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Who has the most major championship runner-up finishes?

Most people - players and non-players alike - agree that major championship victories are the yardstick for 'greatness'. But equally, all would admit that winning majors, or for that matter any tournament, requires not just great skill, but a little luck at the right time. They don't always come together and the win slips away, into other hands.

Perhaps 'contending', which we will here define as 'finishing second', is the next best yardstick, and a sign of consistently strong performances. It may also go some way to answering the eternal question: "Who is the best player never to have won a major?" (By this yardstick, it's Colin Montgomerie.)

So who is the most frequent contender, or runner-up, in major history? Greg Norman springs to mind, perhaps because his missed opportunities at majors are so well known, and sometimes - like the 1996 Masters, when he led by six shots going into the final round, but wound up five shots beind Nick Faldo - so spectacular. But no, The Shark doesn't even come close.

It's Jack Nicklaus who, alongside his 18 professional major championships, had an incredible 19 runner-up finishes. And Tiger Woods? Just 6 so far.

Professional Major Championships - Runner-up finishes 1860 - 2014
Player Masters US Open Open PGA
Total
Jack Nicklaus 1981, 77, 71, 64 1982, 71, 68, 60(A) 1979, 77, 76, 72, 68, 67, 64 1983, 74, 65, 64
19
Arnold Palmer 1965, 61 1967, 66, 63, 62 1960 1970, 68, 64
10
Phil Mickelson
-
2013, 09, 06, 04, 02, 1999 2011 2014, 01
9
Greg Norman 1996, 87, 86 1995, 84 1989 1993, 86
8
Sam Snead 1957, 39 1953, 49, 47, 37
-
1940, 38
8
Tom Watson 1984, 79, 78 1987, 83 2009, 1984 1978
8
JH Taylor
-
1900 1914, 17, 06, 05, 04, 1896
-
7
Ernie Els 2004, 00 2000 2004, 00, 1996
-
6
Ben Hogan 1955, 54, 46, 42 1956, 55
-
-
6
Byron Nelson 1947, 41 1946
-
1944, 41, 39
6
Gary Player 1965, 62 1979, 58
-
1984, 69
6
Harry Vardon
-
1920, 13 1912, 02, 01, 00,
-
6
Tiger Woods 2008, 07 2007, 05
-
2009, 02
6
Ben Crenshaw 1983, 76
-
1979, 78 1979
5
Raymond Floyd 1992, 90, 85
-
1978 1976
5
Colin Montgomerie*
-
2006, 1997, 94 2005 1995
5
Tom Weiskopf 1975, 74, 72, 69 1976
-
-
5
James Braid
-
-
1909, 04, 02, 1897
-
4
Billy Casper 1969
-
-
1971, 65, 58
4
Bruce Crampton* 1972 1972
-
1975, 73
4
Sandy Herd
-
-
1920, 10, 1895, 92
-
4
Bobby Jones (A)
-
1928, 25, 24, 22
-
-
4
Tom Kite 1997, 86, 83
-
1978
-
4
Cary Middlecoff 1959, 48 1957
-
1955
4
Johnny Miller 1981, 75, 71
-
1973
-
4
Willie Park Snr
-
-
1867, 65, 62, 61
-
4

Doug Sanders*

-
1961 1970, 66 1959
4
Gene Sarazen
-
1940, 34 1928 1930
4
Macdonald Smith*
-
1930, 10 1932, 30
-
4
Payne Stewart
-
1998, 93 1990, 85
-
4
Lanny Wadkins
-
1986
-
1987, 84, 82
4
Craig Wood 1935, 34 1939 1933
-
4
Sergio Garcia*
-
-
2007 2014, 08, 1999
4
Seve Ballesteros 1987, 85
-
1976
-
3
Thomas Bjørn*
-
-
2003, 00 2005
3
David Duval 2001, 1998 2009
-
-
3
Nick Faldo
-
1988 1993 1992
3
Walter Hagen
-
1921 1923 1923
3
Jock Hutchinson 1920, 16
-
-
1916
3
Justin Leonard
-
-
1999 2004, 1997
3
Gene Littler 1970 1954
-
1977
3
Davis Love III 1999, 95 1996
-
-
3
Tom McNamara*
-
1915, 12, 09
-
-
3
Tom Morris Snr
-
-
1869, 63, 60
-
3
Alex Smith
-
1905, 01, 1898
-
-
3
(A) In 1960, Jack Nicklaus came second to Arnold Palmer in the US Open at Cherry Hills as an amateur. Bobby Jones remained an amateur throughout his career.
* Indicates players who have not won a major championship.

November 2010






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