Trio of Top-10 Players Aim for Maiden Major Title
Collin Morikawa made it look easy in 2020. He teed it up at TPC Harding Park for his PGA Championship debut and four days later, he lifted the Wanamaker Trophy. It was his second major championship start.
Morikawa has gone on to win The Open Championship as well, and his top-tier ball striking makes him a favorite this week at Southern Hills Country Club.
But there are a strong handful of golfers still looking for their first major triumph. The only accolade missing in many of these guys’ impressive resumes is not winning a major.
Perhaps this is the week?
Take Xander Schauffele, for example. The five-time winner on the PGA Tour has nine top-10 finishes at majors in his young career – his best finish being a runner-up at the 2018 Open Championship and the 2019 Masters. His best result at the PGA Championship was a tie for 10th in 2020.
Despite a victory alongside Patrick Cantlay at the team-event Zurich Classic a few weeks ago, Schauffele admits he has struggled with consistency so far this season. That’ll be the key this week as he searches for his first major title.
“I think me just getting back to, sort of, my process and being patient and not really trying to do too much,” said Schauffele. “Just sort of when I do really well in majors and I'm not worried throughout the week. I kind of have that feeling now. I think mentally I'm in a good spot.”
Other notable players coming into this week without a major title to their name include Cantlay (Schauffele’s partner in New Orleans) and Cam Smith (who won The Players Championship earlier this year). Smith is ranked 4th in the world, while Cantlay is No. 5. Schauffele is No. 10.
Cantlay is no stranger to big moments. He won four times last season en route to winning Player of the Year honors and the FedExCup.
But his major championship record leaves a little to be desired. He hasn’t finished inside the top-10 at a major since 2019, and he has only two top-10 results in majors in his career.
Still, Cantlay says he’s trying not to let his slightly empty trophy case bother him.
“’Bug me’ isn’t quite the right term. But definitely something I’m really earnest on trying to fix,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if I played a bunch of major championships really well coming up… when you have a small sample size, it’s really tough to judge critically, but you know, give me a little time.”
In the case of Smith, he could break a run of six straight PGA Champions from the United States. This is Smith’s first time at Southern Hills Country Club, but he said the surrounds of the greens remind him of the same kind of slopes he plays at home in Australia.
He put the clubs away for 10 days recently, he said, and had a strong effort with his trainer and psychologist last week to feel fresh for Thursday’s opener in Tulsa.
“I just try and focus on what I can do best to prepare myself to win golf tournaments,” said Smith. “That’s what I’m out here to do, and yeah, I think getting caught up in all that stuff (about majors) sometimes can be a bit of a hindrance. Just try to do my own thing and hopefully it all works out.”
For the trio of Smith, Schauffele, and Cantlay – along with plenty of others – they’re hoping to capture their first major title this week at the PGA Championship.