The five best players never to have won the PGA Championship since 1958

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The list is a most impressive one
Posted on
May 10, 2021
M. James Ward in
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
The Wanamaker Trophy (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes


Possession of the Wannamaker Trophy is emblematic of success in the PGA Championship. In 1958 the PGA of America opted to switch the format of play from its original match play roots to the present day 72-hole event. In that interval of time a number of golf's most gifted players have had the pleasure of hoisting the massive trophy.

Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Dave Stockton, Vijay Singh and Brooks Koepka have each won the event on multiple occasions since the stroke play format went into existence.

But there are other renowned golfers who clearly wanted to add their name to the roster of champions but for a whole host of reasons came up just a bit short. Who are the most illustrious never to have won the title? The list is a most impressive one.

Arnold Palmer

The five best players never to have won the PGA Championship since 1958
(AP Photo)

The King wanted desperately to win the PGA thereby joining the elite career Grand Slam club. However, his dream never was fulfilled despite a number of valiant tries.

Arnie had six top ten finishes -- including three runner-up finishes. While Palmer finished in a distant second place tie with Jack Nicklaus in 1964, Palmer did push hard at both the '68 and '70 events -- losing to nemesis Julius Boros and up and coming Dave Stockton at Pecan Valley and Southern Hills respectively.

Arnie always valued the PGA because his dad Deacon was a long-time member of the association. Alas, it was not meant to be.

Tom Watson

The five best players never to have won the PGA Championship since 1958
Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Like Palmer, Watson wanted to add a PGA Championship title to also join the career Grand Slam Club. Tom earned ten top ten finishes along with a runner-up finish at Oakmont in the '78 event. It was at that event Watson led by five going into the final round -- eventually scoring 73 and losing in a three-way playoff with Jerry Pate and eventual winner John Mahaffey.

A win at Oakmont could have provided a clear pathway for the Missourian in hoisting other Wannamaker Trophies. Watson won eight major championships; however, the absence of the Wannamaker trophy remains the missing item on his otherwise stellar career.



Greg Norman

Six top ten placements -- including two runner-up finishes -- both at Inverness at the '86 and '93 events respectively. The Great White Shark could have won both times -- yet neither happened.

At Inverness -- Greg lead by four going into the final round but a woeful 76 opened up the door. Bob Tway stayed near enough the Aussie and when he holed out a bunker shot at the 18th the Wannamaker was his. At the '93 event, Norman led by one with 18 holes to play. The Shark could not shake the American -- eventually losing in a two-hole playoff.

Until topped by Tiger Woods, Norman was ranked number one in the world for a total of 331 weeks -- finishing with just two majors among his portfolio of worldwide wins.

Dustin Johnson

The five best players never to have won the PGA Championship since 1958
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The current world number one player has had a number of close calls at the PGA Championship.

Six times in the top ten -- highlighted by two runner-up finishes in consecutive years at the '19 and '20 championships.

However, the toughest loss came in '10 at Whistling Straits -- the site of this year's Ryder Cup Matches. Johnson started the final round three shots behind the leader Nick Watney. By the time he reached the 18th hole he was leading by one stroke after a clutch birdie at the difficult par-3 17th. A par on the final hole would mean victory. Johnson's tee shot went far right -- landing in a sandy area that DJ believed he could ground his club.

Upon completing the hole Johnson was assessed a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club in a designated bunker. Johnson would not gone on to his first major victory until the '16 US Open at Oakmont.



At the '19 PGA at Bethpage Black, Johnson closed the margin to eventual winner Brooks Koepka to one shot as he played the 16th hole. A fine drive was wasted by a pulled 4-iron approach shot leading to bogey and providing Koepka the needed margin to successfully defend his title.

One year later, Johnson led by one shot going into the final round and played well with a 68 score. But, Colin Morikawa concluded play with a sterling 65 -- highlighted by driving the green at the short par-4 16th and sinking the 7-foot putt for eagle -- giving him the cushion for a two-stroke win.

Unlike the others who are now gone from the scene, Johnson is full intent in removing his name from this list with a win at The Ocean Course in the '21 PGA Championship.

Nick Faldo

The six-time major champion winner had 5 top ten finishes in the PGA. The highlights included a runner-up finish in 1992 to winner Nick Price. One years later, Faldo finished just one stroke out of the two-man playoff between Azinger and Norman.

In 1994, Faldo finished in a fourth-place tie at Southern Hills courtesy of a strong final round score of 66.

He would play in the event nine additional times but never able to match his quality play from 1992-94.

No Englishman has won the event since becoming a stroke play event in 1958.

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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