Breaking down which golfer wins the most major championships in 2019 and beyond
Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Tommy Fleetwood are all in the conversation
I thought about this topic while listening to the excellent Shotgun Start podcast with Andy Johnson and Brendan Porath the other day. They were discussing Jon Rahm and how he's one of the handful of guys we have to consider when talking about who's going to have the most major championships going forward.
That is, if golf history started on Jan. 1, 2019, which player that we currently know of would end his career with the most major titles? It's a fascinating conversation given the glut of talent in the game today and one that has no incorrect answers. So ... who is going to have the most majors from this point forward? Here are my five candidates.
1. Jordan Spieth
I wanted to put J.T. here, but I may currently own all of the Jordan Spieth stock. It's being distributed at unprecedented low prices, and I am buying it all.
The case for: He's already historically great, and his swing and his mentality are built for the long haul. Whereas you could see other swings or games breaking or cracking as bodies evolve, it's tough to see that with Spieth. His trajectory, even after a down year in 2018, is the best of any of the 20-somethings.
Marks against: Can he hang in mentally for two decades? I personally think, yes, he can, but there's a case to be made that he'll get so deep in his own head that he won't know the PGA of America from the PGA Tour at some point, much less which way that putt to win his third Masters is going to break.
Prediction: Four majors
2. Justin Thomas
It would have been easy to put him above Spieth, and I've probably argued in that direction at some point on a podcast or in a post in the past. That's how good he is.
The case for: He's the most sociopathic when it comes to winning majors, I think, and I mean that as a compliment. I think he cares about history and about racking up major after major after major. He also has a game built for the modern golf course with no weaknesses. He won early. He'll win (on the PGA Tour) often. And his body has been able to withstand a dynamic, sometimes violent swing. Other than that, he stinks.
Marks against: I get that it's only been three years, but he only has three top 10s at majors. I know that's not a huge knock, but it was difficult to dig up anything on somebody who does so much so well.
Prediction: Three majors
3. Dustin Johnson
I know this sounds insane because he's the oldest person on this list, but I think he can reel off two of five or three of eight with the most ease. That's the path for him.
The case for: He's been the best player on earth for the last three years.
Marks against: He's old. At least by golf standards. And shouldn't some of those near-misses been trophies he hoisted? Don't you only get so many of those? I get that he's a super freak, but golf history says you only get a handful of real chances if your name isn't Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus, and D.J. already spent a few.
Prediction: Two majors
4. Jon Rahm
I'm not sure people realize how good Rahm is. He has six wins and four runner-up finishes in 65 events worldwide in his career. He's won in Dubai, Ireland, San Diego, the Bahamas and Spain. The game travels, and it travels first class.
The case for: There are five or seven guys for whom the game seems easiest when they're playing their best. He's one of them. It's not difficult to see him winning a green jacket by four shots. Two top-five finishes in majors in 2018 alone.
The case against: It's easy to see him never winning a U.S. Open, isn't it? He's missed the cut at three of the last four U.S. and British Opens. I'm not saying he'll never win one of those -- as I noted above, the game travels -- but it could provide a more difficult path than somebody like Spieth.
Prediction: Two majors
5. Brooks Koepka
A reminder to everyone who hasn't been paying attention that unless Spieth wins a major in 2018, Koepka will get a full year after Rory McIlroy turns 30 next year in which no 20-something has more majors than him. That's astounding.
The case for: He's already done it. He has three (!) major wins in just 19 starts. Nineteen! That's four fewer than Spieth, who has three major wins in 23 starts. He also has a mindset built for collecting major trophies (as noted by this tweet).
Marks against: He's had some injuries in the past and, really, is Koepka going to grind into his 40s? Maybe that doesn't matter, but it might. I can see Spieth and Thomas vying for U.S. Opens and Masters when they're 39-years old like Justin Rose. I'm not sure I can see Koepka doing that. Not because he doesn't have the talent but rather because I'm not sure he wants to live that life.
Prediction: One major
It felt wrong to leave Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Bryson DeChambeau, Tommy Fleetwood and even guys like Cameron Champ and Matthew Wolff off of this list. But when you have five slots to fill, the air gets a little rare. The club gets a little exclusive.
It's going to be fascinating to see, in 10 years, how the next 40 majors are divvied up. I'd believe anything between "Patrick Reed won them all" and "the 40 were split between 40 golfers." It's all in play as golf hurtles toward a post-Tiger Woods era that will be marked by parity, big personalities and some of the greatest golf we've ever seen.
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