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10 Greatest Golfers to Never Win a Major

10 Greatest Golfers to Never Win a Major

The Greatest Golfer to Have Never Won a Major. A dubious honour to have. Sort of like being called the wealthiest guy in the graveyard.

And listen, majors are hugely important. They are the yard stick upon which golfers are measured. People put more weight into Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors than they do in the 82 PGA Tour victories Sam Snead and Tiger Woods have racked up and rightly so…but they aren’t everything.

There are other ways golfers can be ranked. Ryder Cup. President’s Cup. Longevity. Worldwide victories. And so on and so forth. And we are going to rank the top 10 players who have never claimed a “big one”.

It’s timely too. Currently the highest number of major appearances without a win stands at 87 and is shared by Jay Haas and Lee Westwood. With the latter in contention at this week’s 2021 Open Championship at Royal St George’s, Westwood could sit alone at the top of that list if he doesn’t triumph. We actually outlined in our Open Championship preview that we think it could be time for him to finally taste major victory but for now that’s an if, a but and a maybe. 

In order to rank this properly, qualifying parameters have to be laid out. First off, this list takes into account all male golfers who have failed to win the traditional four majors. Senior majors do not count in this list. Secondly, comparing golfers from different eras can be extremely difficult so we are going to look exclusively at players who have played the bulk of their careers from 1970 onwards. This eliminates a lot of players who may have otherwise had a case to feature such as Christy O’Connor Snr, Moe Norman, Norman Von Nida, Doug Sanders, Macdonald Smith and Harry Cooper. Thirdly, any qualifying player has to be aged 35 or over. That removes the likes of Xander Schauffele and Rickie Fowler because, let’s face it, they’re going to win a major at some point in their careers and to include them on a list like this would be premature and pointless. 

This won’t be a list of the ten players who have performed best in majors and never won. That’s too easy a list and a bit one-sided to create. Golf is an international game with fantastic players hailing from all four corners of the globe and we will be taking an international approach.

So we’re looking at players from all over the globe who have played since 1970 and are 35 years of age or older. It’s a huge list. Many miss out. Scott Hoch, KJ Choi, Thomas Bjorn, Sam Torrance and Matt Kuchar don’t feature which shows the calibre of who has actually made the cut. 

And without any further delay, here is our top 10.

10. Ian Poulter

Major Appearances: 69

Cuts Made: 52

4th – 10th: 5 

3rd Place: 2

Runner Up: 1

Love him or hate him, Poulter is one hell of a golfer. His consistency over the past two decades has been superb, his confidence unwavering. He has won 17 professional events in his career, 10 on the European Tour, 1 on the PGA Tour and then two co-sanctioned WGC events.

He is best known though for his performances in the Ryder Cup where he became a talisman for Europe in their time of need. Perhaps his greatest moment in the event was his victory with Rory Mcilroy in the Saturday Fourballs at Medinah in 2012. His performance down the stretch was the inspiration and catalyst for the greatest European comeback in history.

Poulter is 45 now and still has a few chances to claim that elusive major.

Mark McNulty

9. Mark McNulty

Major Appearances: 50

Cuts Made: 34

4th – 10th: 1

3rd Place: 0

Runner Up: 1

Zimbabwean by birth but the Irish can claim him because he took up Irish citizenship in 2003, McNulty has had a fine career. A total of 59 professional wins worldwide, the main ones coming on the Sunshine Tour (33 wins) and the European Tour (16 wins). He represented Zimbabwe numerous times in his career, chiefly in the World Cup and Alfred Dunhill Cup and also played in two President’s Cups opposite the Americans.

From 1987 to 1992 he featured in the world’s top ten for a total of 83 weeks and has won the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit a total of 9 times. He played in 50 majors in his career and only ever managed two top tens. He finished joint runner up in the 1990 Open Championship in a tournament dominated by Nick Faldo.

Isao Aoki

8. Isao Aoki

Major Appearances: 42

Cuts Made: 29

4th – 10th: 4

3rd Place: 0

Runner Up: 1

Japan has produced some fine golfers over the years and Aoki is up there with the best of them. He “only” played in 42 major championships but it wasn’t for a lack of ability. Aoki won 51 times on the Japan Golf Tour, the second most of all time, became the first Japanese golfer to win on the PGA Tour and also won once on the European Tour. 

Aoki’s best major finish was in the 1980 US Open where he finished in a four-way tie for second, two shots behind Jack Nicklaus. He turned pro in 1964 but didn’t record his first victory until 1973, qualifying him for selection on this list.

Jay Haas

7. Jay Haas

Major Appearances: 87

Cuts Made: 68

4th – 10th: 14 

3rd Place: 2

Runner Up: 0

As mentioned in our preview above, Haas currently holds the record of most major starts without a victory along with Lee Westwood. 87 starts. To put that into context, that is the equivalent of playing in every single major bar one in a 23-year run which shows remarkable consistency from Haas.

During his career Jay won 9 times on the PGA Tour (he would achieve double this on the Senior’s Tour with 3 Senior’s Majors to boot). He featured in three Ryder Cups, amazingly all three were in different decades. 1983, 1994 and 2005!

Paul Casey

6. Paul Casey

Major Appearances: 69

Cuts Made: 48

4th – 10th: 10 

3rd Place: 1

Runner Up: 1

Someone who we still fancy to win a major before his career is done but time is starting to tick, and the competition is only getting stiffer. Casey is playing in his 70th Major this week and at the time of writing is in content though it is very early stages. 

He has won 15 times on the European Tour and 3 times on the PGA Tour to date with another few international wins sprinkled in. He has played in 4 Ryder Cups, amassing 6.5 points out of 12 matches and will no doubt be playing in Padraig Harrington’s team later this year. 

Masashi

5. Masashi “Jumbo” Ozaki

Major Appearances: 49

Cuts Made: 29

4th – 10th: 3

3rd Place: 0

Runner Up: 0

Don’t let the modest return of three top tens in majors fool you, Ozaki is the greatest Asian golfer of all time. Nicknamed Jumbo for his stature and length off the tee, he has won an incredible 114 professional events in his professional career with 94 of them coming on the Japan Golf Tour. The first of these wins came in 1973, the last came in 2002. 

Ozaki didn’t particularly like to travel outside of Japan and the first year he played in all four majors was in 1990 at the age of 43. It is an incredible pity as it really robbed the world of seeing Jumbo’s true talents. If he had been willing to travel throughout his career, who knows how many majors he would have won.

Steve Stricker

4. Steve Stricker

Major Appearances: 76

Cuts Made: 59

4th – 10th: 12 

3rd Place: 0

Runner Up: 1

The 2020 Ryder Cup Captain has long been known as one of the greatest putters of all time with few who can match him with the flat stick. 30 wins worldwide. 12 on the PGA Tour, one of which was the WGC match play in 2001. Unfortunately, could not replicate this form in the Ryder Cup in his three appearances at the event.

Despite his amazing consistency over the years, he never managed to capture a big one. He is 54 now and incredibly consistent on the Senior’s tour and has won 3 Senior’s majors already. He made the cut in this year’s PGA Championship and we expect him to appear in one or two more majors before he hangs up his clubs. A win? Barring a miracle it won’t happen. 

Luke Donald

3. Luke Donald

Major Appearances: 55

Cuts Made: 34

4th – 10th: 6 

3rd Place: 2

Runner Up: 0

24 players have made it to world number one. Only 2 of them don’t have a major. Donald is one of them. Small in stature and short in length, Donald’s success was predicated on amazing balance, incredible accuracy, a sharp short game and a red-hot putter.

17 wins in his professional career, 6 came on the European Tour, 4 on the PGA Tour and a co-sanctioned WGC event. He was an incredible match player, winning the WGC Accenture Match Play in 2011 and has one of the best records in Ryder Cup history; 10.5 points out of 15 matches in the Ryder Cup and a win percentage of 70%. 

The only criticism of Donald’s career is that maybe he didn’t win enough and certainly the lack of a major is just about the only thing missing from his CV. He’s 43 and after back injuries and a slump down the world rankings, it looks as though his chances have passed.

Lee Westwood

2. Lee Westwood

Major Appearances: 87

Cuts Made: 67

4th – 10th: 10 

3rd Place: 6

Runner Up: 3

We’re reaching the business end of this list. Westy is a phenomenal player. One of the most recognisable actions in golf his swing hasn’t changed a jot since he turned professional back in 1993. He has won 44 tournaments worldwide, including 25 on the European Tour, 2 on the PGA Tour and 8 on the Asian Tour.

A four-time European Tour Order of Merit winner, the latest coming last year aged 47, Westwood has all the pedigree of a great. Just not the major to go with it. He has come close time and time again and just never managed to get over the line. But he has a great chance at this week’s Open Championship and we think Westwood could finally break his duck at the ripe old age of 48.

Colin Montgomerie

1. Colin Montgomerie

Major Appearances: 75

Cuts Made: 46

4th – 10th: 4 

3rd Place: 1

Runner Up: 5

Who else could it be? Mr Ryder Cup. The Best Scottish Golfer of All-Time. Monty. An 8-time European Order of Merit winner it is scandalous to think he never won a major. He was runner up on 5 occasions and third on another. 

Colin has a list of accolades most of us could only dream of. 54 wins worldwide, 31 coming on the European Tour. In his Senior’s career he has claimed 3 majors but it’s just not the same. Monty is 58 and hasn’t featured in a major since 2016. Yes, Tom Watson almost won the Open Championship aged 59 in 2009 but we just can’t see the same happening for Montgomerie.

There have been many great players never to win a major and Monty is the greatest of them all.

 

Do you agree with our list? Who do you think the greatest of them all is? Let us know on our Facebook and Instagram pages. We look forward to hearing what you think.

Happy golfing, 

Halpenny Golf

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