Masters a mental grind for players without a Major

Tommy Snell
Tommy Snell

Some great players are one short of a Major Grand Slam. Others are without a single Silver Clubhouse, a U. S. Open Championship, a Claret Jug or a Wannamaker Trophy.

I’m not sure which void is harder to fill. Rory would like to complete his on Sunday, and Phil hopes to fill the gap in June. Others just hope to win one this year.

Before Raymond Floyd swooned while looking at Friday’s hole locations, he talked on The Golf Channel about the mental side of winning a major championship. He suggested that everyone on the practice tee has the ability to win from the neck down, but it’s the stuff above the shoulders that allows players to win The Masters, The US Open, The Open and the PGA Championship.

The 37-yeqr-old Sergio Garcia certainly has the game, and his bounce around the course on Thursday and Friday showed fans in Spain and around the world that he had the “stuff” to win a major. After making bogey on 10 and par on 11 Friday, on 12 he slid his sand wedge under a bunker shot that lipped out for birdie. As the ball took a hard left turn around the lip, Sergio smiled as he lamented the ball’s stubbornness.

Lee Westwood has the game to win on any course on the planet. It’s mind-boggling that he hasn’t won one of the four coveted trophies, but his ball striking makes the 43-year-old a favorite to hoist one before the PGA Tour Champions comes calling.

Ryan Moore and Rickie Fowler, 34 and 28 years old respectively, have the grit upstairs to win. They hope to zip a major into their golf bag sooner rather than later. Matt Kuchar, at 38, would like to do what Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson did last year: get off “the list.”

As we head into the back nine of the 81st Masters, many “best players never to win a major” have the chance to engrave their name on the silver clubhouse. However, they’ll have to juke several golfers who own one or more of the four major trophies. Adam, Rory, Phil, Fred and Justin want another one.

Bob Rotella’s list of 10 Rules for How to Win Your Major begins with “Believe You Can Win.” Gio Valiante begins his similar list with “See the Positive in a Setback.” The sports psychologist who coached seven PGA Tour players to eight wins in 2010 added, “The positives are always there if you make the effort to find them.”

With several major champions and non-winners in the Top 20 heading into the weekend, this Masters might offer more edge-of-your-recliner excitement than ever before, especially for Rory and those looking for their first major.

Tommy Snell, golf coach at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, writes a column for the Sun Herald.