by Matt Kupec
April 14, 2019
Watching Tiger Woods win the Master’s Golf Tournament this past weekend was a magical moment! I don’t know about you, but I was captivated by Tiger’s play and his remarkable return to the winner’s circle at Augusta National to capture his 5th Master’s title. I couldn’t pull myself away from the television throughout the entire final round. And the celebration after the 18th hole was pretty cool – it was great to see a golfer show so much emotion!!
With Tiger’s 15th major golf tournament won, it brought back all the talk about his chase of Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 major championships. As the pundits rambled on about this subject, I decided to take a deep look at the PGA Tour Players who have won the most major championships.
But we added a twist to our analysis. Professional golf is unlike the Olympic sports tradition where “champions” are recognized by a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place finish, winning either a gold, silver or bronze medal. Golf is now an Olympic sport so we thought we would also add in a column showing the number of second place finishes (or silver awards) that these the major champions have earned over the years.
Some interesting stuff as it is widely known that Jack Nicklaus has won the 18 major tournaments. But as not nearly as widely known is that Jack finished second a whopping 19 times. Jack’s 37 wins and 2nd place finishes (gold and silver) are dramatically higher than Tiger Woods at 2nd place with 21 wins of either 1st or 2nd place.
Let’s take a look at the winners:
Most Major Tournament Wins
|Rank||Golfer||Country||Year Won||Masters||US Open||British Open||PGA||Total|
|1||Jack Nicklaus||United States||1962-1968||6||4||3||5||18|
|2||Tiger Woods||United States||1997-2019||5||3||3||4||15|
|3||Walter Hogen||United States||1914-1929||0||2||4||5||11|
|4||Ben Hogan||United States||1946-1953||2||4||1||2||9|
|5||Gary Player||South Africa||1959-1976||3||1||3||2||9|
|6||Tom Watson||United States||1975-1983||2||1||5||0||8|
|8||Bobby Jones||United States||1923-1930||0||4||3||0||7|
|9||Gene Sarazen||United States||1922-1935||1||2||1||3||7|
|10||Sam Snead||United States||1942-1954||3||0||1||3||7|
|11||Arnold Palmer||United States||1958-1964||4||1||2||0||7|
|12||Lee Trevino||United States||1968-1984||0||2||2||2||6|
|15||John Henry Taylor||England||1894-1913||0||0||5||0||5|
|16||Bryon Nelson||United States||1937-1945||2||1||0||2||5|
|19||Phil Mickelson||United States||2004-2013||3||0||1||1||5|
Facts about Most Wins
- Did you know that Harry Vardon’s country of Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands between England and France. A self-governing dependency of the United Kingdom, with a mix of British and French cultures it’s known for its beaches, cliffside walking trails, inland valleys and historical castles. Plus, Harry brought home 7 major championships (1 US Open, 6 British Opens)
- Bobby Jones was one of the most influential figures in the history of golf who founded and helped design the Augusta National Golf Club, and co-founded the Masters Tournament.
- Three of the all-time winners – James Braid, John Henry Taylor and Peter Thomson – only won the British Open, albeit five times each!
- 12 of the 19 major champions are from the United States.
Most Second Place Finishes of the Major Winners
|Rank||Golfer||Country||Year Won||2nd Place|
|1||Jack Nicklaus||United States||1962-1968||19|
|2||Phil Mickelson||United States||2004-2013||11|
|3||Arnold Palmer||United States||1958-1964||10|
|4||Tom Watson||United States||1975-1983||8|
|5||Sam Snead||United States||1942-1954||8|
|6||John Henry Taylor||England||1894-1913||7|
|7||Tiger Woods||United States||1997-2019||6|
|8||Ben Hogan||United States||1946-1953||6|
|9||Gary Player||South Africa||1959-1976||6|
|11||Bryon Nelson||United States||1937-1945||6|
|12||Gene Sarazen||United States||1922-1935||4|
|14||Walter Hogen||United States||1914-1929||3|
|17||Bobby Jones||United States||1923-1930||0|
|18||Lee Trevino||United States||1968-1984||0|
Facts about 2nd Place Finishes:
- Jack Nicklaus also has a significant lead in number of 2nd place finishes, eight more than Phil Mickelson who has been the runner-up eleven times.
- Phil Mickelson is 2nd in number of 2nd place finishes compared to his 19th place standing for number of Major Championships.
Most Combined Wins and Second Place Finishes
|1||Jack Nicklaus||United States||1962-1968||18||19||37|
|2||Tiger Woods||United States||1997-2019||15||6||21|
|3||Arnold Palmer||United States||1958-1964||7||10||17|
|4||Tom Watson||United States||1975-1983||8||8||16|
|5||Sam Snead||United States||1942-1954||7||8||15|
|6||Ben Hogan||United States||1946-1953||9||6||15|
|7||Gary Player||South Africa||1959-1976||9||6||15|
|8||Phil Mickelson||United States||2004-2013||5||11||14|
|9||Walter Hogen||United States||1914-1929||11||3||14|
|11||John Henry Taylor||England||1894-1913||5||7||12|
|12||Bryon Nelson||United States||1937-1945||5||6||11|
|13||Gene Sarazen||United States||1922-1935||7||4||11|
|17||Bobby Jones||United States||1923-1930||7||0||7|
|19||Lee Trevino||United States||1968-1984||6||0||6|
Facts about Combined Wins:
- 12 of the 19 all-time Major Champions have won more titles than they have finishing second.
- Lee Trevino and Peter Thomson combined for 11 major victories and no second place finishes.
Tiger Woods victory at Augusta National Club this past weekend to earn his 5th Master’s Championship was one of the most memorable – epic was the word most often used – golf tournaments of all-time. As CBS’s Jim Nantz said, “Tiger’s comeback is one of the most remarkable comebacks – if not the most remarkable – in ALL of sports history. We agree with Jim Nantz. A truly captivating Master’s!!