After Cameron Smith became the latest player to pick up a first major with a phenomenal final round at The Open, we’re looking at five golfers who are best placed to win their first in 2023.
Patrick Cantlay has perhaps taken the mantle from the likes of Lee Westwood, Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele as the best player in the world without a major, and it’s a tag he’ll be very keen to shake off. While the likes of Bryson DeChambeau, Hideki Matusyama, Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler have all notched their first, Cantlay remains a maiden.
More strange is his record in majors.
He’s been ranked in the world’s top 10 for every week bar six since October 2020. He’s won seven PGA Tour events (four of which came in the last 14 months), including a FedEx Cup event and last season’s Tour Championship and was named PGA Tour Player of the Year.
But his game seems to disappear for four weeks a year. He’d not registered a top-10 finish in his last 10 attempts prior to The Open and is running out of time to make hay while the sun is shining, but his impressive performance last week is an excellent platform to build from.
Strong off the tee, on approach and on the green, there is no significant weakness in Xander Schauffele’s game.
His consistent play has seen him ranked in the world’s top 10 for 142 of the last 173 weeks.
He’s registered wins on the PGA Tour every year since 2017 and has top-five finishes in the Masters, US Open and PGA Championship. He’s also been a regular feature on leaderboards at the majors, with nine top 10s and six top 20s in just 22 starts.
Still just 28, time is on his side, and he has picked up wins on the big occasion – taking Olympic gold in 2020 – but he’s becoming a nearly man, and needs to find an extra gear on a major Sunday.
After bursting onto the scene with a top-10 finish at the 2020 US Open, Zalatoris continued his excellent form with a number of strong finishes on the PGA Tour to earn Special Temporary Membership. Remarkably, despite being ranked 29th in the world, Zalatoris was ineligible for the season-ending Tour Championship due to his status.
But as a full PGA Tour member, all of that is behind him, and he has his eyes set on what already feels like an elusive first major.
Zalatoris hasn’t even won on the PGA Tour yet, but since his breakthrough top 10 at the 2020 US Open, the 25-year-old has been runner-up in the Masters, PGA Championship, and the US Open once more, as well as notching two more top 10s. If you exclude his missed cut and WD at the 2021 US Open and Open Championship respectively, his average major finish since 2020 is an incredible 8th.
Despite coming a fair way short at The Open, he seems to find his A-game at majors, where even his shaky putting stroke corrects itself, and a win next season in one of them is certainly a possibility.
In a total contrast to Will Zalatoris, Viktor Hovland has multiple wins across the PGA and DP World Tours, but struggles to find his best form at majors.
He’s ranked 10th for Strokes Gained: Approach the Green and 18th for Strokes Gained: Off the Tee in 2022, and was as high as third in the world rankings a few months ago.
The Norwegian has all the talent in the world (except when handed a wedge around the green), but his showing at The Open was the first time he’d cracked the top 10 in nine major championship starts.
But for the first time, he contended at a major, and despite a very disappointing Sunday, he’s shown himself if nothing else that he can hang with the big boys at the big tournaments.
The last two years have seen Sam Burns make waves on the PGA Tour, recently cracking the top 10 in the world rankings.
He’s picked up four PGA Tour victories and a WGC runner-up, but is yet to make a splash in the majors.
He’s enjoyed a rather meteoric rise up the world rankings, having been barely inside the top 150 18 months ago, to being one of the world’s best golfers now.
One of the best with either a putter or iron in hand, if he can tighten up his driver, he’s sure to improve on his T20 best major finish in 2023.