Golf

Stricker moves to No 1?

2010-02-10 07:58
Steve Stricker (File)

California - Steve Stricker is No 2 in the official world golf ranking. He might be No 1 on a list not so official.

Ever since Phil Mickelson won the 2004 Masters for his first major, the search for the "best player to have never won a major" has settled on Sergio Garcia, mostly by default. The list had always featured players in their 30s or early 40s who had won at least 10 times, were highly ranked and who had a couple of close calls in the majors.

Garcia fits that now, with 18 victories worldwide and being in serious contention five times in the majors.

Now, however, the focus is shifting back to age.

Stricker turns 43 in two months. He has won a World Golf Championship, two times in the FedEx Cup playoffs (against some of the strongest fields of the year), and he was in position on Sundays to win the US Open and the British Open in 2007.

He has avoided the label for so long because Stricker virtually disappeared during a three-year span through 2005, when he lost his US PGA Tour card and didn't even make it through Q-school.

Asked whether he was the best without a major, Stricker said he would take that as a compliment. But he didn't think the label belongs to him alone, nor did he think it would be easy to shed.

"There's a lot of other good players that have not won majors," Stricker said. "Sergio hasn't won one, Lee Westwood is looking for one. There's a lot of other great players that have not won a major, and it's hard to do. You only get four cracks at it a year, and there's definitely a higher intensity at those majors."

Westwood, who turns 37 this year, twice has won the money title in Europe. He came within a 15-foot putt of joining the US Open playoff at Torrey Pines in 2008, and only a three-putt from about 70 feet on the final hole at Turnberry kept him out of the British Open playoff.

The other player would be Kenny Perry, the oldest of the group at 49.

Perry had only seven victories when Mickelson won his first major, and has been largely overlooked until winning three times in 2008 and coming within a par of winning the Masters last year.

No other player belongs on the list, either because they are too young (Martin Kaymer, Sean O'Hair), haven't won enough (Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Anthony Kim) or contended in enough majors (Robert Allenby).


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