Francesco Molinari’s breakthrough major victory at The Open Championship kept alive a recent trend of first-time winners at majors. Going back to the last 12 majors, an astonishing ten(!) of them were conquered by players who had not previous won a major championship, a testament to the parity of the PGA Tour.
Of the four majors, the trend has been most salient at the PGA Championship, which has had a first time major champion in seven of the last nine editions, with the two non first-timers both being Rory McIlroy.
Bellerive’s field is again rich in excellent players who fit the first-timer paradigm. Here are five of the more notable:
He remains in the top 10 of the world rankings, still very popular and heavy on endorsements, but 29-year-old Rickie Fowler has to be getting sick and tired of hearing that he is the best in the world without a major.
Fowler has 35 majors starts, eight of which ended in a finish from 2nd to 5th, including three of his last six. He was runner-up at The Masters, but was a non-factor at the U.S. Open and The Open Championship. He is 10th on Tour in scoring average this year, but struggles with closing events has led to just 4 top-10 finishes. He continues to face as much pressure as anyone in the field.
World Rank: 9
2018 Masters: 2
2018 U.S. Open: 20
2018 British Open: 28
Last Six: 17, 28, 6, 12, 20, 8
2018 Wins: 0
As frustrated as Fowler is, he could go majorless for the next 12 years and still remain ahead of Ian Poulter’s curve, who is now 42 years old without a major.
For a while, it looked like it would never happen, but a remarkable career resurgence over the past year-plus has the European Ryder Cup dynamo relevant again. He won the Houston Open in early April to snap a long winless streak, and is coming into Bellerive with six top-25s in his last seven events.
World Rank: 31
2018 Masters: 44
2018 U.S. Open: 25
2018 British Open: MC
Last Six: 10, 12, MC, 30, 21, 25
2018 Wins: 1 (Houston Open)
The reigning Race to Dubai Champion remains a popular pick at recent majors, but despite spending time in the world top 10, Fleetwood still has not quite pulled off a major triumph.
He took solo-second at the U.S. Open off the strength of a torrid final-round 63. The one very low round in a tournament has become a habit recently for the 27-year-old. A second round 65 at the Open Championship was by far the lowest round of his T12 week, and a second-round 63 at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational had him in contention before a disappointing weekend. He has a lot of major attributes, but has not been able to put four rounds together.
World Rank: 11
2018 Masters: 17
2018 U.S. Open: 2
2018 British Open: 12
Last Six: 14, 6, 12, MC, 59, 2
2018 Wins: 1 (Abu Dhabi HSBC Champ.)
Rahm is 23 and immensely talented. He is too young to “need” the major for his reputation, but it would certainly help add some highlights to what has become a so-so year.
He already has five career victories worldwide, and 25 top 10s in just 57 starts, but his only quality major finish so far was a solo-fourth at The Masters in what was mostly a comeback effort. He missed the cut badly at his last two majors, but again will be a man to watch at Bellerive, mostly due to his immaculate off-the-tees game.
He suddenly is struggling to close tournaments, however, and his fourth round scoring average is much worse than his other rounds.
World Rank: 7
2018 Masters: 4
2018 U.S. Open: MC
2018 British Open: MC
Last Six: 17, MC, 4, 5, MC, 5
2018 Wins: 2 (Open de Espana, CareerBuilder Chall.)
The 28-year-old bomber has just one career victory, and it was at an opposite-field event, but he appears very close to adding greater cache to his resume, and he is the only player on Tour to post top-10 finishes in all three 2018 majors so far.
Great with a driver and with a flat stick, Finau has one of the better all-around arsenals, making him a threat on any course. A T10 in the 2015 edition is his best finish in a PGA Championship.
World Rank: 29
2018 Masters: 10
2018 U.S. Open: 5
2018 British Open: 9
Last Six: 10, 37, 9, 21, 5, MC
2018 Wins: 0