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

major championship.

Here are the five best players to never have won golf’s oldest

championship:

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

name.

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

Curtis.

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

week.

2. PHIL MICKELSON

The British Open is all about imagination and creativity. Phil

Mickelson built a Hall of Fame career on imagination and

creativity.

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

fare alone.”