Sergio Garcia heads the list of best players without a major
Last Updated: 10/04/17 12:28am
With Sergio Garcia tied for the lead heading into the final round of the Masters, he tops our selection of the best players never to have won a major title ...
When Sergio Garcia burst on to the scene at the 1999 PGA Championship, no one could have predicted the then 19-year-old would now be 36 and without a major title to his name.
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The Spaniard, whose "closed-eyes" shot from behind a tree at Medinah is one of the most replayed moments in recent major memory, pushed Tiger Woods all the way before coming up just one stroke short in his PGA Championship debut.
After 11 top-10 finishes in the majors over the next six years, including all four in 2002, Garcia's best chance of major victory arguably came at Carnoustie during the 2007 Open, where he led each of the first three rounds to take a three-shot cushion after 54 holes.
But after an early birdie, he dropped three shots in four holes on the front nine and, although he regained a share of the lead with birdies at 13 and 14, his 10-foot putt for victory at the last lipped out and he would go on to lose out to Padraig Harrington in a tense play-off.
Another opportunity came knocking at the PGA Championship a year later, where Garcia clung onto the lead until disaster struck at the 16th, where he found water with his misjudged approach. He also bogeyed the last and was again denied by Harrington as the Irishman collected his third win in six majors.
Garcia has since posted a further eight top-10 finishes in majors, including ties for fifth at both the US Open and The Open this year, and he will surely keep knocking on the door to clinch the major his talent deserves.
The Englishman has much experience in leading major tournaments, particularly after the third round, but he has yet to drag himself over the winning line.
After five top-10 finishes in majors from 1995 to 2007, Westwood played with Tiger Woods in the final group of the US Open in 2008 at Torrey Pines and led by two at the turn before he dropped three shots in four holes.
He stayed in touch with Woods and Rocco Mediate, but he came agonisingly close to a final-hole birdie which would have got him into the following day's 18-hole play-off, which Woods won at the first hole of sudden death after a titanic battle with the veteran.
The 2009 Open is largely remembered for the exploits of 59-year-old Tom Watson, but Westwood would have been in a play-off with the five-time champion and eventual winner Stewart Cink had he not three-putted the 72nd green, and he followed that with another tie for third in the PGA Championship the following month.
He led the 2010 Masters heading into the final round and did not do much wrong as he closed with a one-under 71, but he was undone by the brilliance of Phil Mickelson's 67, and he was runner-up again in The Open later than year, albeit seven shots adrift of Louis Oosthuizen at St Andrews.
Westwood was two shots out of the play-off at the 2012 Masters as Oosthuizen was pipped by Bubba Watson, and he was again marvelling at Mickelson on the final day of the 2013 Open at Muirfield. Westwood led by two after 54 holes, but he made only one birdie against five bogeys on Sunday as Mickelson stormed to a 66 to win by three.
And Westwood found himself firmly in contention at the Masters yet again earlier this year following Jordan Spieth's dramatic meltdown, but he could not keep pace with compatriot Danny Willett down the stretch and had to be content with another runner-up finish, and his third top-10 in seven years at Augusta National.
The 43-year-old then played alongside eventual champion Dustin Johnson on the final day of the US Open at Oakmont, but he plummeted down the leaderboard with a horrendous front-nine including six bogeys and one double-bogey.
The Scot has three majors to his name since he joined the senior ranks, but a combination of bad luck and one poor seven-iron cost him the chance of adding a proper major victory to his record haul of eight European Tour Order of Merit titles.
Even Jack Nicklaus was convinced that Montgomerie had won the US Open in 1992 when he set the early clubhouse target at even par after a brilliant final round in fierce winds, but he would eventually finish third behind Tom Kite and Jeff Sluman.
Montgomerie took a two-shot lead into the weekend of the US Open at Oakmont two years later after a stunning second-round 65, but further rounds of 73 and 70 left him facing an 18-hole play-off against Ernie Els and Loren Roberts on the Monday.
But the Ryder Cup star struggled in the intense heat and carded three double-bogeys over the first 11 holes as Els went on to win his first major in a sudden-death shoot-out with Roberts.
Montgomerie endured another close call in the 1995 PGA Championship at Riviera, where he was five off the lead after 54 holes before closing with three straight birdies for a 65 that got him into a play-off against Steve Elkington.
The Australian then broke his major drought when he drained a 20-foot putt for birdie on the first extra hole which Montgomerie could not match.
Montgomerie was a distant second behind runaway five-shot winner Tiger Woods at The Open in 2005, but perhaps his best chance of major success came in the US Open at Winged Foot the following year.
After sinking a mammoth putt for birdie at the 17th on the final day, a par would have been enough to land the title and that looked on the cards when he split the 18th fairway with a perfect drive. But, by his own admission, he chunked his second with a seven-iron and took four more to get down to finish a stroke behind Geoff Ogilvy.
Best of the rest:
Luke Donald has come close but hasn't been able to find a strong enough game on the final day's play to win a major. He finished third on his Masters debut in 2005, but he had a better chance of major glory at the following year's PGA Championship as he went into the last round tied for the lead with Tiger Woods.
But Donald could not find a single birdie on Sunday, while Woods had four on the front nine and another at the 11th as he cruised to a comfortable five-shot win at Medinah.
Donald had high hopes of breaking the 'par 3 curse' at the Masters in 2011 but, despite five birdies on the back-nine of a remarkable final round, a double-bogey at the 12th and another dropped shot at 17 proved costly and he finished four adrift of surprise champion Charl Schwartzel at Augusta.
He was also in the mix in the 2013 US Open at Merion and went into the final round two off the lead, but he stuttered to an erratic 75 which left him five behind playing-partner and champion Justin Rose.
Rickie Fowler has had a number of close shaves, particularly in 2014 when he followed a fifth-place finish at the Masters with runner-up performances at both the US Open and The Open - although Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy were runaway winners at those events.
Fowler then led the PGA Championship at Valhalla with eight holes to play after a run of five birdies in eight holes, but the putts dried up and he was overtaken by eventual winner McIlroy and veteran Phil Mickelson, finishing two behind the champion.
Ian Poulter is well-known for his heroics during the Ryder Cup, but away from team events the 41-year-old has ended up disappointed by near-misses in majors, and he currently has eight top-10 finishes to his name in the grand slam events.
Poulter's best chance at a major came at the 2013 Open, where an impressive start to the final round put him in contention. He started the day on five over, but an eagle followed by three straight birdies hauled him to within a shot of leader Adam Scott by the eighth.
But both Scott and Poulter faded down the stretch at Muirfield as Mickelson roared to a three-shot win with birdies at the last three holes capping a sublime 66.