Golf

 

  1. Curtis Strange, +69.96, 1975-2002

Strange’s career score by major

Masters: 19 starts, 0 wins, +14.74

U.S. Open: 21 starts, 2 wins (1988, 1989), +7.10

British Open: 13 starts, 0 wins, +17.70

PGA: 22 starts, 0 wins (1997), +30.42

Total (75 starts), +69.96

 

Strange’s average score by year

1975: 3.64      1982: -0.62     1989: -0.84     1996:  1.15 

1976: 1.78      1983:  1.47     1990:  1.49     1997:  2.31    

1977: 3.79      1984:  0.95     1991:  1.35     1998:  3.44

1978: 0.87      1985:  0.59     1992:  1.57     1999:  2.77

1979: 3.13      1986:  1.49     1993:  1.61     2000:  1.98

1980: 0.39      1987: -0.99     1994: -0.77     2001:  3.57    

1981: -0.45      1988: -0.79     1995:  0.36     2002:  2.97          

 

 

 

  1. Corey Pavin, +69.15, 1982-2009

Pavin’s career score by major

Masters: 15 starts, 0 wins, +6.84

U.S. Open: 22 starts, 1 win (1995), +25.31

British Open: 19 starts, 0 wins, +23.62

PGA: 20 starts, 0 wins, +13.38

Total (76 starts), +69.15

 

Pavin’s average score by year

1982:  1.46     1989:  2.01     1996: -0.49     2003:  3.42

1983:  2.75     1990: -0.71     1997:  1.71     2004: -0.60

1984: -0.39     1991:  0.43     1998:  2.56     2005: -1.00

1985: -0.49     1992:  0.25     1999:  1.23     2006:  1.71

1986:  1.40     1993: -0.02     2000:  3.18     2007:  1.02

1987:  2.46     1994:  0.55     2001:  1.30     2008:  1.22

1988:  1.03     1995: -0.04     2002:  0.02     2009: -0.65

 

 

  1. Angel Cabrera, +64.33, 1997-2017

Cabrera’s career score by major

Masters: 18 starts, 1 win (2009), +7.94

U.S. Open: 18 starts, 1 win (2007), +17.05

British Open: 16 starts, 0 wins, +20.19

PGA: 13 starts, 0 wins, +19.16

Total (65 starts), +64.33

 

Cabrera’s average score by year

1997:  1.02    2003: -0.14    2009: -0.04    2015:  1.84

1998:          2004:  2.18    2010:  1.26    2016:  0.02

1999: -0.72    2005:  2.05    2011:  1.86    2017:  3.45

2000:  1.53    2006:  0.00    2012:  1.84

2001:  0.32    2007:  0.16    2013:  -0.17

2002:  1.15    2008:  1.52    2014:   2.17

 

  1. Ian Woosnam, +65.06, 1982-2006

Woosnam’s career score by major

Masters: 19 starts, 1 win (1991), +17.58

U.S. Open: 10 starts, 0 wins, +6.41

British Open: 22 starts, 0 wins, +14.17

PGA: 18 starts, 0 wins, +26.90

Total (69 starts), +65.06

 

Woosnam’s average score by year

1982:  2.28    1989: -0.83    1996:  1.16    2003:  2.56

1983:  3.43    1990: -0.49    1997:  1.52    2004:  3.36

1984:  2.61    1991:  0.33    1998:  0.77    2005:  3.15

1985: -0.65    1992:  0.06    1999:  0.41    2006:  2.82

1986: -0.92    1993: -0.05    2000:  0.75

1987:  1.46    1994:  1.31    2001:  2.86

1988:  1.71    1995:  0.78    2002:  1.79

  1. Andy North, +62.27, 1975-1995

North’s career score by major

Masters: 13 starts, 0 wins, +14.56

U.S. Open: 21 starts, 2 wins (1978, 1985), +22.02

British Open: 4 starts, 0 wins, +4.11

PGA: 14 starts, 0 wins, +21.58

Total (52 starts), +62.27

 

North’s average score by year

1975: -1.30    1981:  0.76    1986:  2.47    1991:  0.16

1976:  0.16    1982:  1.26    1987:  3.42    1992:  3.52

1977:  1.78    1983:  0.83    1988:  1.87    1993:  3.46

1978: -0.41    1984:  1.90    1989:  2.14    1994:  2.20

1979:  1.19    1985:  0.63    1990:  0.29    1995:  3.63

1980: -0.26

 

  1. Colin Montgomerie, +61.89, 1990-2010

Montgomerie’s career score by major

Masters: 15 starts, 0 wins, +15.83

U.S. Open: 16 starts, 0 wins, -1.34

British Open: 20 starts, 0 wins, +22.36

PGA: 18 starts, 0 wins, +25.04

Total (69 starts), +61.89

 

Montgomerie’s average score by year

1990:  0.47    1996:  1.52    2002:  2.03    2008:  2.07

1991: -0.70    1997: -0.67    2003:  1.92    2009:  3.56

1992:  0.08    1998:  0.54    2004:  1.42    2010:  2.10

1993:  1.73    1999: -1.00    2005:  0.70

1994:  0.28    2000: -0.05    2006:  1.69

1995:  0.08    2001:  0.70    2007:  1.93

 

  1. Larry Nelson, 60.77, 1976-1997

Nelson’s career score by major

Masters: 13 starts, 0 wins, +14.50

U.S. Open: 19 starts, 1 win (1983), +13.31

British Open: 21 starts, 0 wins, +11.65

PGA: 21 starts, 2 wins (1981, 1987), +21.31

Total (74 starts), +60.77

 

Nelson’s average score by year

1976: -0.26    1982:  0.54    1988:  0.43    1994:  2.59

1977:  1.20    1983:  0.38    1989:  1.54    1995:  3.86

1978:  1.20    1984:  1.55    1990:  1.13    1996:

1979: -0.47    1985:  0.37    1991:  1.04    1997:  2.16

1980:  0.70    1986:  1.88    1992:  1.58

1981: -0.01    1987:  1.17    1993:  0.34

 

 

  1. Sandy Lyle, +58.68, 1977-2000

Lyle’s career score by major

Masters: 19 starts, 1 win (1988), +24.23

U.S. Open: 10 starts, 0 wins, +12.96

British Open: 23 starts, 1 win (1985), +12.53

PGA: 6 starts, 0 wins, +8.96

Total (58 starts), +58.68

 

Lyle’s average score by year

1977:  1.97    1983:  3.46    1989:  1.93    1995:  1.18

1978:  2.65    1984: -0.60    1990:  1.98    1996:  1.66

1979: -0.33    1985: -0.96    1991:  0.69    1997:  1.92

1980:  0.95    1986: -0.18    1992:  0.68    1998:  1.05

1981:  1.59    1987: -0.49    1993:  0.84    1999:  1.95

1982: -1.42    1988: -1.11    1994:  1.49    2000:  3.25

 

  1. David Duval, +56.14, 1995-2017

Duval’s career score by major

Masters: 11 starts, 0 wins, +11.72

U.S. Open: 14 starts, 0 wins, +7.96

British Open: 20 starts, 1 win (2001), +22.08

PGA: 10 starts, 0 wins, +14.38

Total (55 starts), +56.14

Duval’s average score by year

1995:  0.89    2001: -1.40    2007:          2013:  3.57

1996: -0.11    2002:  1.25    2008: -0.02    2014:  2.66

1997:  0.41    2003:  3.23    2009:  1.28    2015:  0.41

1998: -0.30    2004:  3.33    2010:  2.11    2016:

1999: -1.14    2005:  3.32    2011:  3.12    2017:  2.75

2000: -1.40    2006:  1.41    2012:  3.35

 

  1. Seve Ballesteros, +54.48, 1975-2007

Ballesteros’s career score by major

Masters: 29 starts, 2 wins (1980 1983), +17.25

U.S. Open: 17 starts, 0 wins, +11.27

British Open: 27 starts, 3 wins (1979, 1984, 1988), +16.20

PGA: 13 starts, 0 wins, +9.76

Total (86 starts), +54.48

 

Ballesteros’s average score by year

1975:  2.66    1984: -0.39    1993:  0.82    2002:  2.43

1976: -1.93    1985: -0.68    1994:  0.51    2003:  2.86

1977:  0.06    1986: -0.06    1995:  2.28    2004:

1978: -0.56    1987: -0.91    1996:  2.57    2005:

1979: -0.07    1988: -0.05    1997:  2.76    2006:  2.93

1980: -1.49    1989: -0.04    1998:  2.81    2007:  2.84

1981:  0.88    1990:  1.22    1999:  2.86

1982:  0.23    1991:  0.18    2000:  3.25

1983: -1.46    1992:  1.35    2001:  2.82

 

  1. Fuzzy Zoeller, +54.6, 1976-2001

Zoeller’s career score by major

Masters: 23 starts, 1 wins (1979), +15.28

U.S. Open: 22 starts, 0 wins, +15.70

British Open: 14 starts, 0 wins, +5.94

PGA: 19 starts, 0 wins, +17.24

Total (78 starts), +54.16

Zoeller’s average score by year

1976:  0.38    1983:  0.15    1990: -0.64    1997:  0.91

1977:  0.78    1984: -1.00    1991:  0.35    1998:  0.67

1978:  1.03    1985:  0.51    1992:  1.49    1999:  2.80

1979:  1.15    1986:  0.24    1993: -0.20    2000:  3.86

1980:  0.80    1987:  0.92    1994: -0.15    2001:  2.34

1981: -0.35    1988:  0.54    1995:  1.19

1982:  0.20    1989:  2.30    1996:  2.06

 

 

  1. Padraig Harrington, +53.66, 1996-2017

Harrington’s career score by major

Masters: 15 starts, 0 wins, +12.22

U.S. Open: 16 starts, 0 wins, +4.67

British Open: 21 starts, 2 wins (2007-08), +12.44

PGA: 18 starts, 1 win (2008), +24.33

Total (70 starts), +53.6689

Harrington’s average score by year

1996: -0.65    2002: -1.13    2008: -1.64    2014:  2.84

1997:  1.36    2003:  0.37    2009:  0.94    2015:  1.55

1998:  1.58    2004:  0.65    2010:  1.95    2016: -0.21

1999: -0.30    2005:  3.34    2011:  1.78    2017:  2.84

2000: -0.39    2006:  1.13    2012: -0.75

2001:  0.95    2007: -0.16    2013:  1.51

 

  1. Bernhard Langer, +52.32, 1984-2007

Langer’s career score by major

Masters: 24 starts, 2 wins (1985, 1993), +1.92

U.S. Open: 18 starts, 0 wins, +22.66

British Open: 21 starts, 0 wins, +1.82

PGA: 20 starts, 0 wins, +25.92

Total (83 starts), +52.32

 

Langer’s average score by year

1984: -0.93    1991:  1.25    1998:  2.50    2005: -0.32

1985: -0.09    1992: -0.21    1999: -0.15    2006:  2.81

1986: -0.12    1993:  0.50    2000:  0.73    2007:  2.84

1987: -0.97    1994: -0.02    2001:  0.30

1988:  1.75    1995:  1.28    2002:  0.46

1989:  1.35    1996:  0.47    2003:  1.75

1990:  1.52    1997:  2.50    2004:  0.09

 

  1. Paul Azinger, +52.30, 1985-2006

Azinger’s career score by major

Masters: 15 starts, 0 wins, +11.35

U.S. Open: 16 starts, 0 wins, +4.46

British Open: 12 starts, 0 wins, +14.55

PGA: 21 starts, 1 wins (1993), +21.94

Total (64 starts), +52.30

 

Azinger’s average score by year

1985:  3.09    1992:  0.18    1999:  0.81    2006:  2.69

1986:  1.43    1993: -0.05    2000: -0.56

1987:  1.22    1994:  2.97    2001: -0.81

1988: -0.24    1995:  1.61    2002:  2.86

1989: -0.10    1996:  0.88    2003:  2.71

1990:  0.63    1997:  0.73    2004:  0.80

1991:  2.24    1998:  0.03    2005:  3.77

 

  1. Justin Leonard, +50.13, 1995-2016

Leonard’s career score by major

Masters: 14 starts, 0 wins, +8.67

U.S. Open: 16 starts, 0 wins, +11.43

British Open: 21 starts, 1 win (1997), +20.02

PGA: 16 starts, 0 wins, +10.02

Total (67 starts), +50.13

 

Leonard’s average score by year

1995: -0.30    2002: -0.83    2009:  1.57    2016:  2.80

1996:  0.64    2003:  2.01    2010:  1.17

1997: -1.56    2004:  0.33    2011:  3.12

1998: -0.42    2005:  0.76    2012:  3.35

1999: -0.18    2006:  2.14    2013: -0.95

2000:  0.02    2007:  2.55    2014:  1.91

2001:  1.90    2008:  0.03    2015:  2.80

 

  1. Jose Maria Olazabal, +51.46, 1984-2007

Olazabal’s career score by major

Masters: 20 starts, 2 wins (19984, 1999), +0.04

U.S. Open: 17 starts, 0 wins, +15.53

British Open: 21 starts, 0 wins, +7.62

PGA: 19 starts, 0 wins, +28.27

Total (77 starts), +51.46

Olazabal’s average score by year

1984:  2.61    1991:  0.29    1998:  0.20    2005:  0.64

1985:  1.59    1992:  1.16    1999:  1.41    2006: -0.06

1986: -0.71    1993:  1.46    2000:  0.38    2007:  1.38

1987:  1.94    1994: -0.35    2001:  0.78

1988:  0.16    1995: -0.31    2002:  1.02

1989: -0.02    1996:          2003:  1.67

1990: -0.74    1997:  0.10    2004:  2.21

 

  1. Laura Davies, +49.27, 1986-2013

Davies’s career score by major

Nabisco/Dinah Shore: 26 starts, 0 wins, +0.69

U.S. Open: 25 starts, 1 win (1987), +22.54

LPGA: 24 starts, 2 wins (1994, 1996), +6.91

duMaurier: 12 starts, 1 win (1996), +1.74

British Open: 12 starts, 0 wins, +14.37

Evian Masters: 1 start, 0 wins, +3.02

Total (100 starts), +49.27

 

Davies’s average score by year

1986:  0.90    1993: -0.58    2000:  0.07    2007:  0.75

1987: -1.07    1994: -1.39    2001:  0.29    2008:  2.14

1988:  0.30    1995: -0.23    2002:  1.42    2009: -0.02

1989: -0.15    1996: -1.76    2003:  1.12    2010:  0.76

1990:  1.16    1997: -0.17    2004:  0.24    2011:  1.91

1991: -0.29    1998: -0.74    2005:  0.55    2012:  2.72

1992:  1.42    1999:  1.25    2006:  1.45    2013:  2.49

 

 

  1. Luke Donald, +49.08, 1999-2017

Donald’s career score by major

Masters: 10 starts, 0 wins, +9.84

U.S. Open: 12 starts, 0 wins, +12.55

British Open: 16 starts, 0 wins, +19.81

PGA: 13 starts, 0 wins, +6.88

Total (51 starts), +49.08

 

Donald’s average score by year

1999:  2.75    2004:  1.19    2009:  0.69    2014:  2.15

2000:  2.64    2005:  0.16    2010:  1.24    2015:  0.09

2001:          2006: -0.31    2011:  0.23    2016:  1.87

2002:  1.34    2007:  0.74    2012:  0.50    2017:  2.93

2003:  1.23    2008:  3.02    2013:  1.28

 

  1. Graeme McDowell, +47.31, 2004-2017

McDowell’s career score by major

Masters: 19 starts, 0 wins, +16.19

U.S. Open: 12 starts, 1 win (2010), +6.45

British Open: 14 starts, 0 wins, +6.14

PGA: 13 starts, 0 wins, +18.53

Total (58 starts), +47.31

 

McDowell’s average score by year

2004:  3.35    2008: -0.62    2012: -1.18    2016:  1.65

2005:  1.89    2009: -0.53    2013:  1.03    2017:  3.19

2006:  0.57    2010:  0.74    2014:  0.58

2007:  1.27    2011:  1.77    2015:  1.87

 

  1. Zach Johnson, +47.08, 2004-2017

Johnson’s career score by major

Masters: 12 starts, 1 win (2007), +14.32

U.S. Open: 17 starts, 0 wins, +18.47

British Open: 17 starts, 1 wins (2015), +4.15

PGA: 17 starts, 0 wins, +10.15

Total (63 starts), +47.08

 

Johnson’s average score by year

2004:  1.12    2008:  1.49    2012:  0.27    2016:  0.20

2005:  2.20    2009:  1.36    2013:  0.10    2017:  0.69

2006:  2.23    2010:  0.75    2014:  1.35

2007:  0.20    2011: -0.04    2015:  0.13

 

  1. . David Graham, +45.33, 1970-1995Graham’s career score by majorMasters: 13 starts, 0 wins, -1.12

    U.S. Open: 22 starts, 1 win (1981), +14.31

    British Open: 19 starts, 0 wins, +8.70

    PGA: 22 starts, 1 win (1979), +23.44

    Total (76 starts), +45.33

     

    Graham’s average score by year

    1970:  1.62    1977:  1.64    1984:  0.45    1991:  1.72

    1971:  2.10    1978:  1.29    1985: -0.74    1992:

    1972:  2.14    1979: -1.90    1986: -0.67    1993:  3.17

    1973:  1.54    1980: -0.21    1987:  1.11    1994:  2.97

    1974: -0.71    1981: -1.00    1988:  1.02    1995:  3.86

    1975: -0.32    1982: -0.22    1989:  1.45

    1976:  0.31    1983: -0.28    1990:  0.66

     

    1. Hollis Stacy, +45.28, 1974-2000

    Stacy’s career score by major

    Nabisco/Dinah Shore: 18 starts, 0 wins, +9.00

    U.S. Open: 27 starts, 3 wins (1977, 1978, 1984), +13.72

    LPGA: 26 starts, 0 wins, +15.64

    duMaurier: 22 starts, 1 win (1983), +6.92

    Total (93 starts), +45.28

    Stacy’s average score by year

    1974: -0.56    1981: -1.12    1988:  0.82    1996:  1.17

    1975:  2.30    1982: -0.48    1989:  0.11    1997:  0.82

    1976: -0.66    1983: -0.84    1991:  1.71    1998:  0.88

    1977:  0.53    1984: -0.91    1992:  1.20    1999:  1.35

    1978: -1.58    1985:  0.06    1993:  0.57    2000:  3.33

    1979: -0.47    1986:  0.13    1994:  1.63

    1980: -0.94    1987: -0.44    1995:  1.14

     

     

    1. Jumbo Ozaki, +44.82, 1972-1997

    Ozaki’s career score by major

    Masters: 16 starts, 0 wins, +22.40

    U.S. Open: 11 starts, 0 wins, +5.92

    British Open: 10 starts, 0 wins, +7.43

    PGA: 5 starts, 0 wins, +0.07

    Total (42 starts), +44.82

     

    Ozaki’s average score by year

    1987:  2.62    1979:  0.95    1986:          1993:  0.25

    1973: -1.18    1980:  1.23    1987:  0.50    1994:  0.63

    1974:  3.68    1981:  1.96    1988:  2.95    1995:  0.85

    1975:  1.42    1982:          1989: -0.70    1996:  1.99

    1976:  0.47    1983:          1990:  1.11    1997:  2.09

    1977:          1984:          1991:  1.67

    1978:  0.85    1985:          1992:  1.23

     

     

    1. Ben Crenshaw, +43.37, 1974-2001

    Crenshaw’s career score by major

    Masters: 28 starts, 2 wins (1984, 1995), +8.00

    U.S. Open: 22 starts, 0 wins, +22.04

    British Open: 22 starts, 0 wins, +1.84

    PGA: 24 starts, 0 wins, +11.49

    Total (96 starts), +43.37

     

    Crenshaw’s average score by year

    1974:  0.31    1981:  0.18    1988: -0.88    1995: -0.31

    1975: -0.66    1982:  0.61    1989:  0.28    1996:  1.45

    1976: -1.48    1983:  0.91    1990:  0.89    1997:  1.72

    1977: -0.35    1984:  0.60    1991: -0.41    1998:  2.91

    1978:  0.37    1985:  1.48    1992:  0.76    1999:  2.69

    1979: -0.65    1986: -0.72    1993:  2.20    2000:  3.86

    1980: -0.76    1987: -1.41    1994:  0.18    2001:  2.34

     

    1. Lee Janzen, +42.37, 1993-2008

    Janzen’s career score by major

    Masters: 10 starts, 0 wins, +9.54

    U.S. Open: 16 starts, 2 wins (1993, 1998), +7.90

    British Open: 10 starts, 0 wins, +15.05

    PGA: 12 starts, 0 wins, +9.88

    Total (48 starts), +42.37

     

    Janzen’s average score by year

    1993: -0.57    1997:  0.54    2001   2.33    2005:  2.23

    1994:  0.82    1998:  0.09    2002:  2.05    2006:  2.72

    1995: -0.58    1999:  1.02    2003:  1.66    2007: -0.86

    1996:  0.07    2000:  1.53    2004: -0.31    2008:  2.91

     

     

    1. Hubert Green, +42.34, 1974-1996

    Green’s career score by major

    Masters: 15 starts, 0 wins, +2.02

    U.S. Open: 17 starts, 1 win (1977), +17.98

    British Open: 12 starts, 0 wins, -1.65

    PGA: 21 starts, 1 win (1985), +23.99

    Total (65 starts), +42.34

     

    Green’s average score by year

    1974: -1.14    1980: -0.40    1986:  0.67    1992:  3.05

    1975: -0.37    1981: -0.23    1987:  1.36    1993:  0.43

    1976: -0.84    1982:  2.87    1988:  1.09    1994:  2.97

    1977: -0.81    1983:  1.20    1989:  0.33    1995:  3.86

    1978:  0.30    1984:  0.57    1990:  3.03    1996:  2.82

    1979: -0.25    1985:  1.47    1991:  3.15

     

     

    1. Bob Goalby, +39.20, 1957-1978

    Goalby’s career score by major

    Masters: 19 starts, 1 win (1968), +25.90

    U.S. Open: 15 starts, 0 wins, +10.60

    PGA: 15 starts, 0 wins, +2.70

    Total (49 starts), +39.20

     

    Goalby’s average score by year

    1957:  3.33    1963:  1.56    1969:  1.80    1975:  2.37

    1958:          1964:  1.48    1970:  1.89    1976:  2.76

    1959: -0.42    1965:  1.51    1971:  0.20    1977:  3.26

    1960:  1.07    1966:  0.81    1972:  0.21    1978:  1.89

    1961: -0.35    1967:  0.30    1973: -0.30

    1962: -0.90    1968: -0.96    1974:  1.31

     

     

     

    1. Dave Stockton, +37.67, 1968-1991

    Stockton’s career score by major

    Masters: 12 starts, 0 wins, +1.39

    U.S. Open: 15 starts, 0 wins, +16.85

    British Open: 2 starts, 0 wins, -0.67

    PGA: 24 starts, 1 win (1970), +20.24

    Total (53 starts), +37.67

     

    Stockton’s average score by year

    1968: -0.90    1974: -0.51    1980:  1.27    1986:  0.75

    1969: -0.28    1975:  1.14    1981:  1.19    1987:  3.90

    1970: -1.72    1976:  0.43    1982:  2.01    1988:  1.72

    1971:  0.39    1977:  1.14    1983:  3.07    1989:  1.94

    1972:  0.52    1978:  0.16    1984:  0.44    1990:  2.39

    1973: -0.32    1979:  1.06    1985:  0.79    1991:  3.15

     

     

    1. Jim Colbert, +37.48, 1967-1987

    Colbert’s career score by major

    Masters: 10 starts, 0 wins, +6.45

    U.S. Open: 15 starts, 0 wins, +17.68

    British Open: 1 start, 0 wins, +2.61

    PGA: 15 starts, 0 wins, +10.74

    Total (41 starts), +37.48

     

    Colbert’s average score by year

    1967:  2.93    1973: -0.51    1979:  0.43    1985:  3.02

    1968:          1974: -0.96    1980: -0.01    1986:  3.03

    1969:  3.38    1975:  2.07    1981:  0.18    1987:  3.07

    1970:  2.85    1976:  0.38    1982: -0.58

    1971: -0.64    1977: -0.51    1983: -0.19

    1972:  2.32    1978:  1.71    1984:  1.35

     

     

    1. Gay Brewer, +37.35, 1956-1981

    Brewer’s career score by major

    Masters: 19 starts, 1 win (1968), +22.44

    U.S. Open: 17 starts, 0 wins, +15.20

    British Open: 5 starts, 0 wins, -1.31

    PGA: 13 starts, 0 wins, +1.02

    Total (54 starts), +37.35

     

    Brewer’s average score by year

    1956:  3.70    1963:  1.90    1970:  0.67    1977:  1.53

    1957:  3.33    1964: -0.82    1971:  0.89    1978:  0.15

    1958:  2.28    1965:  0.61    1972: -0.79    1979:  2.84

    1959:  2.54    1966: -0.58    1973: -0.11    1980:  3.00

    1960:          1967: -0.70    1974:  1.07    1981: -0.44

    1961:  3.04    1968: -0.53    1975:  1.45

    1962: -0.01    1969:  1.52    1976:  0.04

     

     

    1. Johnny Miller, +37.06, 1969-1994

    Miller’s career score by major

    Masters: 18 starts, 0 wins, +9.92

    U.S. Open: 20 starts, 1 win (1973), +6.22

    British Open: 17 starts, 1 win (1976), +12.78

    PGA: 13 starts, 0 wins, +8.14

    Total (68 starts), +37.06

     

    Miller’s average score by year

    1969:  0.36    1976:  0.68    1983:  0.80    1990:

    1970: -0.83    1977: -0.34    1984:  0.58    1991:  3.17

    1971: -0.74    1978:  0.81    1985:  0.73    1992:

    1972:  0.52    1979:  2.71    1986:  1.08    1993:

    1973: -1.67    1980:  2.00    1987:  2.59    1994:  2.06

    1974: -0.29    1981:  0.51    1988:  0.61

    1975: -0.31    1982:  0.81    1989:  0.41

     

     

    1. Lee Westwood, +35.71,

    Westwood’s career score by major

    Masters: 18 starts, 0 wins, +4.95

    U.S. Open: 18 starts, 0 wins, +2.14

    British Open: 23 starts, 0 wins, +17.22

    PGA: 19 starts, 0 wins, +11.40

    Total (78 starts), +35.71

     

    Westwood’s average score by year

    1995:  3.07    2001:  1.26    2007:  0.10    2013: -0.92

    1996:  3.49    2002:  2.65    2008:  0.30    2014:  1.19

    1997: -0.44    2003:  2.82    2009: -0.59    2015:  0.46

    1998:  0.61    2004:  0.83    2010: -1.54    2016: -0.06

    1999:  0.15    2005:  1.36    2011:  0.05    2017:  0.50

    2000:  0.75    2006:  0.86    2012: -0.84

     

 

T-167, Luke Donald, -0.93, 2009-2013

 

By most standards, Luke Donald’s 2011 season qualifies as exceptional. He won the Match Play, the BMW PGA in Britain, and the Barclay’s in Scotland. He rose to No. 1 in the World Golf Ranking, led the PGA Tour money list, won the Vardon Trophy for low stroke average, and was named Tour Player of the Year.

By the standards of the world’s recognized major events, however, Donald was less intimidating. He did manage a tie for fourth at the Masters and a tie for eighth at the PGA, but he was never in contention at the U.S. Open and missed the cut at the British Open.

And that’s basically Donald’s profile: an exceptional player except at the majors, where he has frequently been a non-factor. Through 2017, Donald had played in 54 recognized majors, winning none of them and accumulating just eight top 10s. Those were more than offset by 20 missed cuts and six other finishes outside the top 50.

During his peak seasons of 2009 to 2013, Donald – then age 31 to 35 – Donald won five times in Europe, three times in the U.S. and twice in Japan. But his 20 major starts over those seasons encompassed more missed cuts (seven) than top 20s (six).

That’s why a player so recently No. 1 in the world can’t break into the historical top 150.

 

Donald at his peak

 

Tournament          Finish    Score     Z Score

2009 British Open   T-5       280       -1.31

2009 PGA            T-43      294       0.03

2010 U.S. Open      T-47      298       0.06

2010 British Open   T-11      283       -1.10

2011 Masters        T-4       278       -1.65

2011 PGA            T-8       277       -0.98

2012 British Open   T-5       278       -1.51

2012 PGA            T-32      290       -0.34

2013 Masters        T-25      290       -1.09

2013 U.S. Open      T-8       286       -1.35

Score: -0.93

 

 

T-167. Walter Travis,-0.93 1900-1905

 

Two characteristics make Walter Travis unique among the best America golfers of the early portion of the 20th Century. The first is that Travis was neither a native of the U.S. nor, as were many of his contemporaries, an emigree from the British Isles. The second trait was that unlike virtually every other great golfer, Travis did not start to play as a youth. In fact he had no interest in the game until he was well into his 30s.

A native of Australia, Travis was an up-and-coming hardware company executive when in 1883 his employer decided to open a branch office in the United States. The employer gave the ambitious Travis the assignment and bought him passage on a ship. It was a one-way trip.

Success fueled by hard work came easily to Travis, who adapted to the New York social scene, married and became the father of two children. He was 34 in 1896 when, at the suggestion of friends, he gave the developing game of golf a try. “I have never ceased to regret the many prior years which were wasted,” he would later remark. He contended in some New York regional tournaments, won a couple, and quickly developed a reputation as a player not to be taken lightly.

In 1898 Travis tested himself in the U.S. Amateur field, qualifying four strokes behind the medalist and winning three matches before losing in the semi-final to Findlay Douglas, the eventual champion. The same scenario repeated a year later, Douglas this time losing the championship match. At the 1900 Amateur in Garden City, N.Y., Travis turned the tables on Douglas, defeating him 2 up for the title. He repeated in 1901, this time defeating Douglas in the semi-finals.

As the two-time Amateur titleholder, Travis elected to try his hand against the best professionals at the 1902 U.S. Open. Although never contending for the championship, which Laurie Auchterlonie took by six strokes, Travis managed the best final round of the tournament, a 74, to tie Stewart Gardner for second. He failed to get through the third round of that year’s Amateur, but won his third title in 1903, working his way through a withering seven rounds of match play occasioned by the 140-entry field. He was 41, yet less than a decade into his entire golfing experience.

Seeking new challenges, Travis became the first prominent American to try his hand at the British Amateur, entering as the reigning U.S. champion in May of 1904. He later wrote of facing numerous perceived indignities by a British golf audience that looked down on Americans as upstarts. He said there was “born in me a strong fixity of purpose to get even in the only possible way…a steel-clad resolution” to win.

Facing former British Amateur champion and former British Open champion Harold Hilton in the quarter-finals, Travis earned respect with a 5 & 4 thrashing. That put Travis against two-time former British Amateur champion Horace Hutchinson in the semi-finals, and again Travis made the Britishers notice his 4 & 2 victory. “Mr. Travis is quite imperturbable, having apparently no nerves,” the Times’ golf writer told readers. His final match, against Edward Blackwell, was a similarly decisive 4 & 3 win.

The New York Times was moved to bestow on the victor the title of “world champion of golf,” a title he certainly didn’t deserve in an age dominated by professionals of the stripe of Harry Vardon, John Taylor, James Braid and Willie Anderson. Considering only amateurs, however, Travis was at the top of the list. Travis continued to play sporadically in the U.S. Open, making his best title run in 1909, when he tied for seventh. He played annually in the Amateur through 1914, reaching the semifinals in 1906 and 1908, but as age reduced his on-course skills Travis shifted his focus to two new endeavors, golf course architecture and publishing. He founded “The American Golfer” magazine, probably the first periodical devoted to American golf, in 1908, and continued as its editor until surrendering those duties to Grantland Rice in 1920. As a designer, he had a hand in the construction of more than 50 prominent courses in North America.

Travis at his peak

Tournament               Finish    Score     Z Score

1900 U.S. Amateur        1st     match play  -1.06

1901 U.S. Amateur        1st     match play  -0.70

1902 U.S. Open           T-2       313       -1.78

1902 U.S. Amateur        3rd rd   match play  -0.92

1903 U.S. Open           T-15      326       -0.74

1903 U.S. Amateur        1st     match play  -1.14

1904 British Amateur     1st      match play  -0.74

1904 U.S. Amateur        2nd rd   match play  -0.62

1905 U.S. Open           T-11      325       -0.89

1905 U.S. Amateur      qtr final match play  -0.66

Score: -0.93

 

T-164. Kathy Cornelius, -0.94, 1961-1965

Unlike many successful young players, Kathy Cornelius did not come from a golfing family. But she did have the enthusiasm to learn, plus one other important element. “There was a summer golf program for juniors, and I had a bicycle,” she recalled, adding, “it didn’t take long for the addiction to set in.”

Not long at all. Playing on the men’s golf team at Florida Southern because there was no women’s team, Cornelius joined the LPGA tour shortly after graduation and won two events as a rookie, one of them the U.S. Women’s Open in a playoff with Barbara McIntire.

Not yet 24, it appeared at that moment as if stardom awaited. The stars never shown as brightly again, although Cornelius did pick up four more tournament titles over the next 16 seasons. She did manage a second in the 1960 Titleholders, but that was seven strokes to the bad side of Fay Crocker, the champion. In 1965 she made a run at a U.S. Open repeat, losing out by two shots to Carol Mann.

Cornelius retired in the mid 1970s to devote full to her family and a golf business, which she ran with her husband.

 

Cornelius at her peak

Tournament               Finish    Score     Z Score

1961 Western Open        6th       305       -0.61

1962 Titleholders        4th       301       -1.29

1962 U.S. Open           T-13      312       -0.57

1962 LPGA               6th       291       -0.80

1963 U.S. Open           T-7       303       0.72

1963 LPGA               T-9       300       0.90

1963 Western Open        T-8       314       -0.60

1964 Western Open        8th       314       -0.76

1965 U.S. Open           2nd       292       -1.84

1965 LPGA               T-5       289       -0.99

Score: -0.94

 

T-164, Lawson Little, -0.94, 1938-1942

One of the great amateur players in history – he won the U.S. and British Amateur Championships in both 1934 and 1935 – Lawson Little remains the only player to have captured both titles in the same season more than once. A Stanford graduate, Little turned pro in 1936 and promptly won the Canadian Open. He took home seven titles through 1942, including the 1940 U.S. Open.

A fastidious player, Little sometimes packed as many as two dozen clubs in his bag, eventually prompting the PGA to pass a rule limiting players to a maximum of 14. That’s right, you can blame Lawson Little for your inability to carry five wedges, three hybrids and two drivers.

Little was among the victims of hail, wind and rain that pummeled Augusta National during the second round of the 1939 Masters. He fought his way through the conditions to an even par 72, but Ralph Guldahl posted a remarkable 68 that springboarded him to a one-stroke victory over Sam Snead, Little tying for third. By then Little was coming to be viewed as a player who had failed to fulfill the promise he demonstrated as an amateur. His second round 69 at the 1940 U.S. Open at Canterbury tied him with Horton Smith for the lead; Little posted Saturday 73s, then watched 38-year-old two-time champion Gene Sarazen post a back nine 34 to set up an 18-hole playoff, which Little won by three shots.

Little was barely into his 30s when World War II interrupted the PGA tour schedule. With the Masters and U.S. Opens both cancelled after April of 1942, Little retreated to his business interests, letting his golf game drift. He returned with the war’s end in 1946, but his contemporaries suggested Little’s commitment to winning sometimes came and went. Little’s best post-war finishes were ninth and sixth at the 1950 and 1951 Masters; he won just one tour event after 1942.

Although considered a dominant head-to-head competitor due to his record in the U.S. and British Amateurs – journalist Charles Price called him “the greatest match player in the history of golf” – Little did not make his first start in the sole professional match play major – the PGA Championship — until 1946. He lost early, and in four subsequent appearances never reached the quarter-finals. Little died in 1968.

 

Little at his peak

Tournament               Finish    Score     Z Score

1938 Masters             T-10      293       -0.76

1938 Western Open        17th      299       -0.62

1939 Masters             T-3       282       -1.55

1940 U.S. Open           1st       287       -1.75

1940 Western Open        T-20      304       -0.45

1941 Masters             8th       290       -0.93

1941 U.S. Open           T-17      297       -0.69

1941 Western Open        T-10      287       -0.72

1942 Masters             T-7       292       -0.77

1942 Western Open        5th       281       -1.17

Score: -0.94

 

T-164. Vic Ghezzi, -0.94, 1946-1950

 

The 1930s and 1940s are littered with great golf “might-have-been” stories, and Vic Ghezzi’s is one of those. Like Craig Wood and Macdonald Smith, Ghezzi had a nice career – in his case punctuated by a major championship. But the sense lingers that fate often took a particular delight in conspiring against his reputation.

Let’s start with the good news. In July of 1941 Ghezzi won the PGA Championship. He was 30 at the time, an established tour pro with a resume fully justifying his inclusion among major winners, and he beat some of the game’s best head-on to get the trophy. His victims included Lloyd Mangrum in a pulsating 1-up semi-final and Byron Nelson in a championship match requiring 38 holes to settle.

That victory might have raised Ghezzi to a level with Nelson, Mangrum and Sam Snead at the front rank of professional golfers. But of course World War II intervened a few months later, and the tour largely sat fallow through what ought to have been Ghezzi’s prime seasons. He was not around for the few events that were held, enlisting in the Army instead.

Ghezzi was 35 when the nation’s best gathered for the first post-war major, the 1946 Masters. At that summer’s U.S. Open at Canterbury in Cleveland, he held the 36-hole lead only to be caught first by Nelson and then by Lloyd Mangrum. The three-way playoff, played in a driving rain and occasional lightning, was extended to 36 holes when all three posted rounds of 72. Finally Mangrum reeled off a stretch of three birdies on four back nine holes to claim the title with a 72, one better than the 73s of Ghezzi and Nelson.

It was Ghezzi’s last good shot at glory. He made a run at the 1947 PGA title until Chick Harbert solidly thrashed him 6 & 5 in their semi-final match. Ghezzi continued as an occasional figure on tour into the 1950s, but never regained front-rank status. The war and Mangrum had done him in.

 

Ghezzi at his peak

Tournament          Finish    Score     Z Score

1946 Masters        T-12      293       -0.74

1946 U.S. Open      T-2       284       -1.71

1946 Western Open   T-18      287       -0.51

1947 U.S. Open      T-6       289       -1.12

1947 British Open   T-18      304       -0.18

1947 PGA         semi-final match play  -2.53

1947 Western Open   T-20      281       -0.55

1948 Masters        T-18      295       -0.43

1948 Western Open   T-6       286       -1.06

1950 Masters        T-14      297       -0.56

Average Z Score: -0.94

 

T-161, Kel Nagle, -0.96, 1961-1965

Had he been willing to strike out as a youth, Kel Nagle might have dominated the 1950s golfing world. Instead, Nagle emerged from a five-year military stint during World War II largely content with competing in his native Australia. That decision limited both his exposure and his success on the larger golfing stage. Until he was past his 39th birthday, Nagle competed in just two majors, both of them British Opens.

To all practical purposes, then, his decision to accept the challenge of the 1960 British Open at St. Andrews amounted to an exceedingly late debut. Well it would have, anyway, if Arnold Palmer hadn’t chosen that same tournament to make his own European debut. Guess who got all the attention?

The answer, of course, was Palmer … but only until the actual tournament began. Playing steadily, Nagle amassed a four stroke lead through 54 holes, impressing the onlookers, who yet anticipated one of Palmer’s famed challenges. Nagle “faces, no doubt with casual, cheerful courage, the greatest ordeal of his lifetime,’ the Guardian’s golf writer summarized of the challenge of holding off the acknowledged king of the late charge. When Palmer birdied his 72nd hole, reducing Nagle’s lead to one stroke, it meant the Australian needed to par the 17th and 18th to win. He did precisely that, equaling the British Open record in the process.

Having verified his credentials to compete on the world stage, Nagle at last seized the opportunity. A year later he tried out the Masters and U.S. Open, then returned to the British Open, where over the next six years he posted five finishes in the top 5, including a runner-up finish to Palmer in 1962. At the 1965 U.S. Open Nagle, nearing 45, completed the 72 holes in a tie with Gary Player. On the fifth hole of their playoff, Nagle’s ball struck a spectator, rattling the player, whose next shot also struck a spectator. Player won by three.

Nagle never won a event in the United States, but he was dominant everywhere else in the world. He won 61 times on the Australasian tour, took two Canada Cups, one Canadian Open, a French Open, and miscellaneous championships in Switzerland, Ireland, England, and Sweden. A 1986 Sport Australia Hall of Fame inductee, he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2007.

 

 

Nagle at his peak

Tournament               Finish    Score     Z Score

1961 U.S. Open           T-17      290       -0.53

1961 British Open        T-6       289       -1.51

1962 British Open        2nd       282       -2.28

1963 Masters             T-35      300       0.67

1963 British Open        4th       283       -1.55

1964 Masters             T-21      290       -0.15

1965 Masters             T-15      290       -0.28

1965 U.S. Open           2nd       282       -2.20

1965 British Open        T-5       289       -1.40

1965 PGA                T-20      292       -0.46

Score: -0.96

 

 

T-161. Jamie Anderson,-0.96 1869-1882

 

The famously persnickety rules of golf tripped up Jamie Anderson’s bid to win four straight British Opens. More on that in a moment.

A native of St. Andrews, Anderson came by his interest in golf naturally. A mature 27 by the time of his Open debut at Prestwick in 1869, he finished a creditable fourth, although 16 strokes behind the runaway champion and his frequent playing companion, Young Tom Morris, When the competition first came to St. Andrews in 1873, Anderson was among numerous locals lining up for a go at the championship. His opening 91 doesn’t sound like much by modern standards, but it tied fellow St. Andrews resident Tom Kidd for the first-day lead, three strokes better than the prohibitive favorite, Young Tom. Anderson shot 89 on the second day to post a total of 180 when Kidd sank a putt on the final green for a 179 and the victory.

Anderson broke through at Musselburgh in 1877, shooting a final day 78 to overtake Ferguson and two other men, winning by two strokes. At Prestwick a year later, he battled Jimmy Morris, the brother of Young Tom, and Bob Kirk to the finish. As Anderson, trailing Kirk by one prepared to strike his ball on the par three “Burn” hole, the penultimate challenge on Prestwick’s 12-hole layout, legend has it that a woman in the gallery broke etiquette by remarking that she believed he had teed up outside the markers. Anderson stopped his shot, re-teed, and landed his ball on the crest of a hill just back of the flag. The ball took the crest and rolled down into the hole for an ace that gave him the lead and – one hole later – his second victory.

His bid for a third straight win in 1879 was uneventful. Anderson’s first-day 84 was good for a two-stroke lead, and he won by three. He looked forward to matching Young Tom as the only winner of four straight in 1880, but the tournament’s entry date had been moved up that year, a fact that escaped Anderson’s attention. Thus ruled ineligible, Anderson could only watch from afar. He returned in 1881 to finish second, three strokes behind Ferguson in the gale at Prestwick.

The father of 11 children – five of them golf professionals — Anderson made only occasional tournament appearances after 1882. Reportedly a slave to alcohol, he did not age either famously or well, dying at age 63 in a Scottish poorhouse in 1905.

Jamie Anderson at his peak

Tournament              Finish      Score       Z Score

1869 British Open       4th         173         0.48

1870 British Open      7th         174         0.49

1873 British Open       2nd         180         -1.05

1874 British Open       5th         165         -0.94

1876 British Open       12th        189           0.71

1877 British Open       1st         166         -2.54

1878 British Open       1st         157         -1.63

1879 British Open       1st         169         -2.23

1881 British Open       2nd         173         -1.19

1882 British Open       T-3         175         -1.23

Score: -0.96

 

 

T-161. Bob Martin, -0.96, 1874-1888

 

Bob Martin may have been the most fortunate winner in the history of the British Open golf championship. Twice, nearly a decade apart, Martin benefitted from an unthinkable break to win the tournament.

Martin was a 20-year-old caddie and assistant in Old Tom Morris’ St. Andrews golf shop when he first tried his hand at the Open in 1873. That was the year the tournament introduced itself to the Old Course. Nobody expected Martin to contend; the presumed champion was defending titlist Young Tom Morris. But a consistent downpour enabled Tom Kidd, a caddie compatriot of Martin, to end Morris’ victory string. Martin struggled home with back-to-back 91s giving him a tie for ninth place in the 21-person field.

Under more normal playing conditions, Martin placed second behind Willie Park Sr. in 1875, and returned to St. Andrews the following year as part of a wide-open field given Morris’ death the previous Christmas. His 86 in the morning round of the 36-hole, one-day format tied Davey Strath for the lead. Martin shot 90 in the afternoon round and retreated to his neighborhood environs to see what Strath would do.

What Strath did caused no small measure of commotion. On the 14th tee, he hooked his drive badly, the ball conking a spectator on the head. As it turned out, the misplay rattled Strath more than the victim. Leading at the time, he began to play absent-mindedly, and on the famous “road hole” 17th Strath played his approach shot before a preceding group had cleared the green. His ball, which was headed for the road, instead struck a player on the green and came to rest. Strath recorded a five on the 17th, but needed six more to get home at 18, officially tying him with Martin at 176.

That should have set up a playoff the following day, but it did not. Calls soon rose for Strath’s disqualification as a penalty for playing to the occupied 17th green, particularly given that his ball appeared headed for the road until being saved by contact with another player. The tournament committee issued an odd ruling: It said it would take time to consider the protest, but until it did, the playoff should proceed. Upset by being left in golf limbo, Strath refused to take part in the playoff. The next morning, Martin – accompanied by Old Tom Morris — covered the course on his own, and was declared the champion. It remains the only forfeit in the history of the Open Championship.

For the next decade, Martin had an on again, off again relationship with the tournament. As defending champ, he tied for eighth in 1877, finished fourth in 1881 and took third in 1882, but skipped the 1880, 1883 and 1884 events altogether. Back at St. Andrews in 1885, he stood second, one stroke behind Archie Simpson, following the morning round, then recorded an uneventful afternoon 87 for a 36-hole total of 171.

For most of the afternoon, it appeared that would not be good enough. David Ayton, following a morning 89, rallied strongly and came to the road hole needing merely to complete the course in a dozen strokes – that would have been four over par — to claim the Claret Jug. Instead Ayton hit onto the road, played poorly back across the 17th green, found himself on the road a second time, and again played poorly from it. The result was an unthinkable 11, consigning Ayton to third place, with Martin one ahead of Simpson.

Declining to defend his title in 1886, Martin returned for the 1887 tournament, and finished second to Willie Park Jr. By the time of his final appearance, in 1891, he had recorded eight top-5 finishes. Martin was 64 when he died in Scotland in 1917.

 

Martin at his peak

Tournament               Finish    Score     Z Score

1874 British Open        4th       164       -1.07

1875 British Open        2nd       168       -1.27

1876 British Open        1st       176       -2.23

1878 British Open        T-4       165       -0.82

1879 British Open        17th      186       -0.19

1881 British Open       4th       178       0.00

1882 British Open        T-3       175       -1.23

1885 British Open        1st       171       -1.75

1887 British Open        2nd       162       -1.89

1888 British Open        T-15      184       0.00

Score: -0.96

  1. Harold Hilton, -0.98, 1897-1901

A lifelong amateur, Hilton had perhaps the worst form of any successful player. In an effort to overcome his modest 5-5 stature, Hilton took a long backswing and violated one of the tenets of the game by re-gripping at the top. “His cap used to fall from his head at the end of a full swing, as if jerked off,” an opponent said of Hilton, adding that “his assiduity was his greatness.”

Born in 1869, Hilton entered the 1891 event at St. Andrews and posted a 36-hole total of 175, good for a tie for eighth place. He found the result encouraging enough to return a year later to Muirfield, when the competition was extended to 72 holes, still over two days.

Less than a year old, the course yielded a dozen rounds under 80 on the first morning alone; the low round a year earlier had been 83. Hilton’s 78 was among the dozen; he followed that with an afternoon 81 to trail Horace Hutchison by seven strokes. But Hutchison collapsed to an 86 on the second morning, while Hilton fired a 72 to move within two shots of John Ball, a former champion and close acquaintance. In the afternoon play, Hilton’s 74 dispatched Ball and the rest of the field by three strokes.

An amateur, Hilton earned his living working at his father’s business, a complication that made honing his game – and sometimes even getting onto the course – difficult. Over the next four years, he entered only two Opens, playing indifferently in both. At Liverpool in 1897, there was, then, little to recommend his prospects for the championship. Harry Vardon, the defending champion was in the field, as was two-time former champion J.H. Taylor. After morning play on the second day, Hilton was fourth, trailing the third member of what would come to be known as the Triumverate — James Braid – by three shots. He posted an afternoon 75 and killed time waiting for Braid, who needed a three on the final hole to tie, by playing billiards in the clubhouse. On the course, Braid landed his approach at 18 within a foot of the hole, but it failed to hold and rolled 20 feet away. He missed the putt, making Hilton the first amateur to win two championships.

One year later at Prestwick, Hilton made a serious run at his third championship, only to give way to Vardon by two shots. He also challenged in 1901 and 1902, losing first to Braid and then to Sandy Herd.

Hilton won British Amateur championships in 1900, 1901, 1911 and 1913, and added the 1911 U.S. Amateur title, becoming the first person to hold both championships simultaneously. After retiring from competitive golf, Hilton became a writer of popular books on golf and was editor of several golf magazines. He died in 1942.

Hilton at his peak

Tournament               Finish    Score     Z Score

1891 British Open        T-8       175       -1.06

1892 British Open        1st       305       -2.03

1893 British Open        T-8       332       -0.82

1896 British Open        23rd      337       0.84

1897 British Open        1st       314       -1.94

1898 British Open        3rd       309       -2.01

1899 British Open       12th      329       -0.02

1900 British Open        T-16      338       -0.07

1901 British Open       4th       320       -1.38

1902 British Open        T-6       314       -1.25

Score: -0.98

 

  1. Bobby Cruickshank, -1.00, 1921-25

A Scottish native, Cruickshank’s golf career was deferred by World War I, which he fought in as a member of the famed Black Watch. His brutal combat experience included watching his brother, John, being blown up almost literally before his own eyes. “He was standing as close to me as from here to that door,” Cruickshank lamented. The remains were never found.

Taken prisoner by the Germans, he managed to escape in October of 1918, returned to his unit and served out the remainder of the war. He was 26 when he emigrated to the U.S. in early 1921, seeing greater opportunities for a professional golfer on that side of the ocean.

Cruickshank’s major tournament debut came at the 1921 U.S. Open, where he finished in a tie for 26th. His name was made at the 1922 PGA, when Cruickshank routed four opponents before running afoul of eventual champion Gene Sarazen in the semi-finals. Golf quickly became a series of near misses. At the 1923 U.S. Open, Cruickshank took Bobby Jones into a playoff before losing. He lost a second time to Sarazen in the semi-finals of the 1923 PGA, and at that year’s Western Open Cruickshank’s final round 71 left him one shot shy of Jock Hutchison. At the 1924 U.S. Open, he finished fourth. That gave Cruickshank three top five finishes in major American medal events along with a pair of semi-final appearances in the biggest match play competition in his first four years on tour…but no wins.

Through the course of a lengthy PGA Tour career, Cruickshank would snare 17 championships, but he never would come closer to a major. There would, however, be other memorable moments. At the 1932 U.S. Open, he tied for second, three strokes behind Gene Sarazen. Perhaps the most stunning moment came in his opening round match of that season’s PGA Championship. Paired against fellow veteran Al Watrous, Cruickshank quickly fell behind, eventually trailing by nine holes with just 13 remaining. Suddenly Cruickshank found his game. He won the seventh hole with a 20-footer for birdie, then Cruickshank won the eighth, ninth, 10th (with an eagle) and 11th (chip-in birdie) holes.

That left Watrous 2-up with two to play. But he missed a two-footer on the 17th, and when Cruickshank birdied the par-5 18th the match went to extra holes.

Watrous appeared to have ended the match on the 40th hole, facing a two-foot birdie putt when Cruickshank was in with a bogey. “… he started to make a gesture to concede my putt and call it a match,” Watrous later wrote. “But at the last second he decided not to.” Watrous missed his downhill birdie putt and then missed coming back, extending the match. When he also missed a two-footer on the 41st hole Cruickshank finally was able to put him away. He won one more match before bowing out.

Cruickshank at his peak

Tournament               Finish    Score     Z Score

1921 U.S. Open           T-26      315       -0.29

1922 U.S. Open           T-28      307       -0.30

1922 PGA              semi-final match play  -2.32

1922 Western Open        T-12      315       -0.71

1923 U.S. Open           2nd       296       -1.97

1923 PGA              semi-final match play  -0.56

1923 Western Open        T-2       287       -1.08

1924 U.S. Open           T-4       303       -1.42

1924 PGA              2nd round   match play  -0.80

1925 PGA              2nd round   match play  -0.53

Score: -1.00

 

T-157. Lee Janzen, -1.02, 1993-1997

No wonder Lee Janzen handled major tournament pressure so well. He was well-trained at Florida Southern.

And not merely during practice. On weekends, Janzen thrust himself into events colloquially known as the “Big Team.” It was nothing more than high-stakes (at least for college kids) matches involving four or five foursomes.

“I’d have 15-20 bets going off the first tee,” he told the Seattle Times in 1998. “I learned never to lose focus, no matter how I was playing. In college, you can’t afford to go out and lose a couple hundred dollars.”

Janzen admits he still hates to lose, “but now I can afford to pay.”

Janzen led Florida Southern to the 1985 and 1986 NCAA Division II championship, and won the individual title in 1986. Arriving on the PGA tour in 1990, he won his first tournament, the Northern Telecom Open, in 1992. At the 1993 U.S. Open at Baltusrol, Janzen opened with consecutive rounds of 67, and held off Payne Stewart to win his first major title by two strokes.

It was the start of a minor rivalry between the two men, one that tended to be for high stakes…and one that tended to go to Janzen. At the 1998 U.S. Open at Olympic, Stewart opened with a 66 and led Janzen by five strokes entering the final round of play. But natural forces – weather and gravity — were on Janzen’s side. On the final hole of the second round, Stewart faced a virtually impossible 10-foot sidehill birdie putt to a cup positioned at the edge of a slope. The ball lipped the cup and then took off downhill, gathering steam as it went and halting a full 25 feet away. Having barely missed a three, Stewart wound up with a five.

Then on the fifth hole on Sunday, Janzen’s drive was snared by the branches of a tree.  Seconds before he would have been required to declare the ball lost and re-hit under a stroke and distance penalty, a gust freed the ball, which fell to the ground in play. Reprieved, he completed a vital par that kept him in contention. Janzen played four under par the rest of the way home and edged out Stewart again, this time by one.

It was the apex of Jansen’s peak period. In 28 1995 starts, he won three times: at the Players, the Booz Allen and the International. Janzen earned what was at the time a career-high $1.379 million. Although not a contender in any of that season’s majors, his performances were uniformly steady.  He returned to the top 10 at the 1996 U.S. Open, and finished fourth at the 1997 PGA.

Although failing to win after 1998, Janzen continued to play the Tour on a regular basis through 2010. An infrequent competitor since 2014 on the Champions Tour, he did add that tour’s 2015 ACE Group Classic title to his resume.

Janzen at his peak

Tournament           Finish     Score      Z Score

1993 U.S. Open       1st        272        -2.75

1993 PGA             T-22       281        -0.35

1995 Masters          T-12       283        -0.54

1995 U.S. Open        T-13       286        -0.81

1995 British Open     T-24       289        -0.67

1995 PGA             T-23       278        -0.29

1996 Masters          T-12       287        -0.63

1996 U.S. Open        T-10       283        -1.32

1996 PGA             T-8        280        -1.25

1997 PGA             4th        279        -1.59

Average Z Score: -1.02

 

T-157. Bruce Crampton, -1.02, 1969-1973

There are about a half dozen valid reasons why a modern American golf fan might be unaware that somebody named Bruce Crampton ever applied stick to ball. He was an Australian, he played in an era dominated by Nicklaus, Player and Trevino, he never won a major championship, and he did not have an outlandish personality or wear bright clothes.  Beyond that, he developed an image as a grumpy, fuss-budget of a player. All he did was compete.

“People think of me as stern, difficult, crank and cantankerous,” Crampton once admitted to Sports Illustrated. He did not dispute the adjectives. “I am what I am,” he said. The same article repeated what is considered an apocryphal tale on the tour about fellow pro Harold Henning inviting Crampton to a masquerade party as a horse. “I’ll be the head,” Henning is said to have offered, “and you can be your usual self.”

From his arrival on the American tour in the early 1960s, Crampton did win 14 events, the biggest among them including the 1965 Bing Crosby, the 1970 Westchester Classic, and the 1971 Western Open. If he never won a major, he sure came close. He was runner-up to Nicklaus four times: in the 1972 Masters and U.S. Open, the 1973 PGA Championship, and the 1975 PGA. Across 59 major appearances, Crampton finished among the top 10 19 times.

The 1972 U.S. Open was probably Crampton’s best shot, and it was his bad luck to run into both Nicklaus and Pebble Beach at their best. Trailing Nicklaus by a single shot through three rounds, he joined almost all of the rest of the field in running afoul of Pebbles’s notorious weather, this time featuring 35-mph gusts. Crampton shot 76, in the process watching Nicklaus salt away the title with a now-famous one-iron off the flagstick on the 17th hole.

Crampton joined the Senior tour in 1986 and added 20 more victories, the last coming in 1997, when he was 62. But he never got full credit for his talent, in part due to the absence of major titles, and in part due to his less-than-warm nature. He tried not to let the lack of admiration bother him, saying he preferred to focus on his swing. “Anybody who watches me does so only because he respects discipline, integrity and good golf shots,” Crampton said.

Other than his disposition, the one knock on Crampton had always been his inability to win the big tournaments. On the regular tour, his best efforts produced only four runner-up finishes: in the 1972 Masters and U.S. Open, plus the 1973 and 1975 PGA Championship

Crampton at his peak

Tournament           Finish     Score      Z Score

1969 Masters         T-13       288        -0.51

1969 U.S. Open        T-6        284        -1.23

1969 PGA              T-15       284        -0.91

1970 PGA              T-6        283        -1.44

1971 Masters          T-18       289        -0.42

1972 Masters          T-2        289        -1.26

1972 U.S. Open        2nd        293        -2.18

1972 PGA              T-24       291        -0.47

1973 British Open     T-18       292        -0.17

1973 PGA              2nd        281        -1.59

Average Z Score: -1.02

T-155, Louis Oosthuizen, -1.03, 2012-2016

Some guys just need one break to propel their careers. Louis Oosthuizen got his at the 2010 British Open. The weatherman provided it.

At the time, Oosthuizen was a 27-year-old South African journeyman pro whose only accomplishment had been winning the Open de Andalucia de Golf in Spain four months earlier. At St. Andrews, his first-round 65 drew relatively little attention because pre-tournament favorite Rory McIlroy ripped off a 63 and the field as a whole went under par. Playing very early on the second day, Oosthuizen notched a 67 in a moderate rain and wind and retired to the clubhouse for lunch…just in time, as it turned out, for the Old Course to rise up in revolt.

The skies opened up that afternoon, affecting, among other, McIlroy, who fought his way to an 80. The average score climbed by four full strokes. Ensconsed in his warm, dry place, Oosthuizen suddenly found himself out front by five strokes. He lost only one stroke of that lead on Saturday and was never threatened on Sunday in claiming a decisive seven-stroke victory over Lee Westwood.

From full-out unknown, Oosthuizen had become a celebrity. Initially, however, his Open title sat on his resume like a freak show stat. He missed the cut in three of his next five majors before legitimizing that St. Andrews performance with a runner-up finish to Bubba Watson at the 2012 Masters. That was the tournament where a Sunday double eagle at the second hole propelled Oosthuizen into a playoff, which Watson famously won with an inconceivable hook out of the trees following an errant drive on the second playoff hole. It was the first of four runner-up finishes for Oosthuizen, the others coming to Jordan Spieth at the 2015 U.S. Open, to Zach Johnson in a playoff at that summer’s British Open at St. Andrews, and to Justin Thomas at the 2017 PGA Championship.

That record makes Oosthuizen one of the few PGA Tour pros with more than five years of experience whose peak rating stands a decent chance of improving. This is due in some measure to an injury-plagued 2013 that saw him complete just one of the four majors, missing the cut in the Masters. A top five finish in one of the 2018 majors would likely boost him on the peak rating ladder. Were Oosthuizen to match his best professional season – that would be 2015 – he could leap as many as 40 places, and begin to threaten a position in the top 100.

 

Louis Oosthuizen at his peak

Tournament            Finish     Score      Z Score

2012 Masters          2nd        278        -2.07

2012 British Open     T-19       281        -0.81

2012 PGA              T-21       288        -0.53

2014 PGA              T-15       275        -0.86

2015 Masters          T-19       284        -0.29

2015 U.S. Open        T-2        276        -1.85

2015 British Open     T-2        273        -2.45

2016 Masters          T-15       291        -0.67

2016 U.S. Open        T-23       287        -0.24

2016 PGA              T-22       276        -0.48

Average Z Score: -1.03

 

T-155. Young Tom Morris, -1.03, 1866-1874

Professional sports has few true prodigies: child stars who spring fully formed to the head of their game’s competition. That was Young Tom Morris.

He was recognized as a serious competitor around the links at St. Andrews by 1864 – he was 13 at the time. The teen had plenty of competition, frequently teaming with – or against – future Open champion Jamie Anderson as well as Davie Strath, a future three-time runner-up. He tried the 1865 Open, but in a gesture presaging Bobby Jones’ impetuous debut more than a half century later, Young Tom picked up his ball in frustration after falling far behind and walked off the course. A distant ninth to Willie Park in 1866, he returned for a third try in 1867. A few weeks before that, Young Tom had joined his dad as part of the field in a professional event held at Carnoustie, emerging in a deadlock for the title with Willie Park and Bob Andrews. Young Tom won the playoff by four strokes, after which an embarrassed Park challenged the teen to a match, each side putting up five pounds. Tommy won that contest 8 & 7.

That victory provided a backdrop to the Open, where the teen stood as the most serious challenger to his dad’s hope for a fourth championship. Perhaps it was a blow to his pride, but Young Tom finished fourth, five strokes behind his dad and three behind Park.

But the signs of generational change were unmistakable. At the 1868 Open, Young Tom and Old Tom headed a field of 12, played like the previous iterations in three rounds during a single day on Prestwick’s 12-hole course. There may have been 10 other competitors, but there was little doubt that a Morris would win. Young Tom broke with a first-round 51, three strokes ahead of Old Tom and seven better than Willie Park. Old Tom retaliated with a mid-day 50 to take a one-shot lead on his son, who carded a 54. Nobody else was within three shots of either as the final round began. Old Tom closed with a 53 for a total of 157, but Young Tom posted the tournament’s low round, 49, to claim the championship belt by three strokes at 154.

At age 17, Young Tom had clearly superseded his dad as the game’s star. In the 1869 tournament, again at Prestwick, Young Tom opened with a 50, three better than anyone else and six up on Old Tom. The highlight was his iron to the 166-yard 8th hole over a series of mounds collectively known as the Alps and then over a half-acre bunker to which locals had given the name “Sahara.” His ball landed on the front of the green, charted a curving course toward the hole and fell in for the first hole in one of which we have any record. He followed with rounds of 55 and 52 to win by 11 strokes, only two other rounds of 55 or better being shot by anybody. In 1870, Young Tom, still just 20, dominated again. His first round 47 set a new Open record, and gave him a five-stroke lead over the field. Consecutive rounds of 51 put him in at 149, a dozen strokes better than the runner-up.

There was a rule at the time providing that the winner of three consecutive Open titles would take permanent possession of the championship belt. Supposedly the Prestwick Golf Club had put the rule in place to encourage participation, assuming nobody could ever actually win three straight. After all, the best Old Tom had ever done was win two straight. But Young Tom’s 1870 victory, his third in succession, foiled those assumptions. His walking off with the belt so flummoxed the Prestwick bigwigs that the 1871 tournament was cancelled, nobody having figured out what to use for a trophy. Happily for the history of golf, somebody eventually discovered a claret jug lying around, and in 1872 the Open resumed. Young Tom trailed by five strokes entering the final round but shot 53 while his old buddy Davie Strath, the third-round leader staggered home in 61, him a fourth straight title.

At that moment, there was every reason to assume that Young Tom would dominate the game, and especially the Open, for years to come. He was, after all, still in his early 20s. Yet fate had other plans. In 1873 the tournament moved to St. Andrews, to be contested over two rounds on the 18-hole course. It poured rain in the days leading up to the tourney, a severe complication given a local rule assessing a one-stroke penalty for lifting from casual water. Hit with several such penalties, Young Tom shot 94-89. While that was decent given the conditions, it only counted for a tie for third, four strokes in back of Tom Kidd, a St. Andrews caddie who made the best of his local knowledge. At Musselburgh in 1874, Young Tom opened with an uncharacteristic 83, good for second but eight strokes behind Mungo Park, the younger brother of Willie Park. He rallied during the final round, and came to the 17th hole with a chance to win. But a missed short putt there, followed by a drive through the green at the last hole cost two shots. It was exactly the margin by which Mungo Park won, 159 to Young Tom’s 161.

That 1874 runner-up finish was also Young Tom’s last Open appearance. He had been scheduled to play in the 1875 event, to be held back at Prestwick in September, around the time his wife was to go into labor with their first child. Young Tom and his dad were two holes from the finish of a match against the Park brothers the previous weekend at North Berwick when Young Tom received a telegram summoning him home. His wife’s labor had begun early, and it was difficult. The Morrises finished the match – beating the Park brothers, the record notes – then hurried home. Their haste was for naught. Mother and child died before they arrived.

It goes without saying that Young Tom was crushed. But nobody knew how crushed. He and Old Tom both cancelled their participation in the 1875 Open, and returned home to mourn. Tom played only a few matches of consequence the remainder of the year and then, on Christmas Day, his father found him dead in his bed. The cause was heart failure. He was still four months short of his 25th birthday. Is this a Hollywood script or what? The answer is ‘yes.’ A dramatization of the Morrises’ lives and relationships, titled ‘Tommy’s Honour’ and based on a 2007 book of the same name, was released in America in 2017.

Young Tom Morris at his peak

Tournament            Finish     Score      Z Score

1866 British Open     9th        187        0.89

1867 British Open     4th        175        0.00

1868 British Open     1st        154        -1.53

1869 British Open     1st        157        -1.82

1870 British Open     1st        149        -2.07

1872 British Open     1st        166        -1.28

1873 British Open     T-3        183        -0.29

1874 British Open     2nd        161        -1.46

Average Z Score: -1.03

 

T-152. Judy Rankin, -1.05, 1975-1979

Known today for her television work, Judy Rankin’s reputation on the course probably recedes with the passage of time. That may be natural – hardly anybody under age 50 saw her play – but it’s still unfortunate. In her prime, the mid 1970s, Rankin was a consistent force on the LPGA tour.

Technically, Rankin is without a major championship. That is, however, a technicality born of bad timing rather than performance. In 1976, Rankin won the Colgate Dinah Shore by three strokes; it was declared a major seven years later. In 1977 she won the Peter Jackson Classic, again by three strokes. It was declared a major two years later. Were we to retroactively adjudge her performance in those pre-major tournaments eligible for consideration in our ranking of her, her score would improve by about one-half of a standard deviation, a gain of about 30 spots.

As it is, Rankin’s rating is handicapped by the fact that her prime coincided with a period when the LPGA generally conducted only two major events, the Open and the LPGA. As a practical matter, it means that Rankin only has 11 major events between 1975 and 1979 from which to select her best 10. Her male contemporaries, for example, could select their best 10 from among 20 major tournaments.

Rankin was a child golf prodigy, a St. Louis native who dominated girls golf in that area and winner of the Missouri Amateur in 1959, when she was just 14. Her finish as low amateur at the 1960 Women’s Open – she was 24th overall — earned her a cover photo on Sports Illustrated when the magazine decided to preview the 1961 event. She turned pro in 1962, but did not win her first tour event until 1968.

The 1970s were Rankin’s decade. Of her 26 tour championships, all but that 1968 victory at Corpus Christi came between 1970 and 1979. In 1972 she tied for second at both the Open and the Titleholders; she finished second at the 1976 LPGA and tied for that spot in 1977. She won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average in 1973, 1976 and 1977, was named Player of the year in 1976 and 1977. In 1976 alone, she won six tournaments and took home more than $150,000 in earnings, the first LPGA player to top $100,000. She added five more championships in 1977.

Her 1976 LPGA loss to Betty Burfeindt was as close as Rankin would ever come to actually winning a title recognized at the time as a major. The two women were tied and playing together on Sunday when they came to the 16th, a 301 yard par four that Rankin had birdied the two previous days. This time her 18-foot birdie putt for the lead barely rimmed out. Burfeindt then sank her own birdie putt. “We were both going along even and we knew one of us had to make a birdie,” Rankin said afterward. “She made it’ I didn’t.”

Chronic back problems hampered Rankin’s performance, eventually ending her career in 1983, when she was just 39. “I would play a month and be a cripple a month,” she said of the problem. “My goal was to stay on my feet.” A two-time Solheim Cup captain she was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2000.

Rankin at her peak

Tournament              Finish      Score       Z Score

1975 U.S. Open          T-9         304         -0.87

1975 LPGA               T-20        298         -0.30

1976 U.S. Open          T-17        307         -0.21

1976 LPGA               2nd         288         -2.07

1977 U.S. Open          T-10        302         -0.81

1977 LPGA               T-2         282         -1.78

1978 LPGA               3rd         283         -1.79

1979 U.S. Open          T-26        296         -0.26

1979 LPGA               T-10        289         -1.10

1979 duMaurier          T-5         291         -1.34

Average Z Score: -1.05

 

 

T-152. Graeme McDowell, -1.05, 2008-2012

McDowell is one of the current group who are inheritors of a lineage of successful Irish golfers dating back to Fred Daly and the O’Connors. Although he lacks the obvious raw skills of Rory McIlroy, the major tournament resume of Padraig Harrington or the panache of Darren Clarke, McDowell has held his own with the world’s elite pros, winning one major and nearly winning a second.

McDowell came out of Portrush in Northern Ireland, played golf as a collegian in the United States, and turning pro following graduation in 2002. He was not an immediate sensation here, making only two cuts in his first two seasons. In Europe it was another story. McDowell finished sixth in the European Order of Merit in 2004, and cracked the world’s top 50. Playing selectively in the United States, he tied for second at Bay Hill, for sixth at the American Express Championship, and for 11th at the British Open, earning $814,000.

McDowell came to the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in a period when Irish players– McDowell, McIlroy, Harrington and Clarke — had all risen to prominence. Playing steadily, McDowell found himself in second place three strokes behind Dustin Johnson after three rounds. Johnson blew to an 82 on Sunday, a score that might have opened the door for Tiger Woods in third place. But Woods managed only a 75, leaving the door open for McDowell, whose closing 74 was good enough to outlast France’s Gregory Havret by a shot. He became the first European to win the Open in 40 years.

The outcome turned out to be more of an event than a movement, McDowell missing the cut in four of his next five majors. In 2012 he made a hard run at a second U.S. Open title at Olympic, co-leading (with Jim Furyk) heading into Sunday play. But four bogeys on the front nine cost him the lead, and McDowell also bogeyed the 13th and 14th holes. When McDowell missed a slick 25-foot downhill birdie putt at 18, Webb Simpson emerged as the victor. A month later at the British Open, McDowell stood second four strokes behind Adam Scott entering Sunday play, but never ignited a run and finished in a tie for fifth.

McDowell at his peak

Tournament           Finish     Score      Z Score

2008 British Open     T-19       294        -0.49

2008 PGA              T-15       287       -0.74

2009 U.S. Open        T-18       284        -0.50

2009 PGA              T-10       288        -1.05

2010 U.S. Open        1st        284        -2.20

2011 U.S. Open        T-14       282        -0.78

2012 Masters          T-12       286        -0.74

2012 U.S. Open        T-2        282        -1.63

2012 British Open     T-5        278        -1.43

2012 PGA              T-11       286        -0.91

Average Z Score: -1.05

T-152. Al Geiberger, -1.05, 1965-1969

On the PGA Tour, Al Geiberger was known for three things: Winning the 1966 PGA championship, becoming the first person to break 60 in a recognized tour event, and eating peanut butter sandwiches.

Chronologically the sandwiches came first, debuting in Geiberger’s bag during the 1965 PGA at Laurel Valley Country Club. Geiberger had been paired with local hero Arnold Palmer, and he figured it wise to fortify himself against the prospect of an especially long, draining day.

“I knew I’d never be able to get to the concession stands with Palmer’s gallery surrounding us,” he explained. The one-time deal quickly became a thing. But why peanut butter, he was asked. “Can you imagine tuna fish in your bag if you forgot to eat it,” he responded. The sandwiches didn’t help much – he managed just a 19th place finish, 11 strokes behind champion Dave Marr – but they at least got him in three strokes ahead of Palmer.

Geiberger arrived at the following year’s PGA at Firestone Country Club in Akron as a lightly regarded member of the field. Most of the attention logically focused on Palmer – still seeking the PGA title he needed to complete the career grand slam – and Jack Nicklaus. Several of the portents, however, pointed to Geiberger, not least of which being his victory at the 1965 American Golf Classic held on the same course. The weather abetted his track record. The 1966 event had been scheduled for Columbine in Denver, but flash floods rendered that course unplayable and forced the move to Firestone. He was also able to spend the tournament’s first 36 holes playing in relative anonymity belying his even par standing, just one stroke behind the leader. That’s because the leader was 54-year-old Sam Snead, and the golf legend attracted all the attention.

Geiberger broke out during Saturday’s third round, firing a 68 to take a four-stroke edge on the field while Snead retreated to a 75. His Sunday 72 ensured a no-drama finish those same four strokes ahead of runner-up Dudley Wysong. In the post round press conference, he explained his success as a simple matter of relaxation … doing so while eating a peanut butter sandwich.

The PGA title came in Geiberger’s first serious run at a major championship, his best previous finish being a tie for fourth at the 1965 U.S. Open. It was the highlight of a sporadic career that saw moments of brilliance interspersed with mediocrity. Through 1975, he won only three more times, his closest major brush coming at the 1969 U.S. Open, when he tied for second a stroke behind Orville Moody. The early 1970s were a particular wasteland for Geiberger, who failed to win anything between 1967 and 1973, and whose dozen major appearances between 170 and 1974 showed nothing better than a tie for 13th.

So it came as something of a surprise when Geiberger, by then nearing 40, laid down his 59 during the second round of the Danny Thomas St. Jude event in Memphis in June of 1977. His round of six pars, 11 birdies and an eagle set him up to win the event, although the victory also required overcoming a two-stroke deficit to Gary Player on the back nine on Sunday.

 

Al Geiberger at his peak

Tournament            Finish     Score      Z Score

1965 U.S. Open        T-4        287        -1.40

1965 PGA              19th       291        -0.61

1966 PGA              1st        280        -2.68

1967 U.S. Open        T-28       291        -0.10

1967 PGA              T-5        283        -1.59

1968 U.S. Open        T-9        286        -0.87

1968 PGA              T-8        285        -1.08

1969 Masters          T-13       288        -0.51

1969 U.S. Open        T-2        282        -1.55

1969 PGA              T-35       289        -0.07

Average Z Score: -1.05

Geiberger did not play in the British Open during his peak seasons.

 

 

T-149. Fay Crocker, -1.06, 1954-1958

Largely anonymous today, Fay Crocker deserves to be remembered for this reason if no other: She was the first non-American female to win a major championship. Nor was she the product of the only other recognized golfing hotbed of the time, the British empire, a fact that makes her accomplishment even more unlikely.

Crocker emerged out of Montevideo, Uruguay in the early 1950s to mix it up – often successfully – with Patty Berg and Louise Suggs on the proto-version of the women’s tour.

The son of accomplished golf parents, Crocker came to the U.S. as a 25-year-old in 1939 to try her hand in the U.S. Amateur. She learned that she had a lot to learn. Qualifying for the 64-player match play competition with a round of 79, she advanced with 5 & 3 and 2 & 1 victories before veteran Helen Hicks took her out 1 up on the 20th hole of their third round match. Crocker returned to Uruguay, not taking on the Amateur again until 1950. Then in 1954 she turned pro. Crocker was 40 at the time.

If Crocker’s career was late in starting, she made up for the delay with intensity. She finished ninth in her first U.S. Open – that was the one made famous by Babe Zaharias, who won while undergoing treatments for the cancer that would soon take her life. In 1955 Crocker was probably the dominant force on the LPGA tour. At the Titleholders in Augusta, Ga., she tied for seventh. The U.S. Women’s Open was held at Wichita Country Club in June, featuring a field that included Louise Suggs, Patty Berg, Betsy Rawls and Betty Jameson, all former champions still in their competitive primes. None were a match that week for Crocker, who seized a three-stroke lead with an opening 74, followed that with 72 that extended her lead to eight, and breezed home four strokes ahead of Suggs and Mary Lena Faulk. Two weeks later at the LPGA, Crocker tied for third, four strokes behind Beverly Hanson. Finally at the Women’s Western, she tied Suggs for second, a stroke off Berg’s winning pace.

That season was the high point of Crocker’s career, although not the only highlight. In 1958 she placed third in the Open behind Mickey Wright and Suggs, then second in the LPGA behind Wright. Two seasons later Crocker — at the advanced age for a female golfer of 46 – seized the Titleholders and ran away with it by seven shots. More than a half century later, she remains the oldest major champion in LPGA history.

Crocker essentially left the tour after the 1961 season, meaning that the essence of her pro career was limited to just eight seasons. Even so she could count seven official tour championships, two of them majors. Returning to South America, she lived as a distinguished golf elder of that continent until her death in 1983.

 

Crocker at her peak

Tournament            Finish     Score      Z Score

1954 Western Open  qtr final  match play    -1.48

1955 Titleholders     T-7        306        -0.19

1955 U.S. Open        1st        299        -1.75

1955 LPGA             T-3        224        -1.00

1955 Western Open     T-2        294        -1.51

1956 U.S. Open        10th       309        -0.80

1957 U.S. Open        T-9        312        -0.81

1958 Titleholders     5th        312        -0.59

1958 U.S. Open        3rd        297        -1.42

1958 LPGA             2nd        294        -1.00

Average Z Score: -1.06

 

T-149. Gay Brewer, -1.06, 1964-1968

Gay Brewer may have had the least classical swing of any highly successful player: a looping, wandering swing that seemed never to have been coached. “It was a buggy whip from the get-go,” Hale Irwin once told Golf Digest of Brewer’s swing. But, Irwin quickly added, “he got the club back to the ball the same way every time.”

Brewer generally traced the looping swing back to a childhood elbow injury that made it difficult to take a more standard swing path. He overcame the flaw with practice and determination, winning a national junior championship and starring at the University of Kentucky, but floundering initially on the pro tour. Five seasons into his pro career, Brewer remained winless and missing five consecutive cuts at the U.S. Open, the only major he qualified to enter.

Gradually, though, Brewer found his way. His first of an eventual 10 PGA tour wins came in August of 1961 when he was 29. He won twice more that season and qualified for the 1962 Masters, where he barely missed the top 10. He was fifth at the 1962 U.S. Open.

At that time, the Masters was generally viewed as the exclusive province of the golf world’s power trio, Nicklaus, Palmer and Player. One of those men won all but one of the Masters played between 1958 and 1965. Palmer won the 1964 tournament by six strokes, then Nicklaus won by nine a year later. So when the field convened for the 1966 event, nobody gave Brewer a second thought as a contender.

That changed when Brewer plowed through the first three rounds at two over par, hanging within two shots of Nicklaus and co-leader Tommy Jacobs. On Sunday, he toured the front nine in 33 strokes to seize the lead, and came to the final hole needing only a par for the victory. But he left his approach 70 feet from the hole, left his first putt seven feet away and missed the winner to set up a three-way playoff, which Nicklaus won. “When I three-putted the second hole I became scared of my putter,” he told reporters, adding, “if you can’t putt you can’t play.”

The playoff outcome made Nicklaus the first person to win back-to-back Masters. Nobody knew it at the time, but it also prevented Brewer from claiming that same honor. One year later, he returned to Augusta, shrugging off intimations that his close miss might scar his future play. “I blew it and forgot it,” he said. An opening 73, six strokes worse than leader Bert Yancey, suggested otherwise, but Brewer followed with a 68 and stood fourth, three strokes behind three leaders entering Sunday play. The four were tied with nine holes remaining, but Brewer birdied the 13th, 14th and 15th to seize command, fashioning that into a one-stroke lead over Bobby Nichols. As in 1966, he came to the final hole needing par for victory, and this time he sank the putt. “I guess I’m the happiest person in history to win here,” Brewer said at the presentation ceremony.

The win was the ninth of Brewer’s career, and clearly his high point. He continued to play regularly on tour into the 1970s, then joined the Champions tour when it was founded.

 

Brewer at his peak

Tournament              Finish      Score       Z Score

1964 U.S. Open          T-5         286         -1.35

1964 PGA                8th         281         -1.16

1965 U.S. Open          16th        293         -0.44

1965 PGA                T-28        293         -0.31

1966 Masters            T-2         288         -1.93

1966 PGA                27          293         -0.35

1967 Masters            1st         280         -2.35

1968 U.S. Open          T-9         286         -0.87

1968 British Open       T-6         295         -1.01

1968 PGA                T-20        287         -0.78

Average Z Score: -1.06

 

T-149. Chick Evans*, -1.06, 1914-1920

The first great American amateur golfer, anticipating Bobby Jones by a decade, was a baby-faced kid out of the Chicago caddie shacks good enough to beat the pros at their own game.

Those pros couldn’t have taken Chick Evans very seriously when he showed up on the first tee of the Beverly Country Club in late August of 1910. He was a 20-year-old college dropout, his only reputation having been attained at Evanston Academy, where he had dominated interscholastic tournaments two years earlier. But in a field of 70 that included the top pros and amateurs of the era – veterans of the stripe of Jock Hutchison, Jim Barnes, Laurie Auchterlonie, former Western Open champion Robert Simpson and former U.S. Open champion James Foulis – Evans was an anonymity on the entry sheet.

He was, anyway, until qualifying began for the tournament, which was being conducted that year at match play. Evans breezed through the preliminary round, posting an astonishing 71 on a day when the field average was 79.8, and nobody else broke 74. Following a nerve-wracking opening match in which he needed 20 holes to dispatch James Donaldson, an area pro, Evans beat Lee Nelson and fellow amateur Ned Sawyer to advance to the 36-hole final, where George Simpson, a former Scottish Amateur champion who had since turned pro, awaited.

It was no contest. Evans took the lead for good on the third hole, completed the morning round 2-up, and birdied the seventh and ninth holes to build his lead to four. Birdies at the 30th and 31st holes closed out the headline-grabbing 6 & 5 victory. As an amateur, Evans, of course, could not claim the prize money, which went to Simpson…all $100 of it.

Aside from a trip the following spring to Britain to play in the Open and Amateur, the 20-year-old did absolutely nothing to trade on his new-found fame. He did not even enter the Western again for five years, and largely contented himself with regional events until entering the 1914 U.S. Open, again being played at the conveniently situated Midlothian Country Club outside Chicago. Mustering only a 36-hole total of 150 that put him eight strokes behind leader and eventual champion Walter Hagen, Evans rallied and came to the 72nd hole – a 277 yard par 4 – needing an eagle to force a playoff. He boomed his drive to the fringe, only to slightly pull the potential tying putt, which stopped 10 inches squarely to the left of the cup.

There were no such near-misses in 1916, when Evans put together probably the greatest season to that date by an American-born player, amateur or professional. It began at the U.S. Open at Minikahda Country Club in Minneapolis, where Evans defeated Hutchison by two strokes and Barnes by four in June. The margin was more comfortable than that, Evans carrying a seven-stroke lead into the final 36 holes. Whatever doubts lingered following a morning 74 on Saturday were dispatched on the 12th hole of the afternoon round, when Evans’ two-wood second shot finished 18 feet from the cup on the 535 yard par 5.

The two most important tournaments in the U.S at that time were the Open and the Amateur, the latter being held that September at Merion, and no man had ever won both in the same year. Evans qualified fourth in the 32-person match play field, but quickly emerged as the favorite when the three men seeded ahead of him all lost in the opening two rounds. He won his third round match 10 & 9, breezed through the quarter-final 9 & 8, took his semi-final 3 & 2 and beat Charles Gardner, a fellow Chicago area product from Hinsdale, 4 & 3 to win the trophy.

The war interrupted Evans’ fame for two seasons, cancelling both the Open and Amateur in 1917 and 18. At the 1919 Amateur event, the defending champion qualified well and breezed through his opening match 7 & 6 before being eliminated on the final hole by Francis Ouimet. He would get revenge one year later at the 1920 Amateur held at Roslyn, N.Y. There Evans rolled through the preliminary rounds, running up wins by scores of 8 & 7, 7 & 6 and 10 & 8. His only close call came during a third round match against Reginald Lewis, which Evans won on the fifth extra hole. That set up a championship round rematch with Ouimet, who had eliminated Bobby Jones 6 & 5 in the semi-final, and Evans breezed to a 7 & 6 victory. Of his five matches, four had ended with five or more holes remaining.

It was Evans’ final major victory, but not his final brush with glory. He returned to the Amateur as defending champion in 1921 and reached the semi-finals before being eliminated by the eventual champion, Jesse Guilford. At the 1924 Western Open, he placed third, and three years later tied for seventh at the same event. Evans was well into his 30s by then, ancient for a lifelong amateur, and although he would continue to make sporadic appearances at the Open and Western, his championship career was essentially over. The one event he always made room for on his calendar was the Amateur, teeing it up there a record 50 consecutive times, a string that stretched from 1907 to 1962. In 1975 he was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Trained as a caddie, Evans never forgot his roots. A college dropout for financial reasons whose business success was influenced by his golfing achievements, Evans in 1928 established the Evans Scholars program to underwrite scholarships for caddies. Two years later, the first two Evans Scholars enrolled at Northwestern University, the school Evans had been forced to abandon 20 years earlier due to costs. Authorities say that more than 10,600 former caddies have since taken advantage of the scholarship’s opportunities.

Evans was no saint. He was said to have developed an intense jealousy for Ouimet and also for 1915 Open champion Jerome Travers because those two contemporary amateurs had beaten him to the Open title. The same jealousy was reported regarding Jones, whose fame soon eclipsed Evans’ own. In his later years, though, Evans reconciled with his contemporaries. He died in 1979, one of the most admired men in golf history.

Evans at his peak

Tournament          Finish    Score     Z Score

1914 U.S. Open      2nd       291       -1.94

1914 British Amat.4th round match play   -0.02

1915 U.S. Open      18th      307       -0.59

1915 Western Open   T-22      324       -0.42

1916 U.S. Open      1st        286       -2.50

1916 U.S. Amateur   1st   match play    -0.97

1919 U.S. Amateur2nd round match play   -0.64

1919 U.S. Open      T-9       313       -0.95

1920 U.S. Open      T-6       298       -1.46

1920 U.S. Amateur   1st   match play    -1.06

Average Z Score: -1.06

 

*The Evans portion of the text is taken from “The Hole Truth,” a SABRmetric approach to golf analysis, by the author, which will be published by University of Nebraska Press in the fall of 2018.

 

148, Betty Jameson, -1.07, 1952-1956

A founding member of the LPGA, Jameson was one of the foundational figures of women’s golf at both the amateur and professional levels. Born in 1919 in Oklahoma, she was introduced to the game as a child, was the state publinx champion by 13, and debuted in the U.S. Amateur as a 15-year-old, winning one match.

Her education at the amateur level was not immediate, but by 1938 she advanced to the quarter-finals, and in 1939 Jameson came to the 43rd annual event as a confident 20-year-old. Women’s amateur golf in those days was a strange mixture of society ladies whose excellence stopped at the borders of their home clubs plus a handful of serious players. The latter category included Glenna Collett Vare and Helen Hicks, who between them owned eight Amateur championship trophies. The biggest name in the women’s game, however, missed that tournament; Patty Berg, the defending champion, was recovering from an appendectomy.

Berg’s absence threw the tournament wide open, and Jameson stepped into the breach. She advanced easily into the semi-finals, where Hicks awaited. Betty beat her 3 & 1. The final pitted Jameson against Dorothy Kirby, an even younger, less experienced and more audacious player than Jameson. Betty claimed the final 4 & 3. She repeated in 1940, this time breezing through the final 6 & 5 over Jane Cothran.

World War II interrupted the support money for most sporting activities in the United States, and that certainly included women’s golf. Against a depleted field, Jameson breezed through one of the few events that survived – the 1942 Women’s Western Open. But with the war’s end, a push arose – spurred largely by Berg and Babe Zaharias – for the creation of a professional golf circuit. That desire brought together 13 of the best women players – Jameson among them – to form what would eventually become the LPGA. As a newly minted pro, Jameson placed second behind Berg at the inaugural Women’s Open, then lost to Zaharias in the quarter-finals of the 1946 event. At the 1947 Open, Jameson rolled through a field that included Berg and Louse Suggs, winning by six strokes. She would add a third professional major – her second Women’s Western – in 1954, defeating Betsy Rawls (6 & 5), Berg (2 & 1) and Suggs (6 & 5) in the final three matches.

For her seminal role in the creation of the women’s tour, Jameson was an inaugural inductee of the new LPGA Hall of Fame in 1967.

 

Jameson at her peak

Tournament          Finish    Score     Z Score

1952 U.S. Open      2nd       291       -1.17

1952 Western Open   2nd    match play   -2.02

1953 Titleholders   T-6       312       -0.53

1953 U.S. Open      4th       312       -0.84

1954 U.S. Open      T-14      316       -0.58

1954 Western Open   1st    match play   -1.80

1955 U.S. Open      T-9       312       -0.78

1956 Titleholders   5th       309       -0.81

1956 U.S. Open      T-7       307       -1.02

1956 LPGA           3rd       296       -1.14

Average Z Score: -1.07

 

  1. Tom Kite, -1.09, 1981-1985

 

For most of his lengthy playing career, Tom Kite held one informal title: best player who never won a major.

The news media bestowed it on him some time in the mid 1980s. By then Kite already had more than a half dozen Tour championships, plus 10 top-five finishes in majors. In 1978 he was runner-up to Jack Nicklaus at the British Open. In 1983 and again in 1986 he was runner-up at the Masters, first to Seve Ballesteros and then to Jack Nicklaus. In that 1986 tournament, Kite came from off the pace with a closing 68 to overtake third round leader Greg Norman. But Nicklaus closed with a 65 to overtake them both. It marked Kite’s ninth finish among the top six at Augusta.

In 1981 and again in 1982 Kite led the entire Tour in scoring average. In 1989 he won four tournaments and earned nearly $1.4 million. There was no tournament, it seemed, that Tom Kite couldn’t contend in. There were only four he couldn’t win…the four biggest.

By 1990, the “best non-major champion” label appeared to have epoxied itself to Kite’s bag. He was in his 40s by then, possessed of 19 major top 10s, but sliding inexorably downhill. At the 1989 U.S. Open at Oak Hill, he had led by three strokes after 54 holes, but made seven on the par four fifth on Sunday and finished with a 78. “By far my worst round I’ve had in five or six years,” he said of what was his seventh round of 75 or worse on the final day of an Open. He managed only a tie for 14th at the 1990 Masters, and failed to make the top 40 in any of the other three big events that year. In 1991 his best was merely a tie for 37th at the U.S. Open. For the first time since 1974, he failed to qualify for the 1992 Masters, and came to that summer’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach as an afterthought.

Windy conditions, even by the standards of Pebble Beach, threw the competition up for grabs. Nicklaus, seeking his fifth title, shot rounds of 74-77 and went home early. So did 1982 champion Tom Watson. Unheralded Gil Morgan managed to get through the first 36 holes in 135 strokes and hold a three stroke lead. Eventually, though, the conditions did Morgan in as well; he followed those two masterful scores with rounds of 77-81 and fell into a tie for 13th.

Amid the carnage, Kite saw opportunity. Eight strokes behind after two rounds, he fired a Saturday 70 to move within one, and closed on Sunday with an even par 72. In victory, Kite admitted the win came as a huge relief.

“It bugged the living daylights out of me,” he admitted of his annual major misses. “It was all people wanted to talk about…it was like the other things didn’t matter.”

Freed of his baggage, elder tour statesman Kite demonstrated he still had the game to contend. Through 1997, he racked up his ninth and 10th tournament championships along with six more top 10s in majors. When Tiger Woods decimated the field by 12 strokes at the 1997 Masters, it was Kite who won what came to be called the “non-Tiger flight” with a six-under par 282. He moved from the regular Tour to the Champions Tour after the 1999 season, having won more than $11 million, and has since added $16 million on the Champions Tour.

Kite at his peak

Tournament            Finish     Score      Z Score

1981 Masters          T-5        284        -1.08

1981 U.S. Open        T-20       284        -0.54

1981 PGA              T-4        279        -1.36

1982 Masters          T-5        287        -1.23

1982 PGA              T-9        280        -1.11

1983 Masters          T-2        284        -1.53

1984 Masters         T-6        282        -1.11

1985 U.S. Open        13th       284        -0.89

1985 British Open     T-8        285        -1.11

1985 PGA              T-12       285        -0.92

Score: -1.09

 

 

 

  1. Sandy Lyle, -1.11, 1985-1989

There was, of course, a time when Scotland ruled the world of major tournament golf. The first 29 winners of the British Open championship – all of them until 1890 – claimed Scotland as their home. Even today, Scotland has still produced far more major champions – 55 of them – than any other country except the United States.

Yet the ranks of champion Scottish golfers have obviously thinned since the era of the Morrises and the Parks. Following Tommy Armour’s victory at the 1931 British Open, more than a half century elapsed before another Scot triumphed in a major. The man who did so, Sandy Lyle, captured the 1985 British Open and followed that with a green jacket at the 1988 Masters.

Lyle remains today one of the least known of the game’s greats, at least in America, because he played so infrequently here. Largely resisting the lure of big money and big fame that drew foreign contemporaries of the stripe of Ballesteros, Langer, Faldo, Norman and Olazabal to the PGA Tour, Lyle maintained his focus on the European Tour, where he won 18 times between 1979 and 1992. His trophies include the 1984 Italian Open, the 1984 Lancome Trophy, the 1987 German Masters, the 1988 Dunhill British Masters, and the 1992 Volvo Masters.

Only four times in a career that has to date spanned 40 years did Lyle make more starts in the U.S. than in Europe, the exceptions being from 1987 through 1990.  And even then, the difference was hardly substantial, an average of 16 U.S. starts measured against 11.25 on the European tour.

Born in 1958 in Shrewsbury, Lyle debuted at the British Open as a 16-year-old amateur in 1974. He missed the cut. Turning pro in 1977, his first win came a year later in a small event in Africa. Returning to the Open in 1979, he managed a tie for 19th position, good enough to win an invitation to the following year’s Masters, where he finished 48th. By then Lyle was an established figure on the European circuit with three victories, including the 1979 European Open by seven strokes.

Unlike most of his front-rank European contemporaries, Lyle more or less eschewed pursuit of major titles unless they came naturally to his radar screen. He tried the U.S. Open in 1980 and 1981, failed to make the cut either time, and did not show up again until 1986. Also in 1981, he made his only appearance in the PGA prior to 1991, again missing the cut. In 1982 Lyle bothered with only one major event, the British Open, where he finished eighth. Although a pro for eight years by the time of the 1985 British Open, he had teed it up in just seven U.S.–based majors to that point.

If lightly regarded in the U.S., Lyle was by then a highly respected figure in Europe, and particularly in England. Powerfully built and –at age 27 – in his athletic prime, Lyle fired an opening 68 at Royal St. George’s, but started the final day three strokes behind co-leaders David Graham and Masters champion Bernhard Langer. His fortunes turned on the back nine. At the famous par 5 14th, Lyle stood 200 yards out in two, whistled a two-iron onto the green and sank a 20-foot putt for a birdie. On the next hole, he sank a 12-footer for another birdie. Missing the green at 18, he took bogey and posted a two-over par 282, then sat back to wait on Langer and Graham. Fate was with him: Graham bogeyed three of the four incoming holes, and Langer bogeyed two of the final three, leaving Lyle with a one-stroke edge over American Payne Stewart.

It was a career highlight, but not a breakthrough performance. Lyle won the Benson & Hedges International that August, then stumbled through a 1986 season that saw just one victory, at Greensboro on the U.S. tour. Continuing to switch between tours in 1987, he beat Jeff Sluman in three extra holes to claim the TPC in March, and in October beat Langer in a playoff at the German Masters. The majors were another story, Lyle managing nothing more glorious than a tie for 11th at Augusta in 1986.  He did play on the victorious European Ryder Cup teams in both 1985 and 1987, and those showings, coupled with early 1988 victories at Phoenix and Greensboro, made him a plausible candidate to become the first Britisher to win the Masters.

The tournament boiled down to a contest between Lyle and American Mark Calcavecchia. Lyle led by two strokes after 54 holes, and widened that advantage to four over the Sunday front nine. But Calcavecchia, playing ahead of Lyle, picked up five shots through Amen Corner. The first and second came when Calcavecchia birdied and Lyle three-putted at 11, the third and fourth when Lyle drowned his tee shot in Rae’s Creek at 12. The fifth, a Calcavecchia birdie at No. 13, gave him a one-stroke lead, although Lyle re-forged the tie with a birdie of his own on 16.

With Calcavecchia in the clubhouse, Lyle drove into a fairway bunker at 18. “I personally thought it was over,” he said later. “The front bunker had a steep face on it … I didn’t think I had a chance of getting it out and getting it on the green.”

He was wrong. Lyle blasted a seven-iron to 10 feet above the cup and rolled the downhill birdie putt smack into the center of the hole for the victory. Not since Arnold Palmer 28 years earlier had anybody birdied 18 to win the tournament.

The victory was Lyle’s last on the U.S. Tour, although he added four more on the European Tour over the next five seasons.  Paring back his playing commitments, he moved to the Senior European and U.S. Tours in 2008, and was voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame four years later.

Lyle at his peak

Tournament            Finish     Score      Z Score

1985 Masters          T-25       292        -0.11

1985 British Open     1st        282        -1.80

1986 Masters          T-11       285        -0.71

1986 British Open     T-30       295        -0.19

1987 Masters          T-17       291        -0.58

1987 U.S. Open        T-36       289        -0.06

1987 British Open     T-17       286        -0.84

1988 Masters          1st        281        -1.93

1988 U.S. Open        T-25       287        -0.22

1988 British Open     T-7        283        -1.17

Average Score: -1.11

 

T.144, Bruce Devlin, -1.12, 1965-1969

Modern fans largely know Bruce Devlin as a golf course designer. Often working in collaboration with Robert Von Hagge, he has designed or redesigned more than 80 courses in the United States alone, and more than 150 around the world.

To an earlier generation, however, Devlin is recalled as among the most persistent foreign challengers to Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, especially during their 1960s heydays. Although he never won a major championship, Devlin was a regular contender, finishing among the top 10 a dozen times between 1964 and 1969, and 16 times over the course of his career. In fact, one good measure of Devlin’s career is the list of men he chased to the finish in majors. Palmer is on that list; Devlin finished fourth behind him at the 1964 Masters. Nicklaus is on it twice; Devlin tied for fourth when Nicklaus won the 1966 British Open, and tied for fifth when Jack won the 1972 U.S. Open. Gary Player is also on the list twice; Devlin tied for sixth when Player won the 1965 U.S. Open, and tied for 10th in Player’s 1968 British Open victory. Lee Trevino won the 1968 U.S Open…but not before Devlin made a run, eventually finishing ninth. When Tom Watson won at Pebble Beach in 1982, the 45-year-old Devlin was still good for a top 10 finish.

Devlin learned golf as a child in Australia, quickly rising to prominence as a national champion there. He turned pro in 1961 and began playing on the U.S. tour in 1962. But he truly established himself by winning the St. Petersburg Open in March of 1964. He would eventually win eight PG Tour championships among his 28 worldwide, most of those coming on the Australasian tour.

Probably his best chance to actually win one of those elusive major titles came at the 1968 Masters, the year of the imbroglio over Robert deVicenzo’s incorrectly signed scorecard. Devlin stood in a five-way tie for second with, among others, eventual winner Bob Goalby, just one shot behind Gary Player, entering Sunday’s play. He managed his third 69 in four days, good enough to pass Player but not good enough to stay with either Goalby’s closing 66 or with deVicenzo’s 65…which was officially recorded as a 66.

In later years, Devlin interspersed his golf course design work with occasional appearances on the senior tour. There, too, he generally led a “just missed” existence, winning one event. His closest brush with senor major glory came at the 1988 Senior PGA when he finished seventh … behind Player.

 

Devlin at his peak

Tournament            Finish     Score      Z Score

1965 U.S. Open       T-6        288        -1.24

1965 British Open     T-8        290        -1.24

1965 PGA              T-6        285        -1.49

1966 British Open     T-4        286        -1.49

1967 Masters          T-10       290        -0.74

1967 British Open     T-8        287        -1.03

1968 Masters          4th        280        -1.50

1968 U.S. Open        T-9        286        -0.87

1968 British Open     T-10       297        -0.65

1969 U.S. Open        T-10       286        -0.91

Average Score: -1.12

T.144, Doug Sanders, -1.12, 1966-1970

Doug Sanders’ showmanship tended to overshadow his resume. On tour, he was known more for his colorful wardrobe and dashing personality than for his game, a shame because Sanders was for several years a force.

His reputation also suffered by his failure to actually win a major, a shortcoming that was never more exemplified than at the 1970 British Open. Sanders was by then an established pro well into his 30s, at precisely the stage of his career when people were prone to ask, “yeah, but can he win the big one?” He had been close, with runner-up finishes already at the PGA, U.S. Open and British Open. Now, needing only a par at the easy final hole at St Andrews, Sanders pitched on indifferently, lagged his birdie putt three feet away, and missed the knee-knocker, sending him into a playoff the next day — with, of all people, Jack Nicklaus — which Sanders lost. British TV commentator Henry Longhurst summed it up: “There but for the grace of God…”

That was Sanders’ golfing career in a nutshell, a recurring ability to threaten yet not close the deal. That’s not entirely fair to Sanders, who did, after all, win 20 PGA Tour events between 1956 and 1972. It was the big ones that kept getting away.

That tendency first showed itself at the 1959 PGA Championship, Sanders’ first and only the second contested at medal play. A second round 66 shot him into contention, and he trailed leader Jerry Barber by just one shot entering play Sunday. Sanders’ final 72 caught Barber … but Bob Rosburg came from back in the pack to shoot 66 and beat both of them by a stroke.

At the 1961 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills, Sanders held the third round lead only to watch Gene Littler tour the front nine Sunday in 34 and beat him by a stroke. Sanders might easily have gotten his major at the 1966 British Open at Muirfield, but he was done in by a six at the 11th hole and finished one stroke behind Nicklaus.

In sum, between 1958 and 1970 Sanders lost four major championships, all of those losses coming either by one stroke or in a playoff.

 

Sanders at his peak

Tournament            Finish     Score      Z Score

1966 Masters          T-4        290        -1.60

1966 U.S. Open        T-8        290        -0.88

1966 British Open     T-2        283        -1.87

1966 PGA              T-6        287        -1.42

1967 Masters          T-16       292        -0.42

1967 British Open     T-18       290        -0.55

1967 PGA              T-28       292        -0.17

1968 Masters          T-12       283        -0.94

1968 PGA              T-8        285        -1.08

1970 British Open     2nd        283       -2.24

Average Score: -1.12

 

T-142. Padraig Harrington, -1.13, 2004-2008

For a 13-month period from July 2007 through August 2008, Padraig Harrington was about as good a golfer as there was in the world. In that 13-month period, Harrington won three majors, finished fifth in another, earned more than $5 million and climbed to third in the World Golf Rankings.

His sudden leap to dominance appeared to be directly linked to Harrington’s improved facility with the putter. During the 2006 PGA Tour season, Harrington ranked only 73rd in putts per round, requiring 29.04. In 2007, he improved to 7th, requiring just 28.32. In 2008 those numbers improved again, to 2nd overall and just 28.04 putts per round. In short, Harrington took a full stroke off his putting game in just two seasons.

That improvement directly correlated with his stroke average, which dropped from 70.33 (26th) in 2006 to 69.28 (3rd) in 2008.

Harrington was a threat even before July of 2007. Graduating from Dublin Business College in his native Ireland, Harrington played on Europe’s triumphant 1995 Walker Cup team and then completed his accountancy exams, giving him a career in hand before turning pro. He didn’t need the backup plan. In only his 10th professional start on the European tour, Harrington won the 1996 Peugeot Spanish Open.

Then reality set in, and Harrington found his niche close to, but not among, the game’s greats. During one stretch in 1999, he played five European tour events, finishing second in four of them. That gave him seventh place on the Order of Merit, a position he matched in 2000 before moving to the top of the list in 2001.

Through June of 2007, Harington accumulated 10 European Tour victories, and added two PGA tour titles. His record in the majors, though, was a succession of credible misses, with eight top 10s, but nothing better than fifth, to his name. That all changed at the 2007 British Open at Carnoustie, when Harrington survived a 72nd hole collapse leading to a playoff showdown with another player famous for his close misses, Sergio Garcia.

For most of the tournament, Garcia appeared on his way to his first major. His opening 65 gave him a four-shot lead, and it grew to six over Harrington, Ernie Els and Stewart Cink by the start of the final round. Then stuff happened. Garcia shot 38 on the front nine. Andres Romero, who began the day seven behind Garcia, carded seven birdies and briefly shot into the lead. Harrington, meanwhile, produced four birdies, and his eagle on 14 kicked him into the lead, which he retained coming to the 18th hole.

Standing on that tee, Harrington allowed thoughts of Jean Van de Velde’s epic 1999 collapse to enter his mind. Sure enough, his own second shot also found the Barry Burn in front of the green. Harrington walked off that final green with a six, one stroke behind Garcia, who thus needed a par to win.

Perhaps because it was all he had to cling to, Harrington immediately prepared for the notion that Garcia would bogey. “I never let it cross my mind that I’d just thrown away the Open,” Harrington said. That mental preparation paid off when Garcia did bogey the final hole, sending the tournament into a playoff. Harrington birdied the first extra hole – Garcia made bogey – and he hung on to win by a stroke. He was the first British Open champion from Ireland in six decades.

Harrington finished in a tie for fifth at the Masters, and came to the 2008 British Open with a chance to become the first European since James Braid more than a century earlier to successfully defend his Open championship. He also benefitted from the absence of Tiger Woods, the U.S. Open champion who was recuperating from a fractured leg. But Harrington had his own health problem; eight days earlier he had injured his wrist in practice. Playing with that injured wrist, Harrington shot an opening 74 that left him trailing 36 other players. He steadied, however, and in the challenging conditions at Royal Birkdale entered the final round trailing only one player, Greg Norman by four shots.

Sunday was a back-and-forth competition. Norman opened poorly, allowing Harrington to jump in front, but his lead was also undermined by three consecutive bogeys, pushing Norman back in front. But Norman staggered again down the stretch to a 77, and when Harrington drilled a five wood to within three feet for an eagle at the 17th, to cement a back nine 32, the tournament was effectively over. “I had a great year as Open champion so I didn’t want to give it back,” Harrington told the crowd at the trophy presentation.

Just three weeks later, Harrington entered the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills for the first time as a favorite. A third round 66 shot him into contention, three behind surprise leader Ben Curtis. Garcia, who entered Sunday tied with Harrington for third, birdied the first hole and opened the second to move in front. But a shot into the water that led to a bogey on the 16th hole cost him that lead, and Harrington – who had already fashioned three birdies in a four-hole stretch, was positioned to take advantage. Carrying a one-stroke lead over Garcia to the final hole, Harrington drained an 18-foot par putt to seal the victory. It was his third in 13 months, Garcia twice finishing as runner-up.

And then … nothing much. In his next dozen major tournament appearances, Harrington never challenged, missed six cuts and only once finished higher than 22nd. He rallied his game long enough to tie for eighth at the 2012 Masters and for fourth at the 2012 U.S. Open, but managed only a tie for 39th at the British Open, his best finish at that event since the 2008 victory.

Harrington at his peak

Tournament           Finish     Score      Z Score

2004 Masters          T-13       288        -0.52

2004 U.S. Open        T-31       295        0.14

2004 PGA              T-45       289        0.18

2006 U.S. Open        5th        287        -1.46

2007 Masters          T-7        293        -1.31

2007 British Open     1st        277        -1.77

2008 Masters          T-5        286        -1.08

2008 U.S. Open        T-36       293        -0.03

2008 British Open     1st        283        -3.09

2008 PGA              1st        277        -2.37

Average Z-Score: -1.13

 

T-142, Larry Nelson, -1.13, 1979-1983

Few players have taken as atypical a path to golf success as Larry Nelson.

Most future pros start playing as children. Larry Nelson didn’t.

Most build their resumes through junior and amateur tournaments. Larry Nelson didn’t.

Most hone their games to professional level in college. Larry Nelson didn’t.

Few see combat duty. Larry Nelson did.

In 1966, Nelson was a 19-year-old newlywed college dropout with a penchant for baseball and basketball but not much direction. At that time, 19-year-old dropouts, even newlywed ones, could count on one job opportunity. It involved being drafted and going to Vietnam. Nelson was, and he went.

“When I got there, I found out our regiment had lost close to 300 people, killed or wounded, in the previous 90 days,” he later told Golf Digest. “It was a tough time to be in Vietnam.”

He served there as an infantry team leader, taking his squad out on periodic ambush patrols. One member of his unit began talking the game up to Nelson. “Up to that point I thought it was a sissy sport,” he recalled. “But the guy hadn’t shaved for about two weeks and hadn’t bathed in longer and he had an M-16 and I didn’t want to tell him what I thought about golf.”

Returning stateside when his enlistment expired, Nelson initially tried baseball, only to have an arm injury sideline that notion. So he went to a nearby driving range and picked up an old steel-headed club. “My only goal was to try to hit the ball over the fence,” he said. “I had no idea what I was doing because I’d never played a round of golf in my life.” Through long sessions at that range, Nelson taught himself to become a long-straight driver before he ever played a single round.  Eventually he joined a country club, landed a job as an assistant pro, and found himself on the Florida mini tour. In 1973 at age 29, Nelson qualified for his first PGA tour event.

As much a breakthrough as it was, that debut only marked the beginning of an arduous apprenticeship. For the next five seasons, encompassing more than 130 tour starts, Nelson managed just four seconds, two thirds and 20 top 10s, while missing 23 cuts. His big weakness was putting.  “When you take up the game as an adult there’s a tendency to be mechanical” on the greens, he explained. “I really fought to overcome that.”

Nelson followed that first victory – at Inverrary in March of 1979 – with a second at the prestigious Western Open. Through his first six seasons on tour, Nelson had averaged about $50,000 annually in winnings; in 1979 he won $281,000. He was an established figure, if not a star, when the 1981 PGA Championship opened in Atlanta. He was also widely viewed as a colorless, mechanical figure, traits he turned to his advantage there. Nelson steadily built a four-stroke lead over the first three days of play, rarely making mistakes and even more rarely giving his fellow competitors a chance to gain ground on him. His reaction was typically stoic. “I’m going home to take a hot bath,” he told reporters of his plans for a victory celebration.

The U.S. Open came to Oakmont in 1973, and Nelson’s initial response was fear. “I got on the first tee of the opening round, looked down the fairway, and all I saw was thick rough and skinny fairways…it just looked impossible,” he said. Nelson shot 75. The next day he adopted a new approach: he ignored the fairways, focusing instead about eight inches in front of his ball. “That took some of the pressure off,” he said. Rounds of 73 and 65 followed. “Now I had my confidence back, and I did look down the fairways the last round,” he said. Still Nelson came to the tournament’s 70th hole, a long par three, only tied with Tom Watson for the lead. Worse, he faced a winding 62-foot putt in a circumstance where a bad miss could easily cost him the championship. Given his reputation as a poor putter by tour standards, bogey was a distinct possibility. “I thought … I could get within four feet of the hole,” he told reporters after the round. “But as soon as the ball was halfway there, I knew it was the right speed.” The putt dropped in for a stunning birdie that gave Nelson a lead he held on to.

Nelson’s third major victory, at the 1987 PGA at PGA National, came via a playoff with Lanny Wadkins. He sank a 20-foot birdie putt on the 71st hole to slip into a tie. Both men missed the green on the first playoff hole, Nelson chipping to within six feet and Wadkins within four. The competition then became a case of “first in wins.” Nelson made his putt, then Wadkins lipped his out.

Nelson continued to play regularly on the PGA Tour into the mid 1990s, transferring to the Champions Tour in 1997 and winning 19 tournaments there. Through the end of the 2015 season, he had amassed more than $19 million in career winnings. Not bad for somebody who never touched a club until he was in his 20s.

Nelson at his peak

Tournament           Finish     Score      Z Score

1979 U.S. Open        T-4        288        -1.64

1979 PGA              T-28       285        -0.26

1980 Masters          T-6        283        -1.00

1980 British Open     T-12       284        -0.83

1981 U.S. Open        T-20       284        -0.54

1981 PGA              1st        273        -2.37

1982 Masters          T-7        287        -1.18

1982 U.S. Open        T-19       291        -0.56

1983 U.S. Open        1st        280        -2.69

1983 PGA              T-36       288        -0.19

Score: -1.13

 

T-140. Bob Charles, -1.14,1968-1972

Bob Charles is not the best left-hander to ever play professional golf. That distinction falls to a far better known and more recent player whose story will be forthcoming. He does however, in all likelihood hold one “best” distinction. He is very probably the best golfer ever produced by the banking profession.

Charles got his start in banking as a youth in his native New Zealand, working for several years as a teller. Eventually, though, his skill with a club proved more promising that his skill with a spreadsheet, so he gave up the suit and tie, turned pro, and almost immediately won the New Zealand PGA Championship.

That got him onto the European circuit, and in 1962 he made his first good run at the British Open. In terms of contending for the Claret Jug, it wasn’t much of a run; Arnold Palmer rode the unstoppable momentum of his building reputation to a six-stroke victory that week at Troon. Charles did, however, post a 290, good for fifth place and just one stroke out of third. It also renewed his confidence for a visit to Royal Lytham and St Anne’s in 1963. A third round 66 positioned him a shot ahead of four-time winner Peter Thomson, two up on Jack Nicklaus and Phil Rodgers, and Thomson took some of the final-round pressure off by stumbling home in 78. Charles’s 71 held off Nicklaus, who closed with 70. But the lightly regarded Rodgers shot 69 to set up a 36-hole playoff, which Charles won by a comfortable eight strokes.

It was an odd pairing in one respect. Charles was a natural right-hander in everything except golf; Rodgers, a natural left-hander, played golf right-handed because as a youth those were the only clubs he could find. The victory made Charles the first left-handed champion in the history of the professional majors.

Although Charles today is – logically –remembered largely for that British Open championship, his best days remained ahead. That younger, less experienced Charles was also a less consistent player. He followed up the Lytham win with only one top 10 finish in a major over the next four years, missing seven cuts in the process. Although he continued to fare well in New Zealand, Charles elsewhere won just once more until October of 1967, when he won a regular PGA Tour event in Atlanta. By then, Lytham had begun to look just a bit like a fluke.

The Atlanta victory turned him back into a consistent contender, if not a consistent champion. Across the span of the next two seasons, Charles made serious runs at three major titles, each time coming up frustratingly short. At Carnoustie in 1968, he trailed Billy Casper by a shot after three rounds. Casper fell back with a closing 78, but Charles could only manage a 76 himself. That left the door open for Gary Player, whose eagle three at the par five 14th set him up for a two-shot win. One week later at Pecan Valley in San Antonio, Charles’ final round 70 left him tied with Palmer one stroke behind Julius Boros. A year after that back at Lytham, Charles led Tony Jacklin by three strokes through 36 holes, but a third round 75 let Jacklin get ahead to stay.

That’s three runner-up finishes in little more than a year, those three coming by a total of four strokes. It didn’t get him another trophy, but in 1971 it did get him membership in the Order of the British Empire, to which he was appointed by Queen Elizabeth.

When he turned 50 in 1986, Charles gravitated to the Senior tour, where he won 23 times, although never managing to put away a major.

 

Charles at his peak

Tournament           Finish     Score      Z Score

1968 Masters          19th       286        -0.39

1968 U.S. Open        T-7        285        -1.03

1968 British Open     T-2        291        -1.73

1968 PGA              T-2        282        -1.52

1969 British Open     2nd        282        -1.95

1970 U.S. Open        T-3        289        -1.77

1970 British Open     T-13       292        -0.55

1971 U.S. Open        T-13       286        -0.75

1971 PGA              T-13       288        -1.05

1972 British Open     T-15       289        -0.62

Score: -1.14

T-140. Willie Park Jr., -1.14, 1883-1892

With his father, Willie Park Jr. remains today one of only two father-son combinations to have won major golf championships. They matched the achievement of the Morrises in 1887 when Willie Jr. won the Open by a single shot, accomplishing a feat Willie Sr. had done four times.

In fact Willie Sr. was the reigning champion when Willie Jr. was born in February of 1864. Naturally he was introduced to the game in childhood, much of which was spent on the Musselburgh Links, host to the Open in 1874, 1877 and 1880. The 10-year-old Willie Jr. would have watched his uncle, Mungo, win the 1874 Open at Musselburgh, and frequently caddied on the course when not playing.

Still just 16, Willie Jr. debuted at the 1880 event, finishing 16th in a field of 24, just one stroke behind his father. He tied Old Tom Morris for fifth in 1881, tied for fourth in 1884 at the age of 20, and repeated in that position a year later.

By now Park Jr. was recognized as a challenger for championship honors, particularly since the 1886 tournament was scheduled for Musselburgh, his home course. Instead fellow Musselburghers David Brown and Willie Campbell came home first and second, Park again running fourth. But there was no stopping Park in 1887. Trailing Campbell by five strokes following the morning 18 holes at Prestwick, he shot an afternoon 79, and benefitted when Campbell took four shots to escape a bunker on the 16th hole. (The bunker remains known today as “Willie Campbell’s Grave.”)

When the tournament returned to Musselburgh in 1889, Willie Jr. made up for his 1886 failure, surviving both the 36-hole tournament and a 36-hole playoff with Andrew Kirkaldy, a protégée of Old Tom Morris. Their scores of 155 represented a record for Musselburgh. Park could have set the record and won in regulation but a birdie putt on the final hole lipped out. Still, Park breezed through the playoff, leading by three shots after the first 18 holes and winning by five.

Combined with his father’s four Open victories and his brother, Mungo’s one, the 1889 championship made it seven for the Park family, one short of the Morris family’s record of eight. Nearly a decade later, at age 34, Willie Jr. nearly squared the slate at Prestwick in 1898. Leading after each of the first three rounds, Park led Harry Vardon by one shot until Vardon holed an eight-foot birdie putt on the final hole. Playing several holes behind Vardon, Park came to the 18th facing a lengthy putt for the birdie he needed to claim the Claret Jug. Instead he left the approach three feet short, then, with Vardon watching among the large gallery, missed that one as well to finish second, one stroke behind.

By then Park had taken over his father’s golf club making business, extending it outside Britain as golf became recognized internationally. He also became a recognized golf course architect, his designs notably including the Old Course at Sunningdale near London and Olympia Fields outside Chicago, both of which remain popular tournament venues today. In 1896, he authored the first book about golf written by a golf pro. Until well into his 40s, he continued to compete annually in the Open championship, finishing 6th in 1900. In 1919, the 55-year-old Park –who had moved to the United States — made a token appearance at the U.S. Open championship, missing the cut. Park died in 1925, a world renowned golf architect with more than 170 designs to his name across Europe and North America.

Willie Park Jr. at his peak

Tournament              Finish      Score       Z Score

1883 British Open       8th         165         -0.78

1884 British Open       T-4         169         -0.55

1885 British Open       T-4         174         -1.38

1886 British Open       T-4         161         -1.05

1887 British Open       1st         161         -2.02

1888 British Open       T-11        182         -0.29

1889 British Open       1st         155         -1.87

1890 British Open       T-4         170         -1.10

1891 British Open       6th         173         -1.36

1892 British Open       7th         315         -1.03

Average Z Score: -1.14

 

 

  1. Colin Montgomerie, -1.15, 1995-1999

There were more than a few moments in the 1990s when it appeared likely that Colin Montgomerie would go down in history as a multi-major tournament winner. He had the game, the opportunity, the desire, and the personality.

That such an outcome never actually transpired – that Montgomerie eventually retired without even a single major win – is one of those freakish things ascribable only to ill fortune. Perhaps no statistic better sums up Montgomerie’s career than this one: On six different occasions he finished among the top 3 in majors without ever once winning. Four of those increasingly excruciating misses came either by one stroke or in a playoff.

A native of Scotland, Montgomerie grew up in England but emigrated to the U.S. to play college golf, in the process becoming a Walker Cup star for the British team. Establishing his professional bona fides in Europe, he was named that circuit’s rookie of the year in 1988, won his first tour event in 1989, and making his Ryder Cup debut in 1991. Eventually he would run his collection of European Tour victories into the mid 30s, winning the Order of Merit – representing the leading money winner – seven consecutive seasons starting in 1993.

He has earned more than $1.5 million playing golf around the world.

His failures in the major events have not been for lack of trying. Between his debut at the 1990 British Open and his 50th birthday in June of 2013, Montgomerie started 69 such events. He first came to America’s attention at the 1992 U.S. Open when, as an emerging 29-year-old star of the European, an early Sunday start time enabled him to tour the Pebble Beach course in 70 for a four-round total of 288. As the afternoon wore, on, the wind whipped up, the greens dried out and the front-runners flailed helplessly, Montgomerie’s 288 looked so good that Jack Nicklaus, commenting on TV, called him the winner. How bad were those late conditions? The average Sunday score of players who stood among the top 10 after three rounds was 80; only one broke 75. That one was Tom Kite, whose 72 stood up for the victory, three strokes ahead of Montgomerie, who started the day in 28th place and finished in third. He got a taste of what was to come on the final holes, notably the 18th, which he parred. “The ball almost moved on its spot,” he said. “The wind was such a big factor.”

Two years later at Oakmont, Montgomerie’s final round 70 brought him home in a tie with Ernie Els and Loren Roberts, setting up the first three-way playoff in more than three decades. That playoff did not go well for Montgomerie, who double bogeyed two of the first three holes and shot 77, three worse than Els – who eventually won on the 20th hole — or Roberts. A little more than one year after that, Montgomerie again found himself in a major playoff, this time in sudden death with Steve Elkington for the PGA title at Riviera. Elkington dropped a 20-foot putt for the win.

Montgomerie would have won the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional but for his misfortunes on a single hole. His nemesis was the long par 4 to a peninsula green that today is the 18th, but which at the time played as the 17th. Montgomerie bogeyed it all four rounds, undermining his otherwise excellent three-under 277. His problems that week were also widely ascribed to his own sensitivity to criticism from the U.S. gallery, which never warmed to him. His last bogey, after Montgomerie waited an inordinately long time for the gallery to settle down, came on a five-footer at the tournament’s 71st hole as he and Els stood tied for the lead. Afterward, some suggested he had frozen himself.

Montgomerie’s last shot at major glory came during the 2006 U.S. Open. As usual, he nearly sealed the deal, birdying the 71st hole and arriving at the final tee in need of a par to win. He pulled a seven iron for his 172-yard approach, but left it short and right of the green in severe rough. “I thought adrenaline would kick in,” Montgomerie later said of taking too little club. “I usually hit the ball 10 yards further in that circumstance.” He pitched on indifferently, and three-putted, throwing him into a tie with Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson for his accustomed spot, second place behind eventual champion Geoff Ogilvy.

Montgomerie eventually did get his major – three of them in fact – but they all came on the senior tour, which he dominated for several years.

 

Colin Montgomerie at his peak

Tournament              Finish      Score       Z Score

1995 PGA                2nd         267         -2.28

1996 U.S. Open          T-10        283         -1.32

1997 U.S. Open          2nd         277         -2.07

1997 British Open       T-24        284         -0.47

1997 PGA                T-13        284         -0.61

1998 Masters            T-8         285         -0.79

1999 Masters            T-11        287         -0.86

1999 U.S. Open          T-15        290         -0.71

1999 British Open       T-15        296         -0.84

1999 PGA                T-6         282         -1.58

Average Z Score: -1.15

 

 

T-137. Ken Venturi, -1.16, 1956-1960

The prevailing image of Ken Venturi is of a player who emerged from obscurity to prevail in the 1964 U.S. Open under death-defying conditions. There is more than a grain of truth to that. But it should not obscure Venturi’s earlier accomplishments, for the tragedy-to-triumph narrative can only be fully appreciated when viewed in the context of the great promise Venturi showed in advance of his fall.

The young Venturi – the one who competed as an amateur in 1956 and then as a professional through 1960 – was as dominant a figure as it is possible to be without actually winning. Venturi made two runs at major titles, and both eventually led to heartbreak.

The first occurred at the 1956 Masters while Venturi, still an amateur, opened with a 66 and built a six-stroke lead over Jack Burke and Cary Middlecoff standing on the ninth tee on Sunday. Then Venturi suddenly began playing like an amateur trying to win the Masters. He bogeyed six of the next seven holes, shrinking his lead to a single shot over Burke. At the 17th, Venturi bogeyed and Burke birdied, turning the outcome to Burke. The amateur third round leader had played the back nine in 42. Afterward, Venturi largely let others speak for him. “A strong young heart has … the strength to play more good golf in the years ahead,” remarked Middlecoff during the presentation ceremonies. Famed golf writer Herbert Warren Wind agreed. “It is not mere persiflage to say he will probably win many important tournaments in the years ahead,” Wind wrote.

But Wind, for once, was wrong. As a young pro, Venturi finished four behind Dick Mayer at the 1957 U.S. Open, then at the 1958 Masters he led through 36 holes but lost six strokes to Arnold Palmer on Saturday and tied for fourth. Again at the 1960 Masters, Venturi led Palmer by three strokes through six holes on Sunday, and by one when he completed his own round. But knowing Palmer remained on the course, he cautioned reporters who came to him for a congratulatory comment that “I haven’t won it yet. Palmer birdied both 17 and 18 to steal the tournament away again. “I wanted to win more than anything, Ken, but I’m truly sorry it had to be this way,” he told the runner-up afterward.”

A 1961 automobile accident began Venturi’s downfall. He lost the smooth swing that had been so natural for so long, going winless between August of 1960 and Congressional, and he also lost whatever confidence in his game remained. Venturi earned less than $4,000 in prize money in 1963. Yet he kept trying, “hitting balls until my hands were blistered,” he said. Those failures, ironically, only added to the sweetness of his eventual triumph at Congressional.

Venturi led after three rounds, but had been so drained by the heat and humidity that he passed on lunch in favor of medical treatments for dehydration and heat exhaustion. A doctor cautioned him that he risked a life-threatening heat stroke if he went out to play the afternoon round, but Venturi waved off the concern. (The conditions were so oppressive that the USGA did away with the 36-hole grind prior to the 1965 tournament.)

Walking the final fairway, unaware he had a four-stroke lead, Venturi asked tournament official Joe Dey “how am I doing?” “All you have to do is stay on your feet,” Dey replied. In naming Venturi its Sportsman of the Year for 1964, Sports Illustrated described his as “the cruel, the ugly and eventually the inspiring story of a defeated man who refused to accept failure.”

 

Ken Venturi at his peak

Tournament              Finish      Score       Z Score

1956 Masters            2nd         290         -1.69

1956 U.S. Open          8th         289         -1.01

1956 Western Open       T-32        295         -0.07

1957 U.S. Open          T-6         286         -1.32

1957 Western Open       T-14        282         -0.88

1958 Masters            T-4         286         -1.41

1958 PGA                T-20        292         -0.40

1959 PGA                T-5         281         -1.50

1960 Masters            2nd         283         -2.10

1960 PGA                9th         287         -1.24

Average Z Score: -1.16

 

 

 

 

T-136. Ian Woosnam, -1.16, 1989-1993

Between Gary Player’s first victory in 1991 and Joe Maria Olazabal’s 1994 win, seven men born outside the United States won at least one Masters green jacket. Six of them were fairly quickly inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. That began to prompt a question: Why not Woosie?

That question was rendered moot when the Hall announced its five-member induction class for 2017, a class that included Ian Woosnam. In doing so, it acknowledged what many had known for years: Woosnam got far more than most out of his God-given talents.

At just 5-4, the physical nature of those talents had its limits. But Woosnam compensated with a determination that occasionally focused on the dare-devilish. His father, Harold Woosnam, once related a story of Ian’s victory as an eight-year-old in a swimming race, a win made more remarkable by the fact that Woosnam hadn’t yet learned how to swim. “That was Ian all over,” Harold Woosnam said. “He somehow found a way to get across that thing.”

Woosnam learned the game in amateur competitions in England, where he often found himself pitted against another future Masters champion, Sandy Lyle. He joined the European Tour when he was 21 in 1979, and first came to the attention of Americans by finishing sixth at the 1986 British Open.  Unlike many of the greats of European golf, Woosnam never succumbed to the big money lure of the American tour, his U.S. schedule rarely extending beyond the three major events plus one or two others that were particular favorites.

On the European tour, however, he developed into a star of the first magnitude. He won five events in 1987, among them the Suntory World Match Play, the Million Dollar Challenge, and the World Cup team and individual events. He claimed a second Suntory World Match Play in 1990, a second World Cup individual trophy in 1991, and led the European Order of Merit rankings for both 1987 and 1990.

If American pros ever doubted the ability of this Welshman who preferred his side of the ocean, those doubts were disabused on the occasions when their paths interceded. Following his third at the 1986 British Open, Woosnam finished eighth in 1987, then second to Curtis Strange at the 1989 U.S. Open and sixth at the PGA. He was fourth at the 1990 British Open, and came to the 1991 Masters as the newly minted world number one, having earned the status with victories in France and New Orleans. He was the first person ever to attain that status without having won a major. “It gave me tremendous confidence,” he said.

A second round 66 boosted Woosnam’s confidence even more, lifting him into a tie for second, two strokes behind Tom Watson. The two were paired for the weekend, Woosnam taking the lead entering the final round thanks to a Saturday 67. They remained tied at 11-under par – with Jose Maria Olazabal — as the twosome approached the final tee. That’s when things went off script.

Woosnam pulled his drive well left, through the gallery and near the practice area. Watson went the other way, sending his drive crashing into the right side trees. Ahead, meanwhile, Olazabal blasted out of a trap, his shot nearly hitting the flag before sailing 20 feet by. He took a bogey and fell a stroke behind.

Playing first from the woods, Watson sent a three-iron into the same trap. Woosnam’s 140-yard uphill approach was better, but it stopped on the fringe 30 feet away. When Watson failed to get up and down for his par, Woosnam rolled his third stroke about six feet past the hole and drilled home the winner. “The read of the putt was perfect for me,” he said later. “You could almost imagine it going in. It was just about holding my nerve and doing it.”

The victory brought such satisfaction to Woosnam that it may have sapped his competitive drive. He did nothing of note at any of the other 1991 majors, lost his just-earned No. 1 ranking, and managed only two top five finishes in majors for the remainder of his career. He did continue to pile up European tour victories, including the 1993 Trophee Lancome and the 1994 Dunhill British Masters, eventually running his trophy title to 29. An eight-time Ryder Cup team member, he captained the 2006 European team to victory at the K Club in Ireland. One year later, he was named an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Still Woosnam can’t help but wonder what he might have done had he followed up more diligently on that Masters victory. “I always looked at my career as like trying to get to the top of a mountain,” he said after retiring. “Just winning tournaments, one step up the mountain, until I won a major and got to number one in the world.

“Unfortunately,” he added, “I got to the top and started going the other way. I probably should have said I’m going to win six majors.”

Ian Woosnam at his peak

Tournament              Finish      Score       Z Score

1989 Masters            T-14        290         -0.58

1989 U.S. Open          T-2         279         -1.81

1989 PGA                6th          279         -1.32

1990 U.S. Open          T-21        286         -0.55

1990 British Open       T-4         276         -1.76

1991 Masters            1st          277         -1.83

1991 British Open       T-17        281         -0.89

1992 U.S. Open          T-6         292         -1.00

1992 British Open       T-5         279         -1.25

1993 Masters            T-17        287         -0.61

Average Z-Score: -1.16

  1. Michelle Wie, -1.18, 2013-2017

The personification of youthful ambition Wie began playing golf at four, entered a major amateur competition at 10, and won her state women’s championship at 11, the same year she first qualified for an LPGA field. As a 16-year-old in 2006, she recorded a top 10 finish at what was then called the Nabisco Championship, ratcheting her way up to fourth place a year later and to second a year after that at the LPGA.

Turning pro at 15 in 2005, Wie’s 2006 rookie season gloriously appeared to uphold all the promise she had shown as an amateur. She tied for third at the Nabisco, for fifth at the LPGA and for third at the Open. That’s when reality set in.

Part of the problem may have been divided focus. Wie committed to competing for some of the larger men’s tour prizes with consistently disappointing results. In short order those disappointments, combining with injuries, showed up in her women’s tour events as well. Between 2007 and 2013 – seven years that ought to have been the prime of her career – Wie often was a non-factor in LPGA majors, recording only two top 10s, missing the cut five times, and failing to even start or withdrawing on seven other occasions. During that time she managed only two victories in regular tour events.

Thus it came as a surprise and yet no surprise when Wie finally blossomed in 2014. She was only 24, yet a veteran whose youthful aggressiveness had been fully tempered by both experience and expectation. Wie’s renaissance began at the opening major, now called the ANA Inspiration, when she chased Lexi Thompson through 54 holes, eventually losing by three strokes. In June at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, Wie delivered a clutch birdie at the 71st hole and won by two strokes over Stacy Lewis.

Those outcomes have enabled Wie to emerge from the gigantic shadow often cast by potential into a more full realization of the game her supporters always envisioned her to have.

 

Michelle Wie at her peak

Tournament              Finish      Score       Z Score

2013 ANA Inspiration    T-41        288         -0.39

2013 LPGA               T-9         286         -1.28

2014 ANA Inspiration    2nd         277         -2.39

2014 U.S. Open          1st          278         -2.19

2015 U.S. Open          11th        278         -1.11

2015 Evian Masters      T-16        281         -0.86

2016 ANA Inspiration    T-36        286         -0.02

2017 ANA Inspiration    6th         277         -1.69

2017 Women’s PGA        T-20        281         -0.53

2017 British Open       T-3         275         -1.64

Average Z Score: -1.18

 

T-136. Brittany Lincicome, -1.19, 2006-2010

To most casual golf fans, Brittany Lincicome is probably best known as the woman who drives golf balls off the top of that New York skyscraper onto Richard Branson’s waiting jet. That’s about as risqué as Lincicome goes in the name of color. But to serious devotees of the women’s tour, her game makes up the difference.

For the lightly initiated, Lincicome is a 32-year-old Floridian with a pair of major championships to her name and, yes, a penchant for driving the ball a long way. In 2017, she averaged just under 271 yards per drive, seventh longest among the women. For that attribute, her fellow tour pros call Lincicome “Bam Bam.”

Lincicome turned pro while still a teen in 2006, and enjoyed quick success. At the 2007 Nabisco, her steady play – three rounds of 71 or 72 – left her fifth, two shots out of the lead and positioned for a Sunday push. But Lincicome could produce only another 72, allowing Morgan Pressel, who closed with a 69, to sail past eight players to the victory. Lincicome tied for second.

A repeat of her narrow miss loomed two years later when Lincicome came to the par 5 72nd hole trailing Kristy McPherson by a shot. She went to her strength, cranking a drive that positioned her to have a go at the pond-protected green 210 yards distant with a hybrid. “It came off the clubface and it was exactly where we were trying to hit it and it took the slope like I was hoping it was going to,” she said later. The ball rolled close to the hole, giving Lincicome a four-foot eagle putt she needed to win. “If I had to make anything further than that … my hands were shaking so bad,” she remarked.

Lincicome then underwent six years playing competently yet in the substantial shadows of Lorena Ochoa, Yani Tseng and Inbee Park. Between 2010 and 2014 she won a couple of minor tour events, hit the ball long, and made more than enough money to enjoy life. But her major card was unremarkable; runner-up at the 2014 LPGA, an occasional ninth, a few missed cuts. Between 2011 and 2013 she played in 13 LPGA majors, registering just one finish better than 13th. Lincicome’s resume began to look like so many on tour: solid, capable, and with that one little sparkling bauble that appeared to have arisen as if by chance.

That impression began to change with her performance at the 20124 LPGA championship,. Lincicome led after two rounds, and still led overwhelming favorite Inbee Park by a stroke through the third round. But a bogey on the tournament’s 72nd hole threw Lincicome into a sudden-death playoff with the LPGA’s reigning megastar, and Park won it with a par. It was the kind of setback that might have knocked a player‘s ego for a loop, but Lincicome turned it into a positive. At the following season’s ANA Inspiration, Lincicome returned to the 72nd hole needing an eagle, this time merely to tie Stacy Lewis. What happened next was a virtual replay of 2009: a long drive in perfect position, a hybrid within six feet, a solid putt. She beat Lewis in the sudden-death playoff. “Surreal,” Lincicome said.

 

Brittany Lincicome at her peak

Tournament              Finish      Score       Z Score

2006 U.S. Open          7th         291         -1.19

2007 Nabisco            T-2         286         -1.71

2007 U.S. Open          T-14        288         -0.75

2007 LPGA               T-6         280         -1.41

2007 British Open       T-11        295         -0.92

2009 Nabisco            1st         279         -2.19

2009 U.S. Open          5th         287         -1.51

2010 Nabisco            T-21        289         -0.56

2010 LPGA               T-14        288         -0.56

2010 British Open       T-9         286         -1.05

Average Z Score: -1.19

 

 

T-134. Fuzzy Zoeller, -1.19, 1981-1985

Frank Urban “Fuzzy” Zoeller only took golf seriously when he was actually striking the ball. At all other times, he seemed to be in it more or less as a lark.

“Anybody who knows me knows that I am a jokester,” Zoeller said of himself. Occasionally, those jokes back fired, notably when he dismissed Tiger Woods’ victory at the 1997 Masters with a flippancy that contained more than a whiff of racial animus. Zoeller later apologized for the comment, and Woods accepted.

But the ‘devil-may-care’ attitude seemed to help Zoeller by defusing pressurized situations in which he frequently found himself. None was more pressurized than the 1979 Masters, the first for  Zoeller, then a 27-year-old journeyman with one tour win to his name, when Zoeller made up six shots on third round leader Ed Sneed to get into a three-way playoff also involving former Masters champion Tom Watson. Zoeller birdied the 71st hole, then watched Sneed bogey the 72nd to cement the playoff. “To me, all the pressure was on the other people,” Zoeller explained. On the second playoff hole, Zoeller watched Sneed and Watson both miss birdie attempts, then sank his own no-pressure seven-footer. In so doing, he became the first person since 1935 to win the Masters in his first try. It’s a distinction he still holds.

The victory might have been one of those pleasant one-offs that PGA majors give us now and again – except it wasn’t. Zoeller finished second in the 1981 PGA, and in 1984 stared down Greg Norman through the closing holes of the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Through most of the tournament, that closing duel looked unlikely. Hale Irwin, the 1974 Open champion on the same course, shot three rounds in the 60s and led Zoeller by a stroke enter in the final round, with Norman another stroke back. But Irwin skied to a 79 on Sunday, positioning Norman to tie Zoeller if he could sink a 50-foot putt on the final hole. Norman did, prompting Zoeller – back in the fairway – to laughingly wave a white towel in mock surrender.

Be assured, it was mock surrender. In the Monday playoff, Zoeller seized the early advantage and beat Norman by eight strokes.
 Fuzzy Zoeller at his peak

Tournament              Finish      Score       Z Score

1981 PGA                2nd         277         -1.70

1982 Masters            T-10        290         -0.72

1982 U.S. Open          T-15        290         -0.71

1982 British Open       T-8         287         -1.42

1983 British Open       T-14        282         -0.60

1983 PGA                T-6         279         -1.46

1984 U.S. Open          1st         276         -2.74

1984 British Open       T-14        285         -0.60

1985 U.S. Open          T-9         283         -1.07

1985 British Open       T-11        286         -0.88

Average Z Score: -1.19

 

 

T-132. Brooks Koepka, -1.21, 2014-2017

Not yet 30 – he won’t reach that milestone until May of 2020 – Koepka’s story is still being written. So there is plenty of room for movement in either direction with respect to both his peak and career rating.

Nonetheless, his 2017 season – highlighted by that U.S. Open victory at Erin Hills – places Koepka for the time being solidly among the top 150 for peak performance. And since at this stage his five-year peak consists of only four seasons, it also leaves room for growth.

There being little need to summarize Koepka’s career to date, let’s instead engage in a bit of speculation. If Koepka were to reprise his career-best 2017 season in 2018, his peak rating would climb from its current -1.21 to about -1.42. That would elevate his standing about 40 places, certainly into the top 100. At that point, the climb gets steeper. But if Koepka were to reprise 2017 a third time in 2019, he could jump another 20 spots or thereabouts, into the mid 70s by the age of 30.

Of course there’s nothing capping Koepka’s performance ceiling at his 2017 showings. Maybe he’ll surpass that. But that would be asking a lot, Statistically, only Matt Kuchar had a better standard deviation of performance than Koepka’s -1.24 in the 2017 majors. Since Koepka emerged as a contender in 2014, only 10 have done so…and that’s out of close to 1,000 who’ve tried.

Brooks Koepka at his peak

Tournament              Finish      Score       Z Score

2014 U.S. Open          T-4         281         -1.16

2014 PGA                T-15        275         -0.86

2015 British Open       T-10        278         -1.15

2015 PGA                T-5         275         -1.57

2016 U.S. Open          T-13        284         -0.79

2016 PGA                T-4         271         -1.57

2017 Masters            T-11        287         -0.70

2017 U.S. Open          1st         272         -2.24

2017 British Open       T-6         276         -1.33

2017 PGA                T-13        284         -0.68

Average Z-Score: -1.21

 

 

 

 

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