10 of the best golfers to never win a major
golfers to never win a major; golf

10 of the best golfers to never win a major

Rory McIlroy will have gone a decade without winning a major by the time he returns to Augusta in April for his latest bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

While the Northern Irishman’s frustration at failing to add to the four majors he won between 2011 and 2014 has been palpable, some players never manage to reach the winner’s circle in the sport’s biggest events.

Here we look at 10 of the best golfers for whom lifting a major remained an elusive dream.

Colin Montgomerie

It was a story of so near and yet so far for the Scot who dominated European golf throughout the nineties, winning eight Order of Merit titles in the process.

Montgomerie spent 400 weeks in the top 10 of the world golf rankings – longer than any other player not to win a major .

There were plenty of chances to break his duck, with 10 top-10 finishes in majors, including an agonising five as runner-up.

Perhaps his best chance came at the 2006 US Open, where a par at the final hole would have sealed the title.

Montgomerie found the fairway but clubbed down on his approach to account for adrenaline, came up well short and then three-putted to hand Geoff Ogilvy his only major victory.

Steve Stricker

The American spent almost five years in the world’s top 10 and amassed 13 top-10 finishes in majors, although it was only the first of those where he seriously looked like winning.

Tied for the lead going into the final round of the 1998 US PGA, Stricker was unable to keep pace with Vijay Singh on the back nine and finished two shots back in second.

Despite missing out on a major , the 56-year-old can always console himself with $45million in career earnings.

Lee Westwood

One of only two players to have been ranked number one in the world and not won a major.

It could, and perhaps should, have been different for Westwood.

The Englishman was in control of the 2010 Masters when Phil Mickelson drove into trees down the 13th.

The left-hander then produced a moment of genius to fire his second from the pine straw between two trees to six feet, made the eagle putt and denied Westwood.

A year earlier a bogey on the 72nd hole had denied him a place in a play-off with Stuart Cink and Tom Watson at The Open.

Harry Cooper

Born in England but raised in the US, Cooper was one of golf’s earliest superstars.

His 30 PGA Tour wins is a record for a player that hasn’t won a major and he finished runner-up four times.

He was controversially denied at the 1936 US Open, where winner Tony Manero received assistance from friend and playing partner Gene Sarazen during the final round, with the rules of golf amended afterwards to prevent players receiving help from anyone except their caddie.

Luke Donald

The other world number one never to win a major, Donald strangely never really threatened to land one of golf’s biggest prizes despite becoming the first player to top the money list on both side of the Atlantic in the same year.

The Ryder Cup captain managed eight top-10 finishes, although he was well adrift from the eventual winner in most of them.

Doug Sanders

A 20-time PGA Tour winner and four-time runner-up in majors , Sanders’ career is unfortunately best remembered for his final-hole meltdown at the 1970 Open Championship.

Needing to get down in three from 74 yards, the American overhit his approach to the back of the green but still managed to leave himself a three footer for the Claret Jug.

The site of Sanders pushing the tap-in putt well wide of the cup has become etched in golfing folklore alongside Jean Van De Velde’s memorable Carnoustie meltdown, with Jack Nicklaus going on to pip Sanders in a play-off.

Thomas Bjorn

A 15-time European Tour winner, the Dane might not have had the same calibre of career as some of the other names on this list but he certainly had plenty of near misses in major championships.

He was a distant runner-up to Tiger Woods at The Open in 2000 but narrowly missed out on a play-off at the 2002 PGA.

He led The Open by three shots with four holes to play at Royal St George’s in 2003 but took three attempts to get out of a greenside bunker on the 16th to hand victory to Ben Curtis, then had further close shaves at the 2005 PGA and 2011 Open.

Rickie Fowler

At 34, Fowler still has time to take himself off this list.

However, it does feel like his inability to cash in on a remarkable 2014 campaign may prove costly.

The American became the first golfer to finish in the top five at all four majors in a calendar year without winning one and was also only one shot behind champion Patrick Reed at the 2018 Masters.

Jumbo Ozaki

Ozaki won an incredible 94 titles in his native Japan and spent almost 200 weeks in the world’s top 10 but his decision not to play full time on the PGA Tour almost certainly cost him the chance to become a serious major contender.

He finished eighth at the 1973 Masters and was only three behind Curtis Strange at the 1989 US Open, but undoubtedly hampered himself by making all his major appearances in unfamiliar conditions.

Viktor Hovland

It seems unlikely Hovland will remain on this list for long, with the 26-year-old again underlining his credentials with an impressive performance at the Ryder Cup in Italy.

A six-time PGA Tour winner and FedEx Cup champion, Hovland led alongside McIlroy going into the final round of the 2022 Open before both were surpassed by Cam Smith.

He registered a top-10 finish at this year’s Masters and ran Brooks Koepka close at the US PGA.

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