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With the second major of 2014 upon us, it’s time to ratchet up the oldest debate in the game: Who’s the best golfer yet to win a major? There are easily a dozen guys we could put on this list, but we’ll go with our top 9:
Amongst the elite major-less golfers, no one is older than Stricker (47) or richer ($40,127,495 earned on the PGA Tour alone). He enters his 19th U.S. Open appearance ranked 17th in the world despite playing just 19 official events since the start of 2013. Stricker is in semi-retirement mode but should he capture a major, he might completely return to his family. He finished T-8 at last year’s U.S. Open, and his closest call at a major was runner-up at the 1998 PGA Championship.
The 34-year-old Spaniard still has a lot of time left, but no one his age has more money without a major. Garcia is ranked No. 10 on the all-time PGA Tour money list ($34,881,580) and No. 9 on the European Tour money list (€19,365,623, or nearly $26.4 million), and he currently sits eighth in the world rankings. He’s been a runner-up twice at the PGA and once at the Open Championship.
Westwood reached world No. 1 status late in 2010 and he never dropped below third in 2011. But despite recording two top-10 results in majors each of the past five years (and placing seventh in this year’s Masters), Westwood enters the U.S. Open 29th in the world. The 41-year-old recently moved to the very top of the European Tour career money list (€29,959,670, or $40,799,078) and he’s collected more than $16.7 million on the PGA Tour.
The highest-ranked golfer on this list, Stenson comes in at No. 2 in the world. A second at the Open Championship and third at the PGA last year, coupled with his FedExCup title, pushed him to that point as he enters the U.S. Open, where he’s never finished better than ninth.
Up to No. 5 in the world rankings is the 35-year-old Kuchar, who’s never placed higher than third at a major (T-3 at the 2012 Masters). After earning low-amateur status at both the 1998 Masters and U.S. Open, he either didn’t qualify or got cut after two rounds in all but one major during the entire decade of the 2000s. Kuchar tied for fifth at this year’s Masters.
You might argue that a twenty-something (for a few more weeks) is too young to put on this list, but couldn’t it be viewed as a compliment? In just his seventh year as a pro, the 29-year-old Johnson has ascended high enough in the world rankings (No. 15) and the all-time PGA Tour money list (No. 31 with $23,604,388) to warrant inclusion. His best result in a major is T-2 at the 2011 Open Championship.
If Johnson is too young, then Day really is. But the 26-year-old Aussie is No. 7 in the world, largely because of his play at the majors last year. He held the lead for part of Sunday at the Masters and went on to secure three top-eight finishes in the 2013 majors. Day was a combined 2-over-par in those four events, tied with countryman Adam Scott for the best aggregate score among players who made the cut at each major.
Another former world No. 1, Donald is coming off three straight missed cuts at majors, a string that started after his T-8 at the 2013 U.S. Open. The 36-year-old is now No. 18 in the world. His best finishes in majors were T-3 at the 2005 Masters and 2006 PGA Championship.
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[Images via Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports; Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports]