12 Best Golfers Who Never Won a Major Championship (Men)

golfer Colin Montgomerie playing a shot

Winning a major championship is the crowning achievement of many professional golf careers. For a select few golfers, it was even a habit. But there are many good to great golfers in the game's history who never won a major. Below is our ranking of the 12 best golfers who never won a men's major.

(Related: All-time best LPGA golfers who never won a major)

There are four major championships in men's professional golf. They are the British Open (first played in 1860), the U.S. Open (1895), PGA Championship (1916) and The Masters (1934).

12. Bobby Cruickshank

Bobby Cruickshank won 17 times on the PGA Tour — still in the Top 50 all-time — in the 1920s and 1930s. He lost a playoff to Bobby Jones in the 1923 U.S. Open and tied second in the 1932 U.S. Open. He had 16 Top 10 finishes in major. While he never won a major, Cruickshank did win some major money when he placed a big bet before the 1930 season on Jones, who went on to a Grand Slam year.

12. Dave Hill

Dave Hill was a 13-time PGA Tour winner in the 1960s and 1970s, who also had six Top 10 finishes in majors in the 1970s. One of those was second place in the 1970 U.S. Open. Which is ironic, because what Hill is probably most famous for today is how much he complained about and insulted the golf course that year. It was Hazeltine National's first men's major, and Hill hated the course. When asked what he though Hazeltine needed, he replied, "80 acres of corn and a few cows."

"They ruined a good farm when they built this," Hill continued. "They should plow it up and start over." Hill was fined in the middle of the tournament when he wouldn't stop ripping the course. He planned, if he won, to ride a tractor to the trophy presentation, but finished second.

10. Mike Souchak

Mike Souchak was a 15-time PGA Tour winner, and for many years held or shared tour scoring records. His 60 in the first round of the 1955 Texas Open shared the 18-hole scoring record until 1977. That round included a record-setting 27 on the back nine, a score not tied until 1975 or broken until 2006. His 72-hole score of 257 was the tour record until 2001. Souchak had 11 Top 10 finishes in majors, with best showings of tied for third at the 1959 and 1960 U.S. Opens.

9. Dutch Harrison

From 1939 through 1958, Dutch Harrison won 18 times on the PGA Tour, and led the tour in scoring average in 1954. He had nine Top 10 finishes in major. His best showing was tied for third in the 1960 U.S. Open.

8. Bruce Lietzke

Lietzke was sometimes kidded by his tour colleagues for being a "part-time tour player," because he played relatively light schedules and was known for a relatively light practice schedule. He still won 13 times on the PGA Tour from the 1970s into the 1990s. Lietzke had seven Top 10 finishes in majors, including second place at the 1991 PGA Championship — the tournament famous as John Daly's debut on the national golf scene.

7. Scott Hoch

On the first hole of a playoff against Nick Faldo at the 1989 Masters, Hoch had a two-foot putt to win. He missed, then Faldo won it on the next hole. That was two years after he three-putted the final green at the 1987 PGA Championship to miss a playoff. Hoch had 11 PGA Tour wins and led the tour in scoring average in 1986. He also won on the Japan Tour, Korean Tour and European Tour. He had 15 Top 10 finishes in majors.

6. Lee Westwood

Westwood won only twice on the PGA Tour in his career that spanned from the 1990s into the 2020s. But he won 25 times on the European Tour, eighth best in that tour's history. Westwood led the Euro Tour Order of Merit three times and was its Player of the Year four times. And he also has wins on the Japan Tour, Asian Tour, Sunshine Tour, Australasian Tour and still others. In majors, Westwood has 19 Top 10 finishes, 12 of those Top 4. He was third six times, and Westwood was runner-up in three majors: the 2010 Masters, 2010 British Open and 2016 Masters.

5. Bruce Crampton

One could argue that if not for Jack Nicklaus, Crampton would be a multi-major winner. Crampton was runner-up in majors four times — all four times to Nicklaus. He was solo second in the 1972 U.S. Open, 1973 PGA Championship and 1975 PGA Championship, and tied second in the 1972 Masters. Crampton had eight Top 10s overall in majors. He had 14 career wins on the PGA Tour from 1961 to 1975, plus wins on the Australasian Tour and Asian Circuit. He later won 20 times on the Champions Tour.

4. Colin Montgomerie

Monty never won on the PGA Tour, but never played it all that much, either. He focused on the European Tour, where his 31 wins rank four all-time. He was the Euro Tour's Player of the Year four times, and led the tour in money a record eight times, including seven years running (1993-99). He also was, arguably, the best-ever Ryder Cup player.

Unfortunately for Montgomerie, he also holds the record for most second-place finishes in majors without winning one: He was runner-up five times. Montgomerie was solo second in the 1995 PGA Championship, 1997 U.S. Open and 2005 British Open. He tied for second in the 1994 U.S. Open and 2006 U.S. Open. In addition, Monty was third in the 1992 U.S. Open.

He had 10 Top 10 finishes total in majors. He lost an 18-hole playoff in the U.S. Open in 1994, and at the 1995 PGA, Montgomerie lost on the first sudden-death playoff hole to Steve Elkington. He would have won the U.S. Open in 2006 with a par on the final hole, but bogeyed.

3. Doug Sanders

Funny and flamboyant, Sanders was a star of his era, which ranged from the 1950s into the 1970s. He won 20 times on the PGA Tour, a number fewer than 40 golfers in tour history have reached. Like Crampton, Sanders had four second-place finishes in majors. Most famously (or infamously), Sanders missed a 2½-foot putt on the 72nd green that would have won him the 1970 British Open. Instead, he lost to Nicklaus in an 18-hole playoff.

Sanders tied for second in the 1959 PGA Championship, 1961 U.S. Open and 1966 British Open. He also finished third in the PGA Championships of 1960 and 1961, was fourth in two majors, and had 13 Top 10 finishes overall in majors.

2. Harry Cooper

"Lighthorse Harry" Cooper won 29 times on the PGA Tour from the early 1920s to the late 1930s. That's more wins than Gary Player, Johnny Miller or Tommy Armour had. Only 16 golfers in the history of the PGA Tour won more tournaments than Cooper — and every one of them won at least one major, most of them won at least three.

Cooper won zero majors. In his own time, he was infamous for his failure to win any. His reputation for failing in majors even followed him to the grave: In their obituary for him when he died at age 96, the New York Times' headline called him an "unlucky golfer."

Cooper was the first golfer to finish second in four majors without winning any. He was runner-up in the 1927 U.S. Open, 1936 Masters, 1936 U.S. Open and 1938 Masters.

At the 1927 U.S. Open, Cooper lost an 18-hole playoff to his childhood friend, Armour. At the U.S. Open in 1936, Cooper got in the clubhouse with a new tournament scoring record. Unfortunately for Cooper, that record only lasted about an hour, until Tony Manero broke it to win the tournament.

Cooper played in 38 majors over his career. He finished in the Top 10 in exactly half of them — 19 times. In addition to his four second-place finishes, he was third twice and fourth four times.

1. Macdonald Smith

It's a close call between Smith and Cooper for which of them deserves the No. 1 spot on this list. But we've gone with Macdonald Smith, whose 25 official PGA Tour victories occurred from the early 1910s to the mid-1930s, overlapping in the later years with Cooper's career.

Smith was runner-up in three majors (the 1930 British Open and U.S. Open, plus the 1932 British Open), two of them in Bobby Jones' grand slam year. He took a 5-stroke lead into the final round of the 1925 British Open but wound up fourth. Smith had five Top 5 finishes in the U.S. Open and seven in the British Open (he never played the PGA Championship and The Masters' 1934 debut happened near the tail-end of his career).

Smith's 25 wins are second only to Cooper's 29 among PGA Tour golfers who never won a major. Those 25 PGA Tour wins, though, are the most by any golfer who is not (not yet, anyway) in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Why did we place him and no Cooper at No. 1 on this list? Cooper played full schedules on tour for many years. Smith never did, in a lot of years not even reaching 10 starts. His 25 victories came in, according to PGA Tour records, just 107 career starts. Smith won nearly a quarter of the tournaments he played.

Photo credit: James Phelps, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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