Eamon Lynch and Geoff Shackelford break down the second round of the U.S. Open and look ahead to the weekend at Pebble Beach.
Golfweek, USA TODAY NETWORK
They say it is tough to win a major, but sometimes when you look at the leaderboard of a major golf event, it’s amazing to see how many contenders do have a major to their credit.
This week alone at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, there are major winners like Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Louis Oosthuizen, Brooks Kopeka, Danny Willett, Henrik Stenson and Jim Furyk in the mix. That’s a lot of majors, not even mentioning 15-time major winner Tiger Woods.
It all enough to make you wonder how some players who don’t have majors have managed to avoid winning one of men’s golf’s four biggest prizes. And some of those players are taking that burden with them into the final round of the Open Sunday.
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Rickie Fowler: Fowler, now 30, is a little like the kid at the birthday party with all of his friends who hasn’t been serve his slice of birthday cake yet. Fowler hangs around with several other players who he’s as good as, if not better than on a consistent basis. But the other players have their major, or even multiple majors. Fowler has 10 top-10 finishes in majors, including three runner-up finishes. He just hasn’t put together the right four rounds of golf at the right time, and it won’t happen for him this weekend. But a major is hanging out there for him to grab.
Jon Rahm: Perhaps the best player in the world under 25, Rahm’s problem with winning a major is he just hasn’t had that many chances yet. At just 24, Rahm is playing in just his 12 major as a professional. But he has three top-10s in his last six majors. He certainly has the game to win multiple majors down the road, but people like to talk about his fiery temper that can spill onto the course. But he’s working on his outbursts, and his game is certain major caliber
Matt Kuchar: Kuchar is a wonderful if not spectacular golfer. And he’s playing some of the best golf of his career right now, with two wins on the PGA Tour this season. But Kuchar’s name might not spring to mind is terms of who should win a major. That might be wrong thinking. In five of his last nine majors, Kuchar has been in the top 10, a run that includes a runner-up finish to Jordan Spieth in the 2017 British Open. All of that say major championship game, and he’s played well again at the U.S. Open this week. The problem for Kuchar might be age. He’s now 40 years old, and most golfers don’t have their best years in their 40s. Yes, players can win majors in their 40s, but those players are few and far between these days.
Aaron Wise: At just 22, Wise had had fewer chances to win a breakthrough major than Rahm. In fact, this week’s U.S. Open is just Wise’s fifth professional major. But Wise has the compelling career path, from NCAA men’s individual champion at the University of Oregon to PGA Tour winner to PGA Tour rookie of the year in 2018. Perhaps there needs to be more wins and more times in the heat of competition for Wise to legitimately challenge at a major. On the other hand, he might be proving this week that’s not needed.
Rickie Fowler plays his shot from the 17th tee during the first round of the 2019 U.S. Open. Photo: Orlando Ramirez/USA TODAY Sports (Photo: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports)
Gary Woodland: Admit it, you’ve never once thought about Gary Woodland as a major championship winner. That’s fair, since Woodland is 35 years old and has only posted top-10 finishes in two majors. He’s a solid player with tour victories, but a major? Well, Woodland is on your radar this week because of his good play, but he should be on your radar because those two top-10 finishes in majors have come in his last three starts. Woodland is the kind of player who might be coming into his entire game in his mid-30s, not just relying on his powerhouse drives. And maybe this is his major week.
Larry Bohannan is The Desert Sun golf writer. He can be reached at (760) 77804633 or larry.bohannan@desertsun. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @Larry_Bohannan.