IN PICS: The five best golfers without a major

Sport360 staff 10/04/2017

With Sergio Garcia taking his name off the list following his Masters victory, following are the five best players in the world currently without majors…

Hideki Matsuyama

In Matsuyama’s defence, he is only 25 years old. But the world No4 has five top-10s in 19 major starts and considered by many as a favourite to become the first-ever Japanese major champion soon.

Rickie Fowler

Fowler’s now up to No9 in the world rankings and the only thing missing from his CV is a major win to elevate his status further in the game. The 28-year-old American now has six top-10s in 29 major starts.

Paul Casey

Another good finish by the resurgent Englishman, but everyone associated with the sport would agree he should have won a major by now. The 39-year-old now has nine top-10s in 42 majors.

Matt Kuchar

The American aced the 16th on Sunday for a tied fourth place, but he is yet to ace a major in what has been a distinguished career. The world No17 has now played 45 majors and recorded eight top-10s.

Lee Westwood

Really, the best player in the world right now without a major. The 43-year-old former world No1 has now gone 76 major starts without success, even though he has a staggering 18 top-10s in them.

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Garcia takes major title at last with Masters win

Sport360 staff 10/04/2017

Spain’s Sergio Garcia captured his first major golf title on Sunday after 73 failed attempts, making a birdie on the first playoff hole to defeat Justin Rose and win the 81st Masters.

Garcia took his emotional, long-sought triumph over England’s Rose, the 2016 Rio Olympic champion and 2013 US Open winner, after they finished deadlocked on nine-under par 279 for 72 holes at Augusta National.

The 37-year-old Spaniard took the greatest triumph of his career, and a $1.98 million top prize from an $11 million payout, on what would have been the 60th birthday of his idol, two-time Masters champion and three-time British Open winner Seve Ballesteros, who died of brain cancer in 2011 at age 54.

“It’s amazing,” Garcia said. “To do it on his 60th birthday, it’s something amazing.”

Last-group playing partners and friends Garcia and Rose were level for the lead at the start of what become a tension-packed thrill ride of a final round.

Garcia led by three strokes after five holes, fell two behind after 11, then roared back to force the playoff and sank a 15-foot birdie putt to claim victory.

“Even after making a couple of bogeys I was very positive. I still believed,” Garcia said. “There were a lot of holes I could get to and I stayed positive.”

Rose’s playoff tee shot soared deep into trees right of the fairway but bounced out onto pine straw while Garcia found the fairway.

Rose could only punch out onto the fairway and scrambled to make a bogey while Garcia put his approach 15 feet from the hole and, needing only two putts to win, rolled in a birdie around the edge of the cup.

On the 72nd regulation hole, Rose missed an eight-foot birdie putt, leaving Garcia a five-footer to win, but he pushed it wide right.

Not since Spain’s Jose Maria Olazabal in 1994 had a Masters champion eagled on the back nine in the final round.

Rose birdied to match Garcia, then birdied the par-3 16th only to bogey and remain deadlocked to set up the closing drama.

South African Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters winner, was third on 282 with American Matt Kuchar and Belgian Thomas Pieters sharing fourth on 283.

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COMMENT: The Masters is bound to be a spectacle for golf

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Some big names are in contention this year.

As is usually the case, there are some intriguing storylines going into the first major of the season which will surely spice up proceedings as the world’s finest line up at Augusta National Golf Club in this year’s quest for the green jacket.

The feeling that will be most immediately experienced by patrons is the absence of Arnold Palmer. The King held court at the Masters for more than five decades, drawing love from a captive audience well after he stopped taking part.

Thousands surrounded the first tee on Thursday morning and broke into thunderous ovation at the sight of Palmer as he performed his duty as the honorary starter. And I am sure he was sorely missed during the Par 3 Contest, where he was part of the most anticipated three-ball alongside Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.

But once the players are out on the golf course, focus will shift on to them and the three biggest talking points involve world No1 Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.

Let’s start with Spieth. Rarely has a player unravelled the mysteries of the Augusta National course so fast and so thoroughly like the 23-year-old American has. On a layout notoriously known to be a tortuous experience for first-timers, Spieth has never finished outside second place in his first three starts.

Three to watch

  • Dustin Johnson
  • Jordan Spieth
  • Rory McIlroy

But it is what happened to him on the 12th hole last year during Sunday’s final round that is still hijacking conversations. On the shortest, and perhaps the most beautiful, hole of the golf course, Spieth made an ugly seven after hitting two balls into the water. What was looking like an easy second successive win, turned into one of the biggest heart-breaks in the game.

Since then, Spieth reckons he has made three birdies on that hole, but every single golf fan in the world is waiting with bated breath to see how he reacts on his competitive return to the course.

Johnson starts as everybody’s pre-tournament favourite, which is easy to understand given he enters the week in the best form. He has won each of his last three starts and if he manages to claim the trophy on Sunday, he would become only the ninth player in the history of the PGA Tour to win four in-a-row. Considering that list features Tiger Woods thrice and Sam Snead and Ben Hogan twice, Johnson will be in some company.

Does Johnson have the game to succeed at Augusta National? Considering he finished inside the top-six in his last two visits, and has missed only one cut in seven starts, evidence points to him being at home there.

As for McIlroy, the Northern Irishman will always be a talking point leading up to the Masters, simply because he has the chance to become only the sixth player in the history of the sport to win a career grand slam. That would put him in such exalted company as Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

The build-up this year hasn’t gone to plan for McIlroy – the stress fracture of ribs sustained while playing the first event of the year in South Africa saw him ruled out of action for seven weeks. But he has made a solid comeback, with top-10 finishes in the two strokeplay events he featured in, and there is a school of thought which feels he’s much better off coming into the Masters neither on too much of a high, nor downtrodden by poor form.

Whatever happens on Sunday evening, the next four days will be a spectacle for golf.

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