Four tournaments a year serve as the toughest tests in golf. The majors cause some guys to step up, and others to wilt.
Rory McIlroy was clearly one who played like a stud, going wire-to-wire to win his third major – and third leg of the career grand slam – at the ripe old age of 25. But he wasn’t the only player who starred.
Here are five studs from the 2014 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, and five guys who played like duds:
Rickie Fowler: For the second straight major, Fowler tied for second. For the third straight major, he placed in the top five. No one else in the world has played so well at the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship combined, giving you the feeling that Fowler’s first major might come sooner rather than later. Prior to 2014 – and prior to working with famed swing instructor Butch Harmon – Fowler boasted just one top-five result from a major, and only two top-10s.
Sergio Garcia: The 34-year-old Spaniard needed to post a low score Sunday if he wanted any chance at his first major, and he certainly did his part with a 6-under-par 66. The only problem was McIlroy, seven shots ahead of the third-placed Garcia to begin the day, didn’t implode. Garcia and Fowler finished at 15-under, two strokes behind McIlroy. This marks the fourth career runner-up finish for Garcia at a major.
Marc Leishman: In three previous appearances at the Open Championship, Leishman missed the cut twice and placed T-60. But the big Aussie rolled in eight birdies and a bogey on Sunday, posting a 7-under 65 that matched the low score for the tournament. Leishman finished tied for fifth with countryman and world No. 1 Adam Scott at 12 under. Only a T-4 at last year’s Masters is a better major result for Leishman.
Edoardo Molinari: Italy put on a quite a show in round one, with Matteo Manassero posting a 67 and the brothers Molinari – Edoardo and Francesco – carding 68s. They all jumped into the 70s on Friday, but Edoardo scored two more rounds of 68 over the weekend. His 11-under, T-7 finish marks the first top-10 result in a major of his career. He was ranked 146th in the world prior to the event.
Tom Watson: It’s been five years since Watson nearly won his sixth Open Championship, losing in a playoff at 59 years old. It’s been three years since he tied for 22nd at 61 years old. So should he be disappointed with his T-51 finish Sunday at 64 years old? He might be, but could take solace in the fact that after a final-round 4-under 68, Watson tied guys like Jason Dufner and Bill Haas, and beat guys like Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker, and Tiger Woods – all players who would love to be on Watson’s Ryder Cup team this fall.
Tiger Woods: By human standards, Woods was impressive in making the cut at his first major of the year and second tournament since major back surgery. By Tiger Woods standards, his major-less drought stretches to 19 events and more than six years. After an opening-round 69, Woods was +9 the rest of the way to finish 6-over at 69th, his worst 72-hole major result as a pro.
Phil Mickelson: He remains positive, and a T-23 finish this week isn’t the end of the world, but Mickelson still owns only one top-10 finish this year, zero in the United States. Much has been made about Woods’ slim chances of making the Ryder Cup team, but Mickelson isn’t much better off.
Martin Kaymer: Just when many were ready to hand the German some player of the year awards, he goes out and cards a 7-over 79 on Sunday, the worst round of the day. Kaymer collects a 70th-place finish a month after blowing away the field at the U.S. Open.
Matt Kuchar: The most consistent golfer in the world is losing that consistency. Kuchar owns more top-10 PGA Tour finishes than anyone else this season, but his T-54 result Sunday marks the worst of his season and worst of his career, not including missed cuts.
Bryden Macpherson: Dead-last place at the Open Championship goes Macpherson, a 23-year-old Australian. His 18-over 90 on Thursday was the tournament’s worst score in 15 years and included five bogeys, three doubles, one triple and one quadruple. His 8-over 80 on Friday included one birdie, seven bogeys, and one double.
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