5 best players without names on claret jug
Mark Calcavecchia won the British Open in 1989 at Royal Troon
and asked a question that surely was on everyone’s mind.
”How’s my name going to fit on that thing?” he said.
Here’s another question. How can the oldest trophy in golf – a
silver claret jug – be missing some of golf’s greatest players?
Byron Nelson might have won if he had bothered going to Britain
more than once, though Ben Hogan won on his only try in 1953 at
Carnoustie. Phil Mickelson went more than 10 years without even
cracking the top 10. Ben Curtis won the Open in his very first
Here are the five best players to never have won golf’s oldest
5. COLIN MONTGOMERIE
Colin Montgomerie has to be considered among the best of all
time to never win any major, much less the British Open. He won
eight Order of Merits on the European Tour, reached as high as No.
2 in the world and won more than 30 times around the world. That
alone qualifies him for the list.
The downside? He not only didn’t win the Open, he never
seriously sniffed it.
Montgomerie seemed to play his best at Royal Troon, where his
father was a secretary. He tied for 24th one year, and tied for
25th another. Amazingly, he had only a pair of top 10s, and despite
his runner-up finish to Tiger Woods at St. Andrews in 2005, the
engraver never had to worry about the proper spelling of his
He had a 36-hole lead at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and was
only one behind going into the Sunday, yet tied for 13th. He made a
strong run at Woods on Saturday at St. Andrews, but not when it
mattered on Sunday.
4. VIJAY SINGH
Vijay Singh, the man from Fiji, cut his teeth on the European
Tour and desperately wanted to win a claret jug. He came over to
America for good in 1993, and went on to a Hall of Fame career that
featured a record 22 wins after turning pro (for a total of 39 PGA
Tour wins), and three majors. He won the Masters in 2000, and the
PGA Championship in 1998 and 2004.
And he played well on links golf – just never good enough.
Singh made his debut in the Open in 1989 at Royal Troon. He
played 10 straight times before finally missing the cut, and he
went 22 successive years at the Open until he wasn’t eligible in
2011. Nothing hurt more than 2003 at Royal St. George’s, when he
was just starting to hit his stride. He was two shots behind Thomas
Bjorn going into the last day, paired with Tiger Woods in the
second-to-last group. Singh couldn’t get a putt to fall down the
stretch, closed with a 70 and finished one shot behind Ben
3. RAYMOND FLOYD
Only one player other than Raymond Floyd has won at least four
majors without getting his name on the claret jug. That would be
Phil Mickelson. More on him in a minute.
Floyd was the Masters champion in 1976 when he went into the
final round at Royal Birkdale, trailing by five shots to
19-year-old Seve Ballesteros. Johnny Miller shot 66 to beat
everyone. Two years later, he was runner-up to Jack Nicklaus at St.
Andrews, though never really close. And in 1981 at Royal St.
George’s, he started too far behind to catch Bill Rogers and tied
for third. He never got any closer.
Floyd at least flirted with the idea of a claret jug in 1992 –
the year he was runner-up to Fred Couples at Augusta National. He
opened with a 64 for a two-shot lead over Nick Faldo at Muirfield,
but that was that. Faldo had a 64 the next day to put Floyd five
shots behind, and the American never broke par the rest of the
2. PHIL MICKELSON
The British Open is all about imagination and creativity. Phil
Mickelson built a Hall of Fame career on imagination and
Just not on links courses of the Open.
Mickelson played the Open 10 times before he cracked the top 10.
That was in 2004, his great year in the majors, and playing
overcautiously at Royal Troon when it was still and soft enough for
him to make a charge, he wound up one shot out of a playoff. Nearly
another decade of mediocrity followed, with a collection of
middle-of-the-pack finishes and missed cuts, when out of nowhere he
nearly won last year at Royal St. George’s.
Mickelson made a thrilling charge on Sunday, only to be stopped
when he missed a 3-foot par putt. He finished tied for second,
three shots behind.
The British Open is his worst major, but the quality of his game
– four majors, 40 wins on the PGA Tour – make him the second-most
accomplished player in golf history who doesn’t have his name on
the silver jug.
1. BYRON NELSON
Of the six players in PGA Tour history with more than 50 wins
and at least five majors, Byron Nelson is the only player without a
British Open title.
There’s a reason for that. He hardly ever played.
The Open Championship didn’t pay much during the 1930s and
1940s, when Nelson was at his peak. And remember, Nelson was trying
to stash away enough money from his golf career to buy a ranch in
Texas. This wasn’t a good fit.
Nelson had won his first major in 1937, setting a tournament
record with a 66 and beating Ralph Guldahl by two shots. After
losing in the semifinals of the PGA Championship and finishing 20th
in the U.S. Open, he came across the Atlantic for his only
appearance in golf’s oldest championship.
Lord Byron never had a chance at Carnoustie. He opened with a 75
to fall five shots behind, trailed by nine shots going into the
final day, and closed with respectable rounds of 71-74 to finish
fifth, six shots behind Henry Cotton.
It didn’t make sense for him to go back the next two years
before World War II suspended play in the Open.
”It took a week to get there and a week to get home,” Nelson
later said. ”I was low American. And what it came down to was I
lost a good part of my summer, won $185 and spent $1,000 on boat