A commenter on a Yahoo! Sports story a few days back posed a rather intriguing question, and one that I felt inspired to answer both out of curiosity and amusement: Who is the worst player to have won a major?
It's a valid question. We always talk about who the best player not to have won a major is. Just a few weeks ago I made an argument that Justin Rose is the likely president of that pained club. But who is that one guy that raised a trophy or kissed a jug or donned a green jacket where everybody watching let out a collective "huh?"
The requirements for this not-so-prestigious award go as thus: if a player has won more than one major, they do not qualify. If a player is younger than 35 and still hovering around their prime, they have plenty of time to improve or find their game and, thus, do not qualify. Multiple top ten finishes was also a sign of consistency and proved to be a saving grace for many. Lastly, the major had to be the player's lone victory on tour. It doesn't matter if they won the Waterbury Open against Happy Gilmore and his neighbor, The Accountant -- a non-major win is a non-major win.
So, there have been 131 one-time major winners. You'd be surprised at some of the names on that list, guys like Darren Clarke, Ben Curtis, Tom Lehman, Paul Azinger, Tom Kite, Davis Love III…it goes on.
After careful evaluation, the contest boiled down to eight finalists: Jack Burns, Willie Auchterlonie, Shaun Micheel, Tom Creavy, Jack Simpson, Tom Kidd, Fred Herd, and Sam Parks Jr.
Never heard of half of them? I don't blame you. Between that group of eight misfits, there are four British Open titles, two PGA Championship titles and two U.S. Open titles. Now, I think most of us can remember Micheel, who nestled in one of the most clutch wedges in PGA Championship history.
He made Cleveland (the brand, not the city) one of the happiest companies on Earth that day. But after that, it was all downhill. Micheel was cut in 11 of his next 18 majors, didn't play in six more as a pro, and failed to crack the top 20 in any aside from one exception, and that was a runner-up finish at the PGA in 2006. That runner-up was his ticket out of the running for this most notorious award.
Next, we're going to lump Simpson, Burns, Auchterlonie, Herd and Kidd together because their wins came before the 1900s, meaning they didn't really get a fair crack at the majors as they are today: four per year, 72 holes each. Simpson won the Open Championship in 1884 shooting 78-82 for a whopping total of 160 in 36 holes which sounds absolutely insane considering that modern-day players are furious with anything over par. Even crazier, Kidd won the 1873 Open Championship and he shot an opening round 91. A 91! And he won! Automatically those scores don't count. They were, after all, playing with the modern-day equivalent of a croquet set and a wiffle ball.
So, with those six out, we are down to Creavy and Parks. What's interesting about Creavy is that he won the 1931 PGA Championship in a match play format. (For those wondering, the PGA Championship adopted stroke play in 1958.) That's something to consider. Do we use modern day formats only, or is Creavy OK because he won under circumstances that he had no control over? We'll let it slide, only because Parks' only major win, the 1935 U.S. Open, also came before 1958.
Before making our final decision between the two, some stats and facts to consider: Parks played in 34 majors, obviously won one, was cut in 12 of them, and never cracked the top 15 again. Creavy, meanwhile, has a smaller sample size, playing in just 11 majors. He missed the cut just once, the 1940 U.S. Open, and did post two more solid finishes in the match play-style PGA, making it all the way to the semifinals and the quarterfinals in the years following his big win, but never a runner-up as Micheel did. Those semi- and quarter-final appearances, however, proved to be the difference-maker that offset Parks' overwhelming volume of majors played.
So, to the masochistic golf fans out there who just needed to know the bottom-dweller of all major-winning bottom dwellers, there you have it: Mr. Sam Parks Jr. is your worst player to ever have won a major.
Travis Mewhirter has been working in the golf industry since 2007, when he was a bag room manager at Piney Branch Golf Club in Carroll County, Maryland, and has been involved, as a player, since 2004. Since then, he has worked at Hayfields Country Club, where the Constellation Energy Classic was formerly held, and has covered golf at the high school, college, and professional levels.
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