Mandatory Credit: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Sports

Masters 2014: Five Young Guns Looking For Their First Major

We are just a couple of days away from the first major of the year. As we count down the days until the Masters we have had a lot of coverage here at Pro Golf Now. This article will be talking about some of the young guys on Tour that have yet to capture a major. And again, there’s been a lot of coverage on here so if you missed a few articles, that’s okay. One in particular deals with some of the veterans that don’t have a major yet. You can check that out here.

Now, as we get started here are five golfers who aren’t in need of gaining a major right away, because they still have time, but it’s a matter of expectations. These are golfers who have the talent to win multiple majors in their careers, but don’t have any yet. And when you compare them to their peers, they are a bit behind. So, without further ado:

Sergio Garcia: I’m starting with Sergio Garcia and I know he isn’t exactly a young gun now, and he doesn’t really fit into this generation, but he’s still young enough where he still has a number of years left in him. So, with that said, fun and a bit of a surprising fact about Sergio Garcia; From 2001 to 2009 Sergio Garcia finished in the top 10 in at least one of the majors. For as erratic as Garcia plays and for all the ups and downs he’s had in his career I found that to be pretty surprising.

Garcia didn’t have a top 10 in 2010, but he bounced back with a T-7 at the U.S. Open and a T-9 at the British Open. In 2012, he once again didn’t have a top 10, but in 2013 he finished T-8 at Augusta, and made the cut in the other three majors.

While Sergio Garcia has been on tour since 1999, Garcia is still only 34. So, while he’s been on tour with what seems like forever, he still has plenty of gas left in the tank and is still in his prime years. This year on the PGA Tour, Garcia has been great. His worst finish in six PGA Tour events has been a T-16 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. And he’s coming off a 3rd place finish at the Houston Open.

At Augusta, typically, it takes a lot of experience before you compete at the top. With Garcia, that seems to be the case as well. Aside from a solo 8 in 2002, and a T-4 in 2004, Garcia hasn’t had much success at Augusta. From 2005 to 2009 he missed the cut in four of those 5 events at The Masters, but of late he’s been better. In 2009, a T-38, in 2010: T-45, 2011: T-35, 2012: T-12, and 2013: T-8. Garcia has been trending in the right direction at Augusta. Don’t be surprised to see Garcia been near the top this year’s Masters.

Odds are though, Garcia’s best shot to win a major is at The Open Championship. That’s the tournament Garcia has had the most success at. From 2001 to 2011, in those 11 tournaments Garcia has finished in the top 10 in seven of them; only missing one cut, as well.

Dustin Johnson: Of all the golfers on this list, Dustin Johnson is probably the most talented of the bunch. With that said, Johnson shouldn’t be on this list. Johnson has had a few opportunities slip through the cracks.

In 2010, Dustin Johnson was the leader heading into the final round, but he imploded in the final round shooting an 82. Had he shot a 76 he would have won. At the PGA Championship he had a chance at redemption, but a rules violation cost him. Johnson “grounded his club” in a bunker and was assessed a two stroke penalty. He ended up missing the playoff by, well, you guessed it, two strokes.

Next year in the 2011 British Open, Dustin Johnson ended up finishing tied for 2nd. He was fairly consistent throughout shooting a 70-68-68-72. He didn’t beat himself, Darren Clarke just had it going on for those four rounds. The very next year, in 2012, Johnson finished T-9th at the British Open, and last year Johnson was T-13th the Masters and T-8th at the PGA Championship.

All in all, Dustin Johnson has come close, but no cigar. It looks though that he’s maturing and rounding out his game and maybe closer than ever to winning that elusive major. Johnson’s game suits Augusta and up until last week, Johnson had one of the better, more consistent players on Tour.

At the WGC-HSBC Championship he won, at Hyundai he finished T-6, at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am he finished T-2, at Northern Trust he finished solo second and the WGC-Cadillac Championship he finished T-4.  But, last week – at the Houston Open – Johnson had a terrible first round and withdrew. That has me concerned heading into Augusta.

To me, about a month ago – a couple of weeks ago – I would have said Johnson is the golfer to beat heading into Augusta. But, that was before the Houston Open. I’ll put it this way, if we had a Masters draft and I had the first pick, I would have taken Dustin Johnson, but now I don’t know. I would maybe take Rory McIlroy or last year’s winner Adam Scott…or maybe trade down.

Nevertheless, Johnson is the most talented golfer on this list, and again, he should have a major or two already, and it looks as though it’s just a matter of time before he gets one. Whether it’s this year, or later in the future.

Hunter Mahan: Hunter Mahan has been getting more and more consistent at major tournaments. Last year, Mahan came the closest he has ever been to winning his first major. At the U.S. Open and at the British Open, Mahan was in the final group of those majors. Perhaps, more importantly though, is that Mahan has made the cut in 6 of his last 8 major tournaments.

That is a far cry from his 2011 year where he missed the cut in three of the four tournaments. Mahan was erratic early in his career because let’s not overlook his two top 10 finishes in 2009. He came close those years as well, but being consistent is key, and Mahan maybe finally getting to that point. Mahan is now an experienced pro and has felt the pressure of major tournaments.

With that said, Mahan maybe just one year away from winning The Masters. Here’s a little tidbit: the average age of Masters winners is 32 years old. Last year, Adam Scott won the Masters. How old was he? 32. How old is Mahan? He’s 31 now. Given the way he’s played at majors recently, he’s trending upward and may get a major this year, but history tells us he’s probably a year away from winning a green jacket.

Jason Day: Last year at the Masters it looked as if it was going to be Jason Day that was going to be the first Australian to win the green jacket. But, it was not to be for Day. For another Australian it was though. Adam Scott finally got himself off the schnide by winning his first major and Australia’s first Green Jacket.

The 26 year old Jason Day has only participated in 13 major championships, but he’s already finished in the top 3 in four tournaments. In 2011, Day finished T-2 at the Masters, and a solo 2nd place finish at the U.S. Open.

Last year, as mentioned above, it looked as though Day was going on to win the Masters as he birdied 13, 14, and 15 to take a one shot lead. But, a bogey at 16 and 17 cost him as he finished two shots behind Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera.

At the U.S. Open in Merion, Day finished tied for 2nd with Phil Mickelson as he ended up finishing behind Justin Rose by two strokes.

Day has been in strong form this season playing in three PGA Tour Events finishing tied for 2nd at Farmers Insurance and finishing first at the WGC-Accenture Match Play. Day has had a bad thumb which is why he hasn’t played recently. That is a concern heading toward this year’s Masters, but Day is a very talented player and if he doesn’t get a major this year, one should be coming in the very near future. Day is still young enough that it’s not a concern yet.

Brandt Snedeker: Brandt Snedeker has come into the first major of the year very much under the radar. Nobody is talking about Snedeker, but don’t overlook Snedeker. While Snedeker is struggling this year, he maybe peaking at the right time. He played at Bay Hill this year and finished T-8. By far his best, and most impressive performance this season.

Snedeker may finally be getting healthy and maybe knocking the rust off. Snedeker has a lot of talent and has performed very well at Augusta. The closest he came to winning a major was in 2008 at the Masters. And in the past three years at the Masters, Snedeker has been finishing in the top 20. Last year, Snedeker finished T-6, in 2012: T-19, and 2011: T-15. Not only that, but Snedeker may the cut in every major last year.

Tags: Dustin Johnson Golf Jason Day PGA Sergio Garcia

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