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Is It Fair to Judge Golfers Who Have Come Up Short in the Majors?

Colin Montgomerie has won many tournaments around the world, but didn't win a major until he joined the Champions Tour.
Colin Montgomerie has won many tournaments around the world, but didn't win a major until he joined the Champions Tour.Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press
Mike DudurichContributor IAugust 14, 2014

Professional golf's major championships—the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship—have always been a focal point for those who play the game for a living.

Regardless of the era, majors have been important, both to the events and those who played in them.

Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy all have shown how important those four championships are.

And for today's stars, that focus has become even more pin-pointed. Woods was the first player of this era to make no pretense about the fact that he put together his schedule and honed his game to be at his best for the majors.

Many are surprised Henrik Stenson doesn't have a major title.
Many are surprised Henrik Stenson doesn't have a major title.Alastair Grant/Associated Press

Having said all of that, the majority of those who tee it up in the majors each year will never win one.

They all show up, saying their expectations are to win. Some may come close, maybe even briefly contend. The majority will be happy to make the cut and play four rounds in a major.

They are the elite players in a game, and those fortunate enough to win multiple majors graduate to even more elite status. Those players still have to work at their games and aren't any more automatic than those who aren't major champions.

So what does that make all of those guys who don't win?

Non-major winners, yes.

But think about this. There are only four majors a year, meaning the opportunities to win majors are relatively slim. And when you have a guy like Tiger Woods, who won 14 of them in a dozen years, that cuts down the chances a bit.

So what does that make the rest of those guys who have never been able to seal the day in the majors?

It makes them very good, world-class players who just haven't had things fall correctly in the biggest events.

To that point, nine of the top 20 players in the world have not won major championships.

Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Matt Kuchar, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama and Jimmy Walker are those nine.

Is it really fair to judge that group as anything other than outstanding players who weren't able to take that next up? 

I don't think so.

Just as it isn't fair to outstanding players like Steve Stricker, Colin Montgomerie, Ian Poulter, Brandt Snedeker, Kenny Perry, K.J. Choi, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Luke Donald and even Lee Westwood.

To borrow the marketing phrase used by the PGA Tour some years ago, these guys are good. Unless they break through and grab that major, they'll go down in history as players who won a bunch of tournaments, made a ton of money and will live very nice, comfortable lives once their golf careers are over.

Steve Stricker will go down in history as one of the great putters of our time, but to this point, doesn't have a major title.
Steve Stricker will go down in history as one of the great putters of our time, but to this point, doesn't have a major title.Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

Several years ago, on a Sunday morning at the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio, I walked out on the golf course, following some groups at the tail end of the scoreboard. I couldn't believe the exhibition of ball-striking I witnessed.

These guys obviously didn't have a great week, and there was no pressure on them as they played out the string on Jack Nicklaus' get-together at Muirfield Village.

What did my eye-opening moment prove to me? It proved there is plenty of talent from top to bottom on the PGA Tour, and even those at the bottom, should they find themselves with a hot putter or a couple hole-outs, can win out there.

Now, the guys at the top of the tour's food chain don't have to depend on getting a couple bounces to win, they're good enough to win through their talent.

The bottom line is that the group of major champions is a special and will forever be recognized as such throughout history.

That group of players who have excelled at their profession is special also, just not to the same degree as those who have won the biggest events. They, too, have worked hard throughout their careers and have reaped the benefits of that work in terms of victories and millions of dollars in earnings.

To me, it's pretty simple. Everybody can't win majors. And that doesn't take away anything from those who don't.

They should absolutely not be judged because they don't have a major title in their possession.

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