Approaching two weeks ago, the world No. 1 golfer won his first major championship. In fact, Scottie Scheffler hadn’t won any sort of PGA Tour event until two months before his victory in the Masters, but that’s not the point for this. The question is: who are the best ten male golfers in history who never did get it over the line in one of golf’s four majors?
Until his success at Augusta, Scheffler was in line to be one of only three golfers to be ranked world No. 1 without ever winning a major. Lee Westwood (No. 1 for 22 weeks) and Luke Donald (56 weeks) were the others. Going back in time for a brief chronology, this is what we find.
Between 1910-1936, Macdonald Smith placed in the top-10 of the US Open nine times and likewise in the Open Championship seven times. Starting rather later, in 1923, but also finishing in 1936, Bobby Cruickshank was six times in the US Open top-10, had a sixth place in the 1929 Open, and had two top-10s at Augusta in the tournament founded by Bobby Jones, who had beaten him in a playoff for the 1923 US Open to begin the journey towards his 13 Grand Slams.
Harry Cooper had seven top-10s in the US Open and four in the Masters between 1927 and the outbreak of World War II. Christy O’Connor finished in the top-10 in the Open ten times, this in an age when mostly only Americans won it. Doug Sanders, who died in 2020, had four top-10s in the Open, including his heartbreaking playoff loss to Jack Nicklaus at St Andrews in 1970, five in the USPGA Championship, two in the US Open and one in the Masters – in 1966, when he finished in the top-10 in all four majors.
Moving on to the living, Bruce Crampton, now 86, had eight top-10 major finishes, including four as runner-up. Another Australian, Graham Marsh, had six top-10s in the majors among his 70-plus titles around the world. Peter Oosterhuis had eight of them, including at the 1973 Masters, where he held the third-round lead, which in the days before Sandy Lyle, Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam seemed a brazenly preposterous thing for a British golfer to do.
Moving (comparatively) right up to date, Colin Montgomerie won a record eight European Orders of Merit but never the US Open, which he was so close to three times in his five top-10s. He snaffled a further five top-10s in the other three majors, including a playoff loss (as he had at the US Open) in the USPGA. Lee Westwood, who will turn 49 this coming Sunday, has six Masters top-10s (including two seconds), four in the US Open, two in the USPGA and six in the Open, including a runner-up and a third place when finishing a shot out of the Stewart Cink/Tom Watson playoff in 2009.
As for Luke Donald (aged 44), he has eight top-10s in the majors. He caused a grin or two on social media last week when he noted that Tiger Woods would be playing in Ireland ahead of the Open at St Andrews by tweeting: “I too will be playing the JP McManus Invitational in July – just in case you were all wondering!”
We would perhaps be wondering a bit more if he had ever won a major. I mean, Tiger has 15 of the things. But I’ve just realised something: I’ve left you with a name too many. I have, in the fashion of a Spinal Tap amplifier, gone up to 11. Oh well – room for a little debate, I guess?
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