Brooks Koepka, take a bow.
The 28-year-old native of West Palm Beach, FLA cemented his name among the greats by winning his second straight U.S. Open Championship.
Koepka fired a two-under 68 at windy Shinnecock, holding off a crazy charge by Tommy Fleetwood. The young Brit became just the sixth golfer to shoot a 63 in U.S. Open history, only to lose by a single stroke.
That finish capped a wild and unpredictable four days at the infamously hard course in Southampton, N.Y. Not one golfer finished four rounds under par, with Koepka carding an overall 281, which was one over par. In fact, Webb Simpson and Justin Rose each got a top-10 finish with seven-over scores.
While Koepka didn’t break a majors hex, there were several players in the top 10 who played very well in their quest. That got us to looking into the game’s best golfers who have yet to taste the sweet nectar of a major championship.
Here are 15 PGA Tour stars with a realistic shot at finally putting together four solid rounds at a major, sooner, than later.
15. Patton Kizzire
He may be a relative tour rookie, but at 32, Patton Kizzire is no spring chicken. He has only been a professional since qualifying for the Web.com tour in December 2014 and since then his rise to the top-10 in the FedEx Cup standings has been rather meteoric. The native of Montgomery, Al and Auburn grad played one very consistent season on the Web.com tour and qualified for the PGA Tour in late 2015. By November 2017 he was a winner on the tour at the OHL Classic and he followed it up by winning the Sony Open in mid-January. Interestingly, he didn’t automatically qualify for the U.S. Open, despite two victories on the PGA Tour this season and failed in sectionals to do so. However, if he can regain the form of the early season (he missed the cut at the Masters and the Players Championship), he’ll be one to look for at the PGA Championship at Bellerive in August.
14. Bryson DeChambeau
While Patton Kizzire has carved out a niche on the tour at the ripe age of 32, his fellow American Bryson DeChambeau has done as much at the tender age of 24. DeChambeau made a splash at the 2016 Masters, finishing as low amateur and actually tying for 21st. He turned professional right after and finished T-4 at the RBC Heritage just days later. Despite tying for 15th at the 2016 U.S. Open he didn’t earn enough in his short season to qualify for a PGA Tour card, but he did so by winning the Web.com’s DAP Championship, which got him his card for the 2017 season. Last July, he won his first event, the John Deere Classic, followed by a second tour victory in a playoff at this year’s Memorial tournament. He finished T-25 at the U.S. Open last weekend and was T-38 at the Masters. With his six Top-10s on the tour this year and the victory at the Memorial, DeChambeau sits fifth in FedEx Cup points and is poised to do some damage at Carnoustie in July or Bellerive a month later.
13. Ian Poulter
Yes, we may sound like a broken record — sorry, bad iTunes AAC — but Ian Poulter is long overdue to come out on top at a major. The old boy, he’s 42, has flirted with greatness before, finishing second at the 2008 Open Championship and logging eight top-10s overall. He seems to have revived his career this season, winning the Houston Open — his first tour victory in nearly six years and is 29th in the FedEx Cup standings (despite playing just 13 events). He started this season slowly but picked it up after the victory in Houston, posting three top-25s including a T11 at the Players Championship and T-25 at the U.S. Open. Poulter can get the majors monkey off his back starting at Carnoustie, where he was T-27 in 2007, or at the PGA Championship, where his best finish was T-3 behind Rory McIlroy in 2012.
12. Billy Horschel
When Horschel won the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship in back-to-back weekends in 2014, big things were expected from him. Unfortunately, he has been able to crack the top 25 just once in a major since then, with a T-25 at the 2015 U.S. Open. Not that he has been playing bad golf, but the 31-year-old Floridian has won only twice since, the latest a one-stroke victory at the Zurich Classic in April. In five of his last 12 majors since that magical 2014 season Horschel has missed the cut. He has played pretty well since missing the cut at this year’s Masters with four top-25s, good enough for a 41st place standing in FedEx Cup points. His best chance at a major this year might be at the PGA Championship, where he has made the cut four straight years.
11. Rafael Cabrera-Bello
Padraig Harrington went back-to-back in 2007 and 2008, breaking an American hold on the Open Championship. Since then, five different European Tour and PGA Tour regulars have laid claim to the Claret Jug, including Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy. Rafa Cabrera-Bello, the unsung Spaniard, might just be next. He has yet to win a tournament on this side of the Atlantic, but has been on a relative roll in Europe, winning the Scottish Open last July and then finishing tied for fourth at the Open Championship (his best ever) a week later. This season on the PGA Tour he has been pretty good, missing just two cuts and compiling two top-10s and four top-25s. Over on the European Tour, the 34-year-old Las Palmas native has had success in six events, finishing fourth at the Italian Open and in a tie for eighth at the BMW PGA Championship. Statistically, he’ll help himself at Carnoustie by scoring well, as he sits 20th overall in average at 70.049.
10. Ryan Moore
We like a dark horse and a player that fits that description is PGA Tour regular Ryan Moore. He’s won five times in his career since turning pro in 2005 and has been on a bit of a rollercoaster every year since, flip-flopping between near great and mediocre. Lately, the Tacoma born UNLV graduate has been reasonably hot, posting four top-10 finishes, highlighted by a T-5 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He sits 60th in FedEx Cup points and has been a statistical leader in driving accuracy percentage (fourth at 71.78 percent) and scoring average (23rd at 70.079 strokes per round). Moore’s history at the majors has been up and down since 2005, when made the cut at the Masters and finished tied for 13th, as well as low amateur. He has three top-10s, the last being a T-9 at the 2017 Masters. He’s not flashy, but if he can crank it up at the Open Championship or the PGA, he can be dangerous.
9. Matt Kuchar
When is a nice guy like “Kuch” ever going to finish first — at least where a major is concerned? The man who looks like he is actually having fun on the tour and is a fan favorite has had a love-hate relationship with the major championships. At 39, the clock is ticking for him to finally put his name among the all-time greats, but by no means is he out of it. Even though he hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since 2014, Kuchar was fairly brilliant in 2017 at the major championships. He was T-4 at the Masters, T-16 at the U.S. Open , solo second at the Open Championship and T-9 at the PGA. This season, he has been his consistent old self, missing the cut just twice and recording and four top-10s, the last a T-8 at the Houston Open. He currently sits 68th in FedEx Cup points and is 26th in the World Golf Ranking. We wish him well at Carnoustie.
8. Paul Casey
No Englishman has raised the Claret Jug since Nick Faldo won his third in 1992. That drought has the best chance of being ended this year. Casey, the 13th ranked golfer in the world, is quietly having a great year, with a win at the Valspar, four top-10s and only one missed cut. At 40, he’s learned to pace himself and hasn’t played in too many events this year — and it’s paid off. Overall, he’s been technically brilliant and currently sits eighth in scoring average (69.646 strokes per round), 35th in driving distance (302.7 yards/each) and 29th in birdie average (3.90 per round). He has flirted with greatness since 2015, with four top-10s at majors and will go into the Open Championship and PGA championship after finishing T-11 and T-13 at those tournaments in 2017. Casey followed up those performances with a T-15 at the 2018 Masters and a T-16 this past weekend at Shinnecock.
7. Jon Rahm
Spain will be well represented at Carnoustie in July, with Jon Rahm a key national hope for bringing home the Claret Jug for the first time in 30 years (Seve Ballesteros won his third in 1988). Beyond that, the big 23-year-old Spaniard could very well improve on the solo fourth he posted at the Masters when the PGA Championship rolls around. In any case, Rahm looks to be a golfer for the ages and should win at least one major before he retires. This season he has used technical proficiency and some length off the tee to win a tournament (the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fifth all-time), as well as finish second at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, fourth at Augusta and in a tie for fifth at the Fort Worth Invitational. Rahm is having a great year, with the 12th most FedEx Cup points, a sixth-place standing in the World Golf Rankings and a solid 15th in earnings. Now, he just has to put it all together at a major.
6. Tony Finau
Right out of Salt Lake City, Tony Finau has become a rising star on the PGA Tour. After slugging it out on several different sub-tours like the Hooters and PGA Tour Canada for about seven years before earning his PGA Tour card for good in 2014. Finau didn’t waste much time winning his first event, the Puerto Rico Open in March of 2016 and since then he’s steadily improved on the tour, to the point he is 11th in FedEx Cup standings this year. Finau has also won the 11th most money and is 31st in the World Golf rankings. What we think makes him a favorite to win a major is the fact he finished T-10 at the Masters this year, followed by a solo fifth at the U.S. Open. Overall, he has seven top-10 finishes this season, including a second at the Safeway Open and a T-2 at the Genesis Open. We believe the big hitter (he’s second in average driving distance at 314.9 yards/drive) is just getting warmed up.
5. Patrick Cantlay
At one time, 26-year-old Californian Patrick Cantlay was the top amateur in the world, holding the record for most consecutive weeks at no. 1 at 55 (until list mate Jon Rahm beat him recently). Since turning pro in 2012, Cantlay has steadily improved to the point that he is the 30th ranked golfer in the world and 14th in FedEx Cup points this season. He broke through to win his first PGA Tour event this year too, winning the Shriners Hospitals fro Children Open in November. He hasn’t taken his foot off the gas much since then, recording four more top-10s and missing just two cuts in 15 tournaments. The only thing that might get in his head in majors coming up has been his lack of participation in those events. He was low amateur at the Masters in 2011, finishing tied for 21st, which coincidentally is his best finish at a major, lifetime. Cantlay, however, has been as consistent a golfer as any on the tour this year, sitting 30th in scoring average and 26th in greens in regulation.
4. Rickie Fowler
So much promise, so little return. Now, we will preface that description of superstar Fowler by adding that even though he has yet to win a major, he has eight professional victories, the last a win at the Honda Classic in February 2017. Fowler has been oh so close at several majors too, including a disappointing solo second at this year’s Masters. In 2014 he was on fire and nearly broke his majors hex, finishing T-5 at Augusta, then T-2 at the U.S. Open and Open Championship and finally T-3 at the PGA Championship. Since then he’s added that solo second at the Masters to two more T-5s, the 2017 U.S. Open and the 2017 PGA Championship. Fowler, the eighth-ranked golfer in the world, has been rolling fairly hot in 2018, going solo second at the OHL Classic before winning the Hero World Challenge three weeks later. He’s since added three more top-10 finishes. Of note, he closed his U.S. Open T-20 finish with a spectacular 65 on Sunday. Overall, his game is tight, now he just has to prove he is truly great.
3. Charley Hoffman
At one time, Hoffman’s resemblance to Van Halen’s Sammy Hagar was about all he was known for. Not to downplay his golfing prowess, but after cutting off the flowing blond mullet, his game seems to have rounded into form. At 41, he is among the oldest listed here, but by no means over the hill, golf-wise. He hasn’t won this tour season, however, he does have six top-25s, including a T-12 at the Masters and a T-20 this past weekend at Shinnecock. The San Diego native, who is 37th in the World Golf Ranking, has been top-100 in most statistical categories. Those who think that a 40-something doesn’t have much of a shot at a major — especially having never emerged triumphant — need only look at guys like Henrik Stenson, Ernie Els and Darren Clarke. Stenson won the Open Championship at age 40 in 2016, while Els was 42 when he hoisted the Claret Jug in 2012 and Clarke also an “old man” at 42 in 2011.
2. Hideki Matsuyama
Some day soon, the golf Gods are finally going to smile on Hideki Matsuyama. Still just 26, the sixth-year pro seems like he has been around forever and has had great success, winning five times on the PGA Tour since 2013 and 14 times overall, including twice on the European Tour and eight times on the Japanese Tour. In his limited appearances at major tournaments, Matsuyama has done quite well, finishing top-10 seven times in 23 attempts and missing the cut just three times. He was at his best in 2017, combining two tour victories with a tie for second at the U.S. Open and a T-5 at the PGA Championship. He goes into Carnoustie with two top-10 finishes this season and seven top-25s, while missing just one cut. Matsuyama is the no. 12 ranked golfer in the world and 71st in FedEx Cup points. Consider him a threat to join the greats very soon.
1. Tommy Fleetwood
That stirring 63 that European Tour star and veteran Tommy Fleetwood shot on Sunday at Shinnecock is just a precursor of things to come. A four-time winner on the European Tour, including this year’s Abu Dhabi Championship, Fleetwood’s 63 was just the sixth all-time. But, it wasn’t good enough to overtake repeat winner Brooks Koepka. However, it should leave Fleetwood quite hungry to become the first Englishman in many years to win the Open Championship, or as a consolation the PGA Championship. He’s used his scoring proficiency this season (6th overall at 69.495 strokes/18) to record a victory and four top-10s. Those finishes have also vaulted Fleetwood into 10th in the World Golf Rankings and 17th in official money earnings. The man from Southport (home to Royal Birkdale) with the flowing locks and beard will be a fan favorite heading into Carnoustie.