From Jack Nicklaus to Tiger Woods: Top 10 Golfers With Most Runner-Up Finishes in Major Tournaments

Published 06/20/2021, 12:58 PM EDT
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – FEBRUARY 21: Tiger Woods of the United States acknowledges the crowd on the fifth green during the first round of World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship at Club de Golf Chapultepec on February 21, 2019 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)


The major tournaments define the career of a player in golf. And winning a major is a significant achievement for every player. But defeats can also be a story even for the greats of the game. Most golf fans know Jack Nicklaus has won 18 majors, and Tiger Woods has 15 major titles. But who has the most runner-up finishes in the four ultimate golf events? Let us find out.

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Top 10 golfers with the most runner-up finishes in major tournaments

May 27, 2021; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; Phil Mickelson on the 14th tee during the first round of the Charles Schwab Challenge golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

  1. Jack Nicklaus (19 times) 

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The legendary Jack Nicklaus is one of the greatest players of the game. He has 18 major tournaments. But along with this, he has 19 runner-up finishes. The ‘Golden Bear’ has also finished third in nine majors. If you put all these together, he had given himself a chance of winning around 50 major titles.

2. Phil Mickelson (11 times)

The oldest player to win a major championship has faced a lot of heartbreaks in his career. The left-hander has 11 runner-up finishes, six of which have come in the U.S. Open. Mickelson finished second to Jordan Spieth at the Masters, David Toms and Rory McIlroy at PGA Championship, and Darren Clarke and Henrik Stenson at U.S. Open. 

3. Arnold Palmer (10 times)

The King has many great triumphs in his career. But he had plenty of disappointing finishes as well. He was a four-time U.S. Open runner-up, twice in the Masters and thrice in the PGA Championship.  

4. Sam Snead (8 times)

Sam Snead was probably one of the most consistent golfers, but even that came with few losses. He has ten runner-up finishes in his career. Twice a runner-up at Masters and PGA Championship. But it was the U.S. Open that hurt him the most with four second-place finishes. 

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5. Greg Norman (8 times)

Greg Norman was one of the most dominant players, but he had a mixed joy at the majors. Most of the time it was a poor fortune, as he faced defeats in playoffs at Masters, US Open, and The Open. 

6. Tom Watson (8 times)

Watson has eight major championship wins but also has an equal number of runner-up finishes. He was very close to winning another couple of U.S. Open titles, but sadly couldn’t. 

7. J.H. Taylor (7 times)

The four-time Open Championship winner J.H. Taylor could have won more. He was runner-up seven times in his career while finishing second in the US Open of 1900 and The Open in 1896 and 1914. 

8. Tiger Woods (7 times)

The man who has taken the game of golf to another pedestal has 15 major tournament wins. But along with these, he has a bunch of runner-up finishes as well. For years it looked like nobody could beat Tiger, but seven players denied him seven titles. They are Rich Beem, Michael Campbell, Zach Johnson, Angel Cabrera, Trevor Immelman, Y.E. Yang, and Brooks Koepka. 

9. Ernie Els (6 times)

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The South African-born player is a four-time major tournament winner, but he has lost a few as well. He finished second to a dominant Tiger Woods at Pebble Beach and St Andrew in 2000. Ernie was also runner-up to Vijay Singh and later to Phil Mickelson in 2004. 

10. Ben Hogan (6 times)

Ben has won nine major championships, but which could have easily been increased. He finished at second place four times at the Masters and twice while on his hunt for the record-breaking fifth US Open title.   

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Amey Kulkarni

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