x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Sense of urgency for some golf pros as door starts closing on season

With the final major of the season upon them, golfers are reflecting already on the year just closing.

Phil Mickelson's win in the 2010 Masters is the last for an American at any of the four majors. They get their final chance in 2011 at this weekend's US PGA Championship.
Phil Mickelson's win in the 2010 Masters is the last for an American at any of the four majors. They get their final chance in 2011 at this weekend's US PGA Championship.

The US PGA Championship features by far the strongest field of any major, with 99 of the top 100 in the world ranking scheduled to be at the Atlanta Athletic Club when it gets under way on Thursday.

If no one withdraws, that will be the most top-100 players at any major since the world ranking began in 1986.

For some of them, there could be a sense of urgency.

That particularly holds true for Lee Westwood, the first golfer to replace Tiger Woods at No 1 in the world late last year, and the best active player to have never won a major.

There had to be a feeling of "when is it my turn?" for the 38-year-old Englishman when he watched one of his best friends, 42-year-old Darren Clarke, then No 110 in the world, cradle the silver claret jug at the British Open last month.

Westwood is represented by Chubby Chandler at International Sports Management, who is going for an agent's grand slam. His clients have won all three majors this year - and four of the last five including Louis Oosthuizen at St Andrews last year. Not many could have imagined Westwood would not be among them.

Current No 1 in the world Luke Donald also without a major win on his CV.

Then there are the Americans. They now have gone six majors without winning, dating to Phil Mickelson at the 2010 Masters, the longest drought since this configuration of majors began in 1934.

The highest-ranked American is Steve Stricker, who is 44th.

"It's the last chance this year, and then we're all a year older," Stricker said. "And, for me, a year older means the window is getting shorter. It would be nice to get one. But I'm not putting pressure on myself to win.

"Don't get me wrong - I'd love to win one. But I'm not putting extra pressure on myself to do it."

That is the worst way to come into the PGA Championship, because as this major has shown, it could be anybody.

More evidence comes from a year on the PGA Tour that few saw coming. There already have been six PGA Tour rookies winning this year, the most since the tour began keeping complete records in 1970.

Only three Americans from the Ryder Cup team last October have won tournaments — Mickelson, Stricker and Bubba Watson. And 12 of the top 30 players in the world who are PGA Tour members have failed to win on golf's strongest tour this year.