nichols recorded four top-four finishes in majors, including losing by one stroke to Gay Brewer in the 1967 Masters Tournament. He too won 11 times on the PGA Tour, none bigger than his lone PGA Championship. He also won once on the Senior Tour.
22. Don January – 1967 PGA Championship
January finished in the top-10 16 times in major tournaments, including seven top-fives. He won 10 PGA Tour events, two of which were winners-restricted events. Although it doesn't affect his placing, he won 23 times on the senior tour, including one major.
21. Bob Charles – 1963 Open Championship
The Kiwi won five times on the PGA Tour, not including his 1963 Open Championship victory. He won eight times in his native New Zealand and four times on the European Tour. He was thrice the runner-up in a major, including twice in 1968. Overall, he had seven top-five finishes in major championships.
20. Tom Lehman – 1996 Open Championship
Lehman is the only person to be the 54-hole leader three consecutive years in the U.S. Open. Somehow, he has never won a U.S. Open. Despite being ranked number one in the world, Lehman has only five PGA Tour titles and two European Tour victories, one of which on each tour is the 1996 Open Championship. He also won THE TOUR Championship that same year. Six times Lehman finished in the top-three in a major, but only once on top.
19. Paul Azinger – 1993 PGA Championship
Azinger has won 12 PGA Tour events and two European Tour events. He has also finished in the top-10 10 times in majors, six of which were top-five performances. He was runner-up in the Open Championship in 1987 and the PGA Championship in 1988. He has finished in the top-five at every major at least once. Among his tour wins are the MONY Tournament of Champions and THE TOUR Championship.
18. Dow Finsterwald – 1958 PGA Championship
Finsterwald lost in the finals of the 1957 PGA Championship, but was able to get revenge in 1958 by winning the first year in which it was a stroke-play format. That 1957 defeat was the only runner-up Finsterwald ever had in a major, but he did finished third four times and in the top-five eight times. Overall, he won 11 PGA Tour events, but just the one major.
17. Justin Leonard – 1997 Open Championship
Leonard has been the runner-up three times in majors so far, all since his lone victory. There's still time for him to get off this list, but he hasn't been in contention since the 2004 PGA Championship, where he finished second. He has won 12 PGA Tour events, including THE PLAYERS Championship in 1998. His most recent victory came in June.
16. David Duval – 2001 Open Championship
Duval finished in the top-11 of all but four majors from 1998 until 2001. He never did so even once before or since. He was twice the runner-up in the Masters and also finished tied for third once. He also won 13 titles, all in a period of less than four calendar years. A number of factors led to Duval completely losing his game, but that doesn't matter. Just what he accomplished, even if it was only for a short time, was remarkable. Remember, he was the last player to take the top ranking away from Woods before Vijay Singh in 2004.
15. Jim Ferrier – 1947 PGA Championship
Ferrier finished in the top-10 15 times in majors, including seven top-fives after his lone victory. He was runner-up in the 1960 PGA Championship, thus denying what would have been the only person to win the PGA both in stroke-play and match-play. Ferrier won 14 individual PGA Tour events over his career in addition to four titles in four-ball competitions.
14. Ian Woosnam – 1991 Masters Tournament
Woosnam won 28 European Tour events, more than any other player with exactly one major title (Colin Montgomerie has won more titles but has zero majors). Twice he was awarded the European Tour order of merit. He had five top-five finishes in majors outside of his triumph and is one of 12 people to have been ranked number one in the world since the rankings debuted in 1986.
13. Tommy Bolt – 1958 U.S. Open
Bolt finished in the top-10 14 times in major championships, nine of which were top-five performances. He also won 14 individual PGA Tour titles. At the age of 52, he almost won the PGA Championship, as he was tied with Jack Nicklaus heading to the back nine. He finished third. That PGA Championship was held in February, not summer like tradition now dictates. Bolt is also one of the Hall of Fame's bigger snubs.
12. Ken Venturi – 1964 U.S. Open
Injuries derailed Venturi almost immediately after his only major title. He was twice the solo runner-up in the Masters Tournament, the first as the low amateur in 1956. Playing during one of the toughest eras in golf history, Venturi managed 14 PGA Tour titles and 10 top-10s in major championships. If he played in any other era or did not get carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists, he probably would have won much more.
11. Fred Couples – 1992 Masters Tournament
Couples had 25 top-ten performances in major championships and tied a record by making the cut 23 consecutive times in which he teed it up at Augusta National. He's had 12 top-five finishes, but only that one maiden triumph. Couples has won 15 PGA Tour events, including what is now known as THE PLAYERS Championship twice, and two European Tour events.
10. Tom Weiskopf – 1973 Open Championship
Weiskopf was four times the bridesmaid at the Masters Tournament among eight second and third place finishes at major championships. He won 16 times on tour, including five times in 1973. He tacked on a Senior U.S. Open in 1995 for what it is worth, which is something. But in lists like these it is worth nothing.
9. Kel Nagle – 1960 Open Championship
Nagle had seven top-five finishes in major championships, six of which came in a seven year period in the Open Championship. A native Australian, he had only played in majors twice before his 39th birthday, but defeated Arnold Palmer to claim one in 1960. He won 61 times in Australia and New Zealand, including once every year from 1949 through 1977 with the exclusion of 1961 and 1976.
8. Davis Love III – 1997 PGA Championship
Not including his win, Love has had eight top-five performances in major championships, including solo seconds in the Masters Tournament in both 1995 and 1999. He has won THE PLAYERS Championship twice among his 19 wins on tour, but that's not a major. Yes, some people call it the fifth major, but it's not. Calling it so would be calling Craig Perks a major champion, and nobody wants to do that.
7. Tony Lema – 1964 Open Championship
What can be said about Tony Lema? There is no doubt in my mind that he would not be on this list if his plane did not run out of fuel in 1966 on his way to a tournament when he was only 32. He had already won 12 titles, including five in 1964. He had already had eight top-10 finishes in majors over the past four years, including a second place in the 1963 Masters Tournament. Unfortunately, tragedies do occur and thus Lema has to make the list.
6. Lanny Wadkins – 1977 PGA Championship
Wadkins had eight other top-three finishes in major championships and 21 titles overall on tour, but only one major. He won the Tournament Players Championship once and the MONY Tournament of Champions twice. Wadkins's PGA triumph came in a playoff that greatly affected this list. Had he lost, he obviously would not be on this list. But neither would have Gene Littler...
5. Gene Littler – 1961 U.S. Open
Littler finished second in the U.S. Open in 1954, his first time in the field. It was one of nine top-five finishes in major championships, not including his win in 1961. He was a runner-up three times, including a solo second at the 1977 PGA Championship, giving him a remarkable 23-year top-two longevity. He won 29 PGA Tour events, the first oddly enough as an amateur in 1954 and last in 1977. To put that in perspective: he won his first event before Arnold Palmer won his first and his last after Palmer won his last. But Palmer had seven majors; Littler only had one.
4. Jerry Pate – 1976 U.S. Open
Besides his win, Pate had seven top-five finishes in majors, including two runner-ups. His career was basically over by 30, but not before he won 8 times on the PGA Tour. One of those victories was the Tournament Players Championship. Pate is a great example of a person who could have been so much more. Unfortunately, shoulder problems derailed him. He won his U.S. Open at the age of 23, one year after he took low amateur. Impressive.
3. Roberto DeVicenzo – 1967 Open Championship
What a stupid he is. DeVicenzo signed for the wrong score in the 1968 Masters Tournament, giving Bob Goalby the victory and keeping DeVicenzo out of a playoff. If you don't believe me, check out the picture at the top of the article. He had eight second or third place finishes in major championships and 17 top-10s over a 23-year period, despite playing in three or four majors in one year only twice. He won all over the world, including five times in individual events on the PGA Tour.
2. Tom Kite – 1992 U.S. Open
Kite had 27 top-10 performances in majors over four different decades, 16 of which were top-five. He was thrice the runner-up in the Masters Tournament and once in the Open Championship. He won 19 times on the PGA Tour and is the oldest player to lead a tournament through three rounds (2005 Booz Allen Classic at the age of 55). Kite could have easily won five majors; he didn't.
1. Lloyd Mangrum – 1946 U.S. Open
Who knows if Mangrum would have won a second title if not for World War II, but it's a moot point. Besides his victory in the 1946 U.S. Open, Mangrum finished in the top-three nine times and the top-10 25 times. He won 36 PGA Tour events, more than any player with only one major championship. And if it weren't for the war, he would have won more. He was one of the five best players of his era, an era that included Ben Hogan, Jimmy Demaret, and Sam Snead. He was their Phil Mickelson.
As a side note, no major champion from the 1980s made the list. Most people who won majors in the 1980s won two or three, keeping there from being that many people eligible. The only ones to get serious consideration were Hal Sutton (1983 PGA Championship) and Craig Stadler (1982 Masters Tournament).
Posted on: July 14, 2008 6:43 pm
Edited on: July 15, 2008 7:16 pm
Okay. I've looked at every golfer to win one of golf's four male major professional tournaments and picked out the 25 worst to win a title. There have been some very obscure champions, three of which even won multiple titles. But these were the worst.
Now, there were some that were less accomplished. Ian Baker-Finch didn't achieve that much in his career, but before his mental collapse he was a top-ten golfer and many thought he would win multiple titles. He was not one of the 25 worst.
I looked at how many titles each golfer won, the caliber of those championships, and how he performed in other major titles. Claude Harmon only won one title, the 1948 Masters Championship, but he never played full time on the PGA Tour and had numerous close calls for a second major championship. He's on the list, but behind people who have won numerous more titles.Also, I have excluded every major from the 2003 Masters Tournament onward. It is too soon to judge these people. Yes, Shaun Micheel, Todd Hamilton, Ben Curtis, Angel Cabrera, and Zach Johnson are all mediocre golfers, but until 5 years have passed, I'm not ready to put them on this list.
24. Jim Turnesa – 1952 PGA Championship
22. Jerry Barber – 1961 PGA Championship
21. Mark Brooks – 1996 PGA Championship
20. Max Faulkner – 1951 Open Championship
14. Dave Marr – 1965 PGA Championship
11. Tommy Aaron – 1973 Masters Tournament
6. Andy North – 1978 & 1985 U.S. Open
3. Rich Beem – 2002 PGA Championship
Posted on: June 27, 2008 2:03 am
Edited on: June 27, 2008 1:47 pm
Every now and then we are surprised by greatness. Usually it comes from redundant people and we expect it: from Tiger Woods and Tom Brady, Kobe Bryant and Albert Pujols.
Sure, these people don't always succeed, but when we see their greatness, we can only admire it.But Wednesday, we were surprised and we shouldn't have been. Less than eight years ago, Marat Safin was number one in the world and expected to challenge Pete Sampras's mark of 14 grand slam titles. And really, we would have been more surprised if he did not. He had everything: a solid serve, a nasty backhand that could put the ball anywhere on the court, and one of the two best return games since Jimmy Connors, right next to Andre Agassi.
At the 2000 U.S. Open, Sampras had 18 aces in a straight set win over Lleyton Hewitt in the semifinals. He could muster only eight against Safin in the finals. Additionally, Safin earned nine break chances, converting four of them. In his first six matches of the tournament, Sampras had only been broken four times total.
When Safin won that final to claim his first grand slam title, many people thought we were seeing a changing of the guards. Safin rose to the top position in the world after that victory and he seemed to have the complete package. Within a year, he began plummeting.
It wasn't that he was a flash in the pan. No, definitely not. Safin was clearly the most talented young player in the world. When he was on, and he could be on, there was no one who could touch him. But he beat himself, arguing with the umpires left and right and just mentally blowing up on the court. It was almost painful.
Still, based on pure talent alone, he made the finals of the Australian Open in 2002 and 2004.
The 2004 one was the most shocking, as he entered ranked 86th in the world. He beat top-ranked Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals in five sets, somehow serving one more ace than Roddick in the match. Roddick, of course, holds the record for the fastest serve ever recorded. And in the semifinals he took care of Agassi, somehow getting 33 serves by the American return wizard. He was defeated by Roger Federer in the finals, but this was not the last we'd hear of Safin.
No doubt the 2005 Australian Open was Safin's greatest triumph. He entered ranked fourth, but an early exit could see him drop clear out of the top 15.
In the semifinals, Roger Federer took a two set to one lead, but Safin fought back and defeated him 9-7 in the fifth set. It still is the last time a healthy Roger Federer lost to anyone but Rafael Nadal in a grand slam.
That bears repeating: Roger Federer has not lost in the last 12 slams in which he was healthy to anyone but Rafael Nadal since losing to Marat Safin in the semifinals of the 2005 Australian Open. It also should be mentioned that nobody was that shocked when Safin won that match. Only with the tailspin that's occurred for Safin since then does this match raise eyebrows.
Then in the finals, Marat Safin won his first grand slam in more than four years, defeating home favorite Lleyton Hewitt in a convincing four sets.
Safin has not won an ATP-level tournament of any calibre since then. No grand slams, no Masters Series shields, no regular tournaments in more than three years.
In case you were wondering, Federer has won 32 titles since then.
Entering Wimbledon this year, Safin's ranking had plummeted to 75 and with a second round meeting with Novak Djokovic, nobody expected him to be able to improve it. A third-ranked Djokovic who with a title would move to number two in the world against a moribund Safin on Safin's admitted worst surface?
But it's amazing how quickly we forget the talent that Safin possesses. He has more talent than anyone in the world: more than Roger Federer could ever dream of happening. On the rare occasion that Safin is able to overcome himself, he shows it.
And on Wednesday, we saw that greatness.
We saw what we all expected to see since he won the 2000 U.S. Open over Pete Sampras, nearly a full year before Roger Federer defeated Sampras at Wimbledon in his five set epic.
That Federer-Sampras match was supposed to be the changing of the guard at Wimbledon; the Safin-Sampras match was supposed to be the changing for the other 11 months of the tennis year.
As it turned out, Federer was the player who was more mentally capable to win, but never has he shown that he is the most talented player in the world. That honor has always belonged to Marat Safin.
And Wednesday on Centre Court at Wimbledon we saw a glimpse of what might have been. Yes, Djokovic did not play his best match, but he didn't play awful. He won barely a third of his second serves because Safin always found a way to hit a winner. Safin showed he could return any serve wherever he wanted to on the court.
The tennis we saw from Safin was brilliant. It just was. It wasn't perfect, but it didn't need to be.
Usually when the number three player in the world loses to a guy ranked outside the top 50, it's because he played poorly and his opponent played a near-flawless match. Safin definitely made his mistakes, scoffing up 21 unforced errors in the match.
But Safin showed greatness.
There he was on the most important court in tennis; there he was on his least preferred surface; there he was going against one of the best players in the world and Marat Safin thoroughly dominated every facet of the match. The scoreboard, if anything, makes his straight set win seem closer than it really was.
On Wednesday we saw greatness, and we were shocked. And after all the greatness we've come to expect, it's a relief.
Finally, after eight years of waiting, we could be poised to see Marat Safin live up to his potential. So long as he stays sane, he can win this tournament. His talent is just so unending.
If he does win this tournament, most likely by knocking off Roger Federer in the semifinals and Rafael Nadal in the finals, he may finally show that he has not wasted his talent. But I wouldn't count on it.
If they both played a perfect match, Safin would beat Federer on any surface, even on Safin's loathed and Federer's beloved grass. And nothing would be better than the chance to see it.
Unfortunately, nobody knows when Safin's greatness will show up. He could bomb out Friday and nobody would raise an eye. It's what we've become accustomed to expect.
For someone with such ability, it's a shame. It's just a crying shame. There's simply no other word with the power to describe it.
Posted on: June 16, 2008 5:29 pm
Tiger. I have nothing else to say. Nothing.
Monday at Torrey Pines, going head-to-head with the world's 158th ranked golfer, Tiger Woods officially earned the designation of the greatest golfer of all time.Here was a man just a few weeks after knee surgery playing a course that defeated Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Vijay Singh, Geoff Ogilvy and, eventually, drew even with Lee Westwood, and for 72 holes, he defeated it, albeit by one shot. The only other person who could say that was Rocco Mediate.
And after 91 holes, Tiger still had the course beat. Not even Mediate could say that.
Tiger Woods, bad knee and all, had defeated the U.S. Open and every other top golfer in the world. And nobody was surprised.
That last line is the most important. Nobody was surprised. No one.
I wasn't surprised. Rocco Mediate wasn't surprised. Johnny Miller wasn't surprised. And you weren't surprised. How could you be?
This was, nay, is Tiger Woods. This is what he does.
Only Tiger Woods birdies the final hole twice to stay alive in the U.S. Open in one tournament. Twice! He did it Sunday and he did it Monday. Heck, on Saturday he eagled it to take a one shot lead. And were you surprised then? How could you be?
I wasn't alive when Jack made his charge at Augusta in 1986, but from what I've read, many people, many so-called experts, were surprised. He had been written off as over-the-hill; he had been written off as old.
But Tiger wasn't written off.
Even with a bum knee, he was the favorite or at the very least the co-favorite before the event.
Even when he was grimacing in pain, using one of his clubs as a cane just to walk up to the ball after he hit it, you expected him to pull off something miraculous.
Even when he double-bogeyed the first hole three times, not once did anyone think that Tiger was done. Maybe you thought he was in trouble, but you knew this was Tiger.
And that's when I realized that Tiger had taken the next step, Tiger had officially become the greatest golfer to ever live, bar none.
No longer was I waiting for him to break Jack's mark of 18 majors. No longer was I waiting for him to break Snead's mark of 82 tour victories. He doesn't need those marks to be the best ever. Not anymore, at least.
Just by making the cut, he showed that he is the best today. Do you honestly think any of these guys could make the cut so quickly after knee surgery? But everything he did in the three rounds after that should have silenced any critics.
Remember 1997, remember when Michael Jordan scored 38 points in game 5 of the NBA finals against the Utah Jazz despite battling the flu? Were you surprised? You couldn't have been.
Now, Jordan had long-since solidified his status as the greatest to ever play, but that symbolized it. Sure he hadn't broken Kareem Abdul-Jabbar mark for most points scored or equaled Bill Russell's 11 titles, but at that point, you couldn't argue that he was not the greatest ever. And you didn't.
After Rocco Mediate missed his par putt on the 91st hole on Monday, Tiger Woods's fate was sealed. Not just was he the United States Open Champion for the third time, he was the greatest golfer to ever live. To argue otherwise would be fruitless.
Records are nice; they are sweet. But they aren't the definition of greatness. They help to define it, but they aren't the entire definition.
Most likely, Woods will shatter each mark. He will leave them in his dust. But he doesn't need to. He doesn't need to ever make another cut.
He doesn't need to do anything else ever to assure his legacy as the greatest golfer to ever live.
His legacy now is, it just is. And there's nothing more I can say. There's nothing more I need to say.
If you saw it, you know what I'm talking about. You are not surprised. There is no way you can be surprised.Tiger. I have nothing else.