Monday, September 26, 2011

The Best Never To…

How would you like to play, or even follow, a dream foursome consisting of Lee Trevino, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and Arnold Palmer? Four players that are legendary, all Hall of Famers. Would be totally awesome, to say the least.
What would you say if I told you that each has a glaring hole in their professional resume? Multiple Major winners, all, each capturing three of the four Majors. But they never won that fourth crown. And when you see this list of names, the mind boggles. Sam Snead never won a U.S. Open? Really?
So here we go. This list of players that, due mostly to the cruel winds of fate, never got that fourth big trophy:

The Best Never To Win the Masters: Lee Trevino. Lee Buck had a ‘thing’ about the Masters. For a while he bemoaned their deep south, genteel manner that did not look kindly towards minorities. He then changed his tune to say his game did not fit Augusta National. Let me tell you something - in his day there was not any course that didn’t fit Lee’s game. Many consider him one of the greatest ball strikers in the game, on a par with Ben Hogan and Moe Norman. Lee simply could not get his head straight when it came to the Masters. Thus, not only did he never win it, he rarely contended. He'd shoot 74-77, missed the cut and got the hell out of there.

The Best Never To Win the U.S. Open: Sam Snead. This falls into the ‘you gotta be kidding me’ category. Sam was born a golfer. God graced him with the most natural swing ever seen. Double-jointed, he could kick his leg over his head into his seventies. Literally, a freak of nature. Ah, but as God is wont to do, He placed Sam in rural West Virginia without a ton of smarts. Don’t get me wrong - I am not saying Sam was a dummy, but his tendency was to just keep swinging that amazing swing of his without much regard for the situation. Case in point, the 1939 U.S. Open where he had a one-shot lead going into the final hole, a relatively easy par 5. Par to win, a 6 for a playoff. He made an 8.

The Best Never To Win the British Open: Byron Nelson. To be fair, in Byron’s day not many American pros bothered to travel to Great Britain to play in the British Open. Was too expensive and the prize money was too low - this was before the advent of jet travel, so it involved taking a steamer across the Atlantic and three weeks out of your lose money. Most would rather stay on this side of the pond and hustle in cash games. To give you an idea of how hardscrabble it was back then, Byron won 18 tournaments in 1945, 11 in a row, and pocketed the paltry sum of $63,000 for the year. Which at the time was astronomical, but with today’s purses, Byron’s 1945 season would have netted him about $20 million. Lord Byron retired in 1946 at age 34 after he won enough money to fund his dream - a ranch in Texas.

The Best Never To Win the 
PGA Championship: (tie) Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson. Both of these are head-scratchers. Both had multiple chances to with the PGA but just got snake bit. Arnie being Arnie, he rarely played safe whether he was up 7 or down 7, and his legacy was one where he lost almost as many tournaments as he won. Well, count the PGA in that group. In Watson’s case, there was literally no reason for him not to win a PGA. He lost in a playoff to John Mahaffey in 1978, was tantalizing close many other times. It was simply a matter of the Golf Gods saying no Huck, you ain’t getting this trophy. Both Arnie & Tom made amends for this oversight by capturing the Senior PGA Championship.

And in the consolation category, I give you the Best Never to win any Major:
Colin Montgomerie. Sergio Garcia can be added to this list, but he still has time on his side. Monty’s days of serious contention are essentially over. Seven-time European Order of Merit (Leading money winner on the European Tour), Ryder Cup hero. Never won a Major. Only needed to make a par on the last hole from the middle of the fairway in 2006 to win the U.S. Open. Made double-bogey. In 1992 he was being congratulated by Jack Nicklaus for winning the U.S. Open when Tom Kite pitched in to steal it from him.
Gene Sarazen, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan, Tiger Woods. There is your elite of the elite group of players who have won all four Majors. Anyone else who has ever placed a ball on a tee has fallen short. Including that aforementioned group that came closer than anyone else.

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