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'

Most major 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.


Most major runner-up finishes

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

PlayerMastersUS OpenOpenPGATotal
Jack Nicklaus1981, 77, 71, 641982, 71, 68, 60(A)1979, 77, 76, 72, 68, 67, 641983, 74, 65, 6419
Phil Mickelson20152013, 09, 06, 04, 02, 19992016, ’112014, 019
Arnold Palmer1965, 611967, 66, 63, 6219601970, 68, 6410
Greg Norman1996, 87, 861995, 8419891993, 868
Sam Snead1957, 391953, 49, 47, 371940, 388
Tom Watson1984, 79, 781987, 832009, 198419788


Most major runner-up finishes

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PlayerMastersUS OpenOpenPGATotal
Louis Oosthuizen20122021, ’1520152021, ’177
Tiger Woods2008, 072007, 052018, ’09, 027
JH Taylor19001914, 17, 06, 05, 04, 18967
Ernie Els2004, 0020002004, 00, 19966
Ben Hogan1955, 54, 46, 421956, 556
Byron Nelson1947, 4119461944, 41, 396
Gary Player1965, 621979, 581984, 696
Harry Vardon1920, 131912, 02, 01, 00,6
Dustin Johnson2019201520112020, ’195
Ben Crenshaw1983, 761979, 7819795
Raymond Floyd1992, 90, 85197819765
Colin Montgomerie*2006, 1997, 94200519955
Tom Weiskopf1975, 74, 72, 6919765
Craig Wood1935, ’341939193319345
James Braid1909, 04, 02, 18974
Billy Casper19691971, 65, 584
Bruce Crampton*197219721975, 734
Sandy Herd1920, 10, 1895, 924
Bobby Jones (A)1928, 25, 24, 224
Tom Kite1997, 86, 8319784
Cary Middlecoff1959, 48195719554
Johnny Miller1981, 75, 7119734
Willie Park Snr1867, 65, 62, 614
Doug Sanders*19611970, 6619594
Gene Sarazen1940, 34192819304
Macdonald Smith*1930, 101932, 304
Payne Stewart1998, 931990, 854
Lanny Wadkins19861987, 84, 824
Craig Wood1935, 34193919334
Sergio Garcia*20072014, 08, 19994
Seve Ballesteros1987, 8519763
Thomas Bjørn*2003, 0020053
David Duval2001, 199820093
Nick Faldo1988199319923
Walter Hagen1921192319233
Jock Hutchinson1920, 1619163
Justin Leonard19992004, 19973
Gene Littler1970195419773
Davis Love III1999, 9519963
Tom McNamara*1915, 12, 093
Tom Morris Snr1869, 63, 603
Alex Smith1905, 01, 18983

(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.

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