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  • Steve Baker

The Nearly Men

Colin Montgomerie - didn't know what it took to win Let's not get personal here because despite Monty's earnestness in wanting to be liked, as illustrated by his sheer persistence in retaining a Sky commentary seat, he isn't a naturally likeable bloke. That said, despite once writing a blog questioning the logic of his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame, you have to respect his talent.

Monty's defining near-miss was at the 2006 US Open at Winged Foot where just a par at the final hole would have allowed his career to end with a major.

Previously he had lost a playoff to Ernie Els in the 1994 US Open, another to Steve Elkington in the 1995 US PGA Championship, finished runner up to Els again in the 1997 US Open and to Tiger Woods at St Andrews in the 2005 Open Championship.

So, when given the opportunity in 2006 to finally close the deal, we all thought he finally had the answer. Sadly not.

Years later when reviewing his career (in another impossibly long SkySports monologue) he admitted "I've thoroughly enjoyed my exploits in major championships", before revealing the real reason he never won one, "I just haven't been fortunate or whatever it takes"

To the rest of us "whatever it takes" is a well hit 7-iron from 172 yards (your favourite club, from a perfect yardage) which, for a player renowned for his distance control should have been second nature.

By then Monty was 42 and the scar tissue from previous near-misses showed and when crunch time came, he chunked it short and right and that tag of being the best golfer to never win a major still hung as tightly as ever around his neck.


Lee Westwood - no 5th gear Unfortunately the kiss of death for his major aspirations finally came in 2013 when, in a news article for a major publication Monty publicly backed him to win one.

The announcement came just days after he had coughed up the best chance of his career in a lacklustre final round performance at the 2014 Open at Muirfield where so little happened it struck Phil Mickelson that he ought to roll the dice and have a go.

And he won because no one else seemed up for it, least of all Westwood, and it wasn't the first time he had beaten Lee by rolling the dice of golfing fate - shot of the century, 2010 Masters, remember that? Meanwhile Westwood was failing to hit fairways and missing greens; too much for his fragile putting stroke to recover from.

For Westwood not knowing when to 'go for it and let loose', combined with a putting stroke that never really matched the rest of his game meant close calls in all four majors.

When opportunity knocks, let it in, because when you don't you'll be left thinking ‘what if I just attacked that flag on 16, what if I went for it rather than playing safe?’

What if Lee, what if?


Kenny Perry - no guts for the fight Twice lost a playoff for a major championship title his career deserved. In 1996 at Valhalla he lost the US PGA Championship, in his home state of Kentucky. Mark Brooks beat him at the first extra hole when Perry failed to find the fairway. In the 2009 Masters he lost another playoff to Angel Cabrera after bogeying his final two holes in regulation before playing two more poor playoff holes.

This lack of bottle is surprising for a fourteen-time winner on the PGA Tour and one of the coolest cats around. Perry hadn't usually been a player to give tournaments away when in contention. Of those fourteen wins he beat into second place eleven present or future major champions.

Perry was involved in four playoffs on the PGA Tour, he won three of them yet lost the two major playoffs he was involved in. It tells us everything we need to know about the man and the golfer:

"[I was] So close to doing some great stuff on the PGA tour. I just couldn't seem to get over the hump when the pressure situations were there".

He recently stated he is eagerly awaiting the answers when Jordan Spieth reveals his winning formula!


Steve Stricker - not mean enough Now semi-retired here is another player that doesn't seem to be up for the fight come major Sunday. Despite twelve regular tour wins, he only once came close to winning one of the big ones.

He went into the final round of the 1998 PGA Championship at Sahalee tied for the lead with eventual winner Vijay Singh but failed to put any pressure on the unflappable Fijian.

A similar story was seen in the 2013 US Open at Merion when he started the final round just one shot behind leader Phil Mickelson but dropped three shots in his first two holes to once again distance himself from any sort of major contention.

Three years previously at the 2011 US PGA Championship, he had shot an opening 63 to lead the field by two at 7-under. If he had finished the tournament just one better, he would have made a playoff, but instead he barely finished the tournament under par.

His twelve Top 10s in major championships is a footnote to his inability to raise his game to that of major champion; eight of them came between 2006-14, the very height of his career.

When push comes to shove Stricker found himself being the one pushed and shoved out of contention when it mattered most. Which prompts the question, like Kenny Perry, did he really believe he was good enough to win a major?

Heading into the Masters and another major season, we wonder who the next crop of contenders will shackle themselves with the burden of not winning a major when widely expected to do so. So stand Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker, Bill Haas, Branden Grace and Rickie Fowler? If Mickelson, at the age of 34 found a way to win, can the rest of you?



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