What do Hunter Mahan, who just became the first two-time winner on the PGA Tour this year, and world No. 1 Luke Donald have in common? Not only have they never won the Masters, they've never even held the lead after a round of the season's first major. There's no shame in that, as multiple major champions have also failed to put themselves in the pole position, but great careers can seem incomplete without significant success at one of the most famous courses in the country. Fortunately, Mahan and Donald still have plenty of time to avoid ending up on this list, starting with Thursday's opening round.
None of the following five golfers has ever ended a day at Augusta National with his name on top of the leaderboard. That doesn't mean they haven't played the course well, though -- in fact, each of the five finished in the Top 10 within his first three appearances at this event. And they've all had the low round of the day. But no one in this quintet has had to sleep with the lead or gotten to slip on a green jacket.
A note on the selection process: Since the Masters got the latest start of any of the majors, with the first tournament being held in 1934, I eliminated any golfer whose career started before that year from consideration. Most of the old-timers who were never ahead after a round either hardly got to play in the event (like the great Walter Hagen, who only entered the Masters four times) and/or were too far past their prime (like Tommy Armour, who turned 39 in 1934). Then there was the bizarre case of Bobby Locke, who won four British Opens but played sparingly in the U.S. -- mainly due to resentment over his temporary ban from the PGA Tour in 1948. He only participated in four Masters, so it wouldn't be fair to include him.
With that, here's the list:
5. Tommy Bolt
Career highlights: 15 PGA Tour wins, 1 major
Masters: 17 appearances, 5 Top 10s
First Masters Top 10: 1st try (T-3, 1952)
Low round(s): 1961 R4 (68)
Known for his club-breaking, Tommy "Thunder" Bolt had an interesting career. He served in World War II and didn't turn pro until 1946, when he was 30. But that still left him enough time to win 15 events, including a wire-to-wire victory at the 1958 U.S. Open at Southern Hills. Augusta National played a lot tougher back then -- he finished in the top 25 in each of his first five appearances yet only broke 70 twice in that span. Though Bolt had a number of high finishes, he was never particularly close to winning. He finished five strokes behind Sam Snead in 1952 and 11 strokes behind Ben Hogan the following year despite tying for fifth. Bolt's last top-10 came at the age of 49, when he finished T-8 in 1965. It was only fitting that Jack Nicklaus lapped the field by nine shots.
No. 4 Jim Furyk
Career highlights: 16 PGA Tour wins, 1 major
Masters: 15 appearances, 4 Top 10s
First Masters Top 10: 3rd try (4, 1998)
Low round(s): 1998 R3 (67), 2006 R3 (68)
Furyk first made noise at Augusta when he shot 67-68 on the weekend in 1998 to finish two shots behind Mark O'Meara. Dating back to the previous year's U.S. Open, it was Furyk's fourth consecutive top-6 finish in a major. The man with the quirkiest swing in golf was three shots out of the Mike Weir-Len Mattiace playoff in 2003, but that was the last time Furyk really contended at the Masters. He won his only major -- U.S. Open at Olympia Fields -- a couple of months after that. It's no surprise Furyk has found some success at this event considering his stellar putting, but the lengthening of the course has hurt him. He seems to be rounding into form this year, though, with a playoff loss and tie for 11th in his past two starts.
No. 3 Nick Price
Career highlights: 18 PGA Tour wins, 3 majors
Masters: 20 appearances, 4 Top 10s
First Masters Top 10: 2nd try (5, 1986)
Low round(s): 1986 R3 (63), 1992 R3
It's hard to believe that the man who shares the record for the lowest round ever at Augusta National shows up on this list. A year after Curtis Strange rebounded from an opening-round 80 to get into the mix, Price recovered from beginning his week with a 79 with rounds of 69-63 to pull within a shot of 54-hole leader Greg Norman. Of course, 1986 was the year that Jack Nicklaus had his last great week, closing with that miraculous 65 to win his sixth green jacket. Price actually ended up with more missed cuts at the Masters (7) than top 10s (4). And he never had a better chance to win than in his second appearance -- he faded on Sunday after starting three shots behind eventual champion Fred Couples in 1992 and couldn't break par on the weekend en route to a T-6 in 1999. He also tied for sixth in his second-to-last appearance in 2004.
No. 2 Hale Irwin
Career highlights: 20 PGA Tour wins, 3 majors
Masters: 21 appearances, 7 Top 10s
First Masters Top 10: 3rd try (T-4, 1974)
Low round(s): 1975 R4 (64), 1976 R3 (67)
Here's another guy who's had a considerable amount of success in this event -- including a round of 64 -- yet never actually led. He recorded top 10s in five straight years during one stretch and actually finished with as many top 10s in the Masters (7) as he did in the U.S. Open. Of course, he won the latter three times. Interestingly, Irwin shot exactly one sub-70 round each of those seven times he was in contention at Augusta National. Had he been able to go low twice in one of those events, he might've had a Masters win to put on his resume.
No. 1 Ernie Els
Career highlights: 18 PGA Tour wins, 26 European Tour wins, 3 majors
Masters: 17 appearances, 6 Top 10s
First Masters Top 10: 1st try (T-8, 1994)
Low round(s): 2000 R4 (68), 2003 R2 (66)
There was a time when it looked like the Big Easy would don multiple green jackets -- but by failing to qualify for the tournament this year, it looks like his time has passed to even get off this list. Like Irwin, Els had a stretch of exceptional play at Augusta National, never finishing outside the top 6 from 2000 to 2004 with a pair of runner-ups. He was the clubhouse leader and getting ready for a playoff when Phil Mickelson sunk a 20-footer on the 18th to win his first Masters eight years ago. Els' game seems perfectly suited for this course, but at this point you have to wonder if he wants it too much. Plus, the Hall-of-Famer has struggled mightily with his putting in recent years, which is not exactly ideal on Augusta National's tricky greens. In fact, Els missed a four-footer for par on the 72nd hole at the Transitions Championship three weeks ago to cost him a spot in the playoff and possibly an invitation into this week's field. Els has missed the cut at the Masters as often as not since coming back from the knee injury he suffered in 2005.
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