Jack Nicklaus' 2nd-Place Finishes in Majors

Jack Nicklaus photographed circa 1980
Jack Nicklaus is the all-time record-holder for second-place finishes in the major championships of men's professional golf. He had 19 runner-up finishes combined between The Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship. Only two other golfers have recorded at least 10 second-places in majors.

Of course, Nicklaus also holds the record for most wins in majors — 18. That's 37 combined first- or second-place showings in majors (and yes, that is also a record).

Nicklaus' first win in a major was in the 1962 U.S. Open; his last major championship victory was in the 1986 Masters. Eighteen wins over a 24-year span. His 19 runner-up finishes spanned 23 years, from 1960 to 1983.

The List: Every Time Nicklaus Was Runner-Up in a Major

  • 1960 U.S. Open: Nicklaus was a 20-year-old amateur taking his first crack at winning a major, playing alongside Ben Hogan for the final round. And after he eagled the 9th hole and birdied the 10th, Nicklaus was in the lead. In the end, though, he finished two strokes behind winner Arnold Palmer.
  • 1964 Masters: Nicklaus and Palmer were pretty evenly matched in tour (and major) successes through about 1966. In the 1964 Masters, it was Palmer who won again. Nicklaus was six shots behind (tied with Dave Marr).
  • 1964 British Open: Nicklaus was in second place behind Tony Lema after the third round, and he finished in second place behind Lema. He made up two strokes on Lema over the final round, but that only meant he finished five strokes behind.
  • 1964 PGA Championship: Yes, Nicklaus was runner-up in three of the four majors in 1964. (In the fourth, the U.S. Open, he tied for 23rd.) Here, Nicklaus charged in the final round with a 64, but that still left him tied (with Palmer) for second place, three strokes back of Bobby Nichols.
  • 1965 PGA Championship: Nicklaus was two strokes off the lead after 54 holes, and after 72 holes he was ... also two strokes off the lead. He tied for second with Billy Casper behind winner Dave Marr.
  • 1967 British Open: Nicklaus' second-place finish here, two strokes behind winner Roberto de Vicenzo, was the first of 12 consecutive majors without a victory for the Golden Bear. That was his longest such streak until the 1980s.
  • 1968 U.S. Open: This tournament marked Lee Trevino's first major championshp win, his first PGA Tour win, and it was the first of four times Nicklaus was runner-up to Trevino in a major. Nicklaus finished four back of Trevino after starting the final round seven strokes off the lead.
  • 1968 British Open: An opening-round 76 proved too much for Nicklaus to overcome, but just barely. Gary Player beat the runners-up, Nicklaus and Bob Charles, by two strokes.
  • 1971 Masters: Nicklaus and Charles Coody were the co-leaders after 54 holes, but Coody shot 70 in the final round to Nicklaus' 72. Nicklaus tied for second with Johnny Miller.
  • 1971 U.S. Open: Nicklaus played in four playoffs in majors, and this is the only one he lost. After tying Trevino at 280 at the end of the fourth round, Nicklaus lost the 18-hole playoff by three strokes, 68 for Trevino, 71 for Jack.
  • 1972 British Open: Trevino pipped Nicklaus again, this time by one stroke. Nicklaus had a stellar 66 in the final round, tying the course record, but was actually 1-over par on the final three holes. And he started the final round six shots behind Trevino, who might have saved the victory with a chip-in for par on the second-to-last hole.
  • 1974 PGA Championship: The fourth time that Nicklaus finished second to Trevino in a major happened here. And once again, Trevino beat him by a single stroke. Nicklaus was one behind Trevino after three rounds, and they matched 69s in Round 4.
  • 1976 British Open: The winner was Johnny Miller, and Nicklaus was a distant second, six strokes back. Tied with Nicklaus in second was 19-year-old Seve Ballesteros.
  • 1977 Masters: Trevino was a nemesis to Nicklaus in the late 1960s/early 1970s. Now Tom Watson took over. Like Trevino, Watson won four majors with Nicklaus as the runner-up. Watson birdied the second-to-last hole, Nicklaus bogeyed the last, producing the 2-stroke margin.
  • 1977 British Open: This tournament is remembered as "The Duel in the Sun" for the battle Watson and Nicklaus waged over the final 36 holes, pulling away from the rest of the field. Nicklaus shot 65-66, but Watson shot 65-65 to win by one.
  • 1979 British Open: 1979 was the first year of Nicklaus' pro career that he failed to win. He still managed a tie (with Ben Crenshaw) for second place here, three behind winner Seve Ballesteros.
  • 1981 Masters: Nicklaus had a four-stroke lead after 36 holes, but shot 75 in Round 3. That dropped him one stroke back of Watson entering the final round. In that last round, Watson scored 71, Nicklaus 72, and Jack tied Johnny Miller for second.
  • 1982 U.S. Open: Nicklaus began the final round three strokes off the lead. He shot 69 in the final round to post 284, with Watson still on the course and challenging. But Watson was in terrible position, in deep, thick rough off the 17th green, and Nicklaus was being interviewed on television as the presumed winner. Watson then hacked his ball out, onto the green and into the hole for birdie. Watson wound up winning by two.
  • 1983 PGA Championship: At the time of this tournament, there were some golf observers who were comparing Hal Sutton — his look, his game — to Nicklaus. That was silly, of course, but Sutton did beat Nicklaus by a stroke to win his only major. Nicklaus began the final round six behind Sutton's lead, then shot 66 to Sutton's 71.

And that 1983 PGA Championship was Nicklaus' 19th and last second-place finish in a major. It happened three years before his 18th and last victory in a major.

In the end, Nicklaus was runner-up four times in The Masters, four times in the U.S. Open, seven times in the British Open, and four times in the PGA Championship. At one time, Nicklaus held or shared the records for most second-place finishes in all four majors. His four U.S. Open seconds has since been surpassed, but he still holds the British Open and PGA Championship records and shares The Masters record.

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Photo credit: Jack Nicklaus circa 1980 photographed by David E. Lucas/via Columbus Metropolitan Library, no known copyright

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