There was no obvious standout performer in the 2017 majors as golf’s four prized titles were shared amongst a quarter of players – a Spaniard and three Americans.
Sergio Garcia won the Masters in dramatic style at Augusta National, Brooks Koepka powered his way to glory at the US Open, Jordan Spieth showed his class to fight back and win the Open Championship and Justin Thomas came through on the final day to win the US PGA.
It doesn’t always play out that way.
In 2014, a dominant Rory McIlroy won two of the four while 12 months later Spieth performed the extraordinary feat of winning the first two, ending one shot out of a play-off at The Open and finishing runner-up in the US PGA.
Spieth was and incredible 54-under in those four majors, 19 shots better than the next best performer, Jason Day.
There used to be talk of an unofficial trophy – the Majors Cup – for the golfer who shot the lowest aggregate score over the four majors. Occasionally bookmakers would price it up but it seems to have vanished off the radar in recent years and no trophy ever emerged.
But it’s still of interest to see who performed best in the majors and this year the player who took least shots across the Masters, US Open, Open Championship and US PGA combined can be revealed as…. Brooks Koepka.
Koepka couldn’t match Spieth’s heroics of 2015 but his 21-under was still better than anyone else – just!
Only 13 players managed to make the cut in all four majors and thus qualify for the unofficial tag of year’s best major player. They’re listed below:
2017 – best scores in relation to par in the majors
Brooks Koepka (-21)
Hideki Matsuyama (-20)
Matt Kuchar (-20)
Rickie Fowler (-16)
Jordan Spieth (-10)
Paul Casey (-9)
Charley Hoffman (-3)
Marc Leishman (+3)
Steve Stricker (+3)
J.B. Holmes (+10)
Russell Henley (+12)
Kevin Kisner (+16)
Lee Westwood (+20)
Notes: Koepka’s -21 was due largely to his 16-under winning total in the US Open at Erin Hills but the big-hitting American is no one-trick pony. In fact, to see him at the very top of this list is no surprise at all given his play at this level.
As well as this year’s major finishes of 11-1-6-13, Koepka posted T21-13-4 the previous year (he missed The Open) and also 33-18-10-5 in 2014.
In fact, since his tied fourth in the 2014 US Open, no player has scored more top 25 finishes (12) than Koepka over that same time frame.
In other words, there should be no shock at all to see him crowned as this year’s major king.
Koepka is in elite company when looking at past winners with former world number ones, Day and Spieth, topping the charts in the previous two seasons.
Jason Day (-9)
Jordan Spieth (+3)
Emiliano Grillo (+10)
Kevin Na (+13)
Lee Westwood (+14)
Rafael Cabrera-Bello (+15)
Martin Kaymer (+16)
Danny Willett (+16)
Bill Haas (+16)
Adam Scott (+17)
Bubba Watson (+26)
Justin Thomas (+27)
Kevin Kisner (+29)
Notes: 2016 was a tough year with only Day managing to shoot an accumulative under-par total across the four. There are some unlikely names in there but, even though they’re at the bottom of the list, the fact that newly-crowned US PGA winner Justin Thomas and Quail Hollow 54-hole leader Kevin Kisner made the cut in all four was a hint that they’d do well in future majors.
Jordan Spieth (-54)
Jason Day: (-35)
Justin Rose (-34)
Dustin Johnson (-29)
Louis Oosthuizen (-27)
Brooks Koepka (-20)
Hideki Matsuyama (-19)
Phil Mickelson (-16)
Sergio Garcia (-13)
Matt Kuchar (-12)
Patrick Reed (-11)
Henrik Stenson (-9)
Paul Casey (-7)
Charl Schwartzel (-5)
Notes: As they would do the following year, Spieth and Day finished 1-2. Also note the presence of this year’s Masters winner Sergio Garcia, that man Koepka again and 2017 Open runner-up Matt Kuchar. Hideki Matsuyama is also a standout name. He’s seventh on this list and second on the 2017 chart so he’s definitely a high-level and consistent performer in the majors.
Rickie Fowler (-32)
Rory McIlroy (-27)
Jim Furyk (-21)
Adam Scott (-18)
Henrik Stenson (-13)
Jimmy Walker (-13)
Justin Rose (-9)
Jason Day (-3)
Louis Oosthuizen (+1)
Brandt Snedeker (+2)
Bill Haas (+5)
Francesco Molinari (+9)
Kevin Stadler (+20)
Notes: This was the year Rickie Fowler finished in the top five in all four so that sheer consistency won the day even though he didn’t actually win one and McIlroy captured two. It’s interesting that this 2014 list shows three then major-less players – Henrik Stenson, Jimmy Walker and Day – who would go onto win one.
These lists of best players in the majors could hold the secret to who wins in 2018 and beyond.
Justin Thomas made the cut in all four last year, giving him the confidence to go on and really excel in 2017.
Looking a little further back, Koepka, Day, Garcia, Stenson and Walker all appear on the very limited list of golfers who played the maximum 16 rounds in a majors season before going on to make the breakthrough and actually win one a year/two years later.
So, who is due?
Matsuyama and Fowler leap off the page as two players who have laid the foundations for future major success but also look out for Matt Kuchar (third in this year’s list, 10th in 2015), Paul Casey (6th 2017, 13th 2015), Kevin Kisner (12th 2017, 13th 2016), Bill Haas (9th 2016, 11th 2014) and Lee Westwood (13th 2017, 6th 2016) as non-major winners, who could be ready to win one of the four ultimate prizes.
As for another younger player, Russell Henley could be the one. He made the cut in all four this year and was T21 or better in three of 2015’s majors. His record also shows that he’s posted a top 20 in all four so boasts a versatile game.
Without doubt, though, the absolute stud in the majors over the last three years is Jordan Spieth.
He’s won three, finished second in two others, posted another fourth and is the only man to have played all 48 rounds since the start of 2015.
During that run he’s an incredible 61-under-par.
Backing him blindly every time he tees it up in a major is a pretty smart move.
His best odds for 2018? 8/1 Masters (Augusta National), 14/1 US Open (Shinnecock Hills), 11/1 Open Championship (Carnoustie) and 9/1 USPGA (Bellerive CC).