Winning a major championship is the pinnacle of our sport. Many great players have ended their career without one, while other supremely talented players won just one. Patrick Baines takes a look at the the best players to have won one major in the modern era.
Best One-Time Major Winners Of The Modern Era
Sergio Garcia’s stunning play-off win at Augusta means the Spaniard can finally be crossed off the ‘best player not to have won a major’ list.
The challenge El Nino now faces is to become a multiple major champion, something these great players weren’t able to do.
In no particular order, here are Golf Monthly’s best one-time major winners of the modern era…
The big hitting Welshman will always be remembered for his success at the 1991 US Masters.
His win at Augusta came at a time European golfers were dominating the first major of the season, with Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle and Nick Faldo all getting their hands on the famous green jacket before Woosnam won.
Victory at Augusta saw the farmer’s son from Mid Wales became the fourth European to wear the famous Masters Green Jacket.
With a bit more luck Woosie could have added to his sole major win. He finished third at the 1986 as Greg Norman landed his first major. In 1989 he finished a single shot behind US Open champion Curtis Strange at Oak Hill.
Woosie’s final chance at major glory came in 2001. He teed off on the Sunday with a serious chance of winning. The joy of a birdie on the opening hole soon turned to despair as he received a two shot penalty for having an extra club in his bag.
When he holed on the 72nd hole he was four shots behind David Duval, leaving the Welshman thinking what might have been.
Woosnam finished in the top 10 in 10 majors and became the first player to win the World Match Play Championship in three different decades.
Davis Love III
Since turning professional in 1986, Davis Love III has lifted 21 PGA Tour titles, yet only one of those was a major championship.
After finishing a shot behind Ben Crenshaw in the 1995 Masters, last year’s triumphant Ryder Cup captain again filled the runner-up position a year later at Oakland Hills in the US Open.
Two near misses but a year later came his greatest victory at the 1997 USPGA. Love started the final round at Winged Foot playing alongside Justin Leonard, who had won the Open Championship at Royal Troon earlier in the summer.
A final round 66 saw Love claim a five shot victory, one that many believed would be the first of a major championship collection to go the way of the smooth swinging American.
His best chance of landing a second major came at Augusta National in 1999. Rounds of 69-72-70 saw Love tee-off in the second to last group out on Sunday.
Dropped shots on the third and fourth holes meant he was always playing catch up. He fought back with three birdies but had to settle for another runner-up position as Jose Maria Olazabal won his second green jacket.
He played in the final group at the 2003 Open but a final round 72 wasn’t enough as the unheralded American Ben Curtis claimed one of the most unlikely wins in major championship history.
Like Davis Love, Fred Couples had to learn the hard way that major championships take some winning.
He came close to breaking his major duck in 1990 when he finished second behind Australian Wayne Grady in the USPGA at Shoal Creek.
Three near misses didn’t deter Boom Boom who would go on to land his only major title at Augusta National in the spring of 1992.
Most major champions need a bit of luck and Couples got his fair share at the 1992 US Masters. By the time he go to the par 3 12th he was leading the tournament.
He knew better than to aim for the flag so he tried to play safe, but he blocked his short iron. It hit the bank on the far side of Rae’s Creek but somehow didn’t roll back into the water. From there Couples chipped close and holed the putt for par.
Two hours later he received his green jacket from 1991 champion Ian Woosnam.
Couples’ next brush with major glory came 13 years later at St Andrews. In truth he never looked like winning as Tiger Woods sauntered to a five shot victory but he did finish a highly respectable joint third alongside the two-time Masters winner Jose Maria Olazabal.
Tom Kite won 19 times on the PGA Tour and has enjoyed further success on the Champions Tour with ten victories.
He won the US Open at Pebble Beach in 1992 but many believe he had the talent to be a multiple major champion.
His first chance of major glory came in the 1978 Open at the Old Course but he found a certain Jack Nicklaus in top form and had to settle for tied second alongside Raymond Floyd, Ben Crenshaw and Simon Owen of New Zealand.
Kite, a straight hitter and superb pressure putter, came agonisingly close to winning the Masters but had to make do with three runners-up finishes.
Seve Ballesteros denied him in 1983 but three years later Kite looked certain to claim the green jacket. Up stepped his old rival Jack Nicklaus who played the last ten holes in seven under par to land his eighteenth and final major.
In 1997 Kite finished second again at Augusta, a mere 12 shots behind 21-year-old prodigy Tiger Woods.
David Duval won 13 times on the PGA Tour and was one of only a handful of players able to offer any resistance to a prime Tiger Woods. After winning the 2001 Open Championship, Duval’s form deserted him. It’s easy to forget how good a player he was.
His first win on the PGA Tour came in 1997. By the time the 2001 season had drawn to a close he had won an incredible 13 times and on two occasions sat atop of the world rankings.
His sole major came in 2001 at Royal Lytham & St Annes in a final round remembered for Ian Woosnam’s two shot penalty for carrying an extra club in his bag. Duval’s weekend scores of 65-67 were good enough for a three shot victory over Niclas Fasth.
Duval, who shot a 59 at the 1999 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, was a two-time runner up at Augusta.
In 1998 he looked set to contest a three-way playoff with Fred Couples and Mark O’Meara but could only look on as O’Meara holed a 20 foot putt on the 72nd hole for the win.
In 2001 he pushed Tiger Woods all the way but had to settle for second place again as Woods won his second green jacket.
For someone so talented, one major victory does not do justice to his supreme talent.