The pantheon of great golfers spans back well over 100 years, but the greatest players have always been the ones who perform under clutch situations and heavy pressure. That’s what separates Hall of Famers from merely solid players. But have you ever wondered which golfer has won the most major championships? With so many amazing golfers in the history of the PGA Tour, it’s hard to pinpoint the best. If major championships are the measure of greatness, these golfers are clearly a cut—or a stroke—above the rest.
Although the top of the list of golfers who have won the most championships may not be all that difficult, the top 10 might surprise you. Mixed with players from numerous generations and eras, the most decorated golfers have used their talents to take home the hardware from the four major championships:
To exacerbate the difficulty of winning a major championship, consider that only 230 people have ever won a major golf tournament—one of the more shocking figures in golf history.
Only those willing to take that risky shot, sink long putts, and master the world’s most famous or difficult holes have made their way to the top of the list. Here’s the best of the best.
Which golfer has won the most major championships? None other than the legendary Jack Nicklaus. From 1962 to 1986, the Golden Bear won 18 men’s major championships, starting with the 1962 U.S. Open and concluding with the 1986 Masters Tournament.
However, Nicklaus was in solid form from the earliest part of his career. At the young age of 22, Nicklaus won an 18-hole playoff at the 1962 U.S. Open against the legendary Arnold Palmer—his first of three playoff championship victories, cementing himself as one of the most exciting and talented players in golf.
In total, Jack Nicklaus won six Masters, five PGA Championships, four U.S. Opens, and three Open Championships, becoming one of only five golfers ever to earn a career grand slam. Oh yeah, and he finished runner-up in a championship 19 times—yet another record for arguably the greatest golfer of all time.
Professional golf has had many stars, but none have reached the superstar status of Tiger Woods. Between 1997 and 2019, Tiger Woods totaled 15 major wins, the longest #1 ranking in the history of the game (281 weeks), and a jaw-dropping 14 major championship victories in 12 years.
While personal issues, a revolving door of caddies, and injuries have derailed the recent chapter in Woods’ career, he was a five-time winner of the Masters, a four-time winner of the PGA Championship, and a three-time winner of both the U.S. Open and the Open Championship.
At times, Woods was downright dominant on the world golf stage. His first major—the 1997 Masters—he won by 12 strokes; the 2000 U.S. Open—by 15.
However, Woods had a penchant for drama. Seemingly doomed to finishing runner-up or even miss the cut, Woods always seemed to channel another level in the final round to take home championship wins. With ultimate precision and ice in his veins, the fist-pumping, hat-tossing master won three playoffs to boot.
Which golfer has won the most major championships without winning a Grand Slam? None other than Walter Hagen.
Born in 1892 in Rochester, New York, only hardcore fans recognize the name Walter Hagen. Nevertheless, Hagen was one of the greatest golfers of his time, taking home 11 majors from 1914 to 1929, including five PGA Championships, four British Opens, and two U.S. Open victories. He was also the first American-born player to win the British Open, giving him worldwide prestige and fame.
However, the proclaimed “Father of Professional Golf” was known just as much for his flamboyant wardrobe and charisma as he was for swinging a golf club. He was the first golfer to earn $1 million and wore tailored suits in bright colors while he played, and was quoted as saying “I never wanted to be a millionaire, just to live like one."
Walter Hagen never won a career grand slam, but it’s not his fault. The Masters at August National was only established two years before his retirement. Had it been around earlier, surely he would have been the sixth player to have won the coveted grand slam.
The South African-born Gary Player is one of only two non-U.S. golfers to earn more than six major championships during their career. Nicknamed “The Black Knight,” Player was a championship winner nine times, including victories in three Masters, three Open Championships, two PGA Championships, and one U.S. Open. He became the third person to win a grand slam, following Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.
From 1959 to 1978, he was arguably the best golfer in the world, winning over 150 tournaments on all six continents. Following his retirement, Player has designed 400 golf courses and authored 36 instructional books. All in all, his seven decades in the sport—on and off the course—are an impressive feat that probably won’t be eclipsed.
In just eight years from 1946 to 1953, Ben Hogan won an amazing nine major championships—perhaps the most successful run in golf history. Even a head-on collision with a Greyhound bus in 1949 couldn’t derail his success.
He was also the second player to win the golf grand slam, including a watershed 1953 season that saw Hogan win three of the four majors—a feat only equaled by Tiger Woods.
If you’re starting late on the golf course and looking to lower your handicap, Hogan can also act as a motivation. He didn’t win his first major until the ripe age of 34.
Often known as the rival of Jack Nicklaus—even taking away the Golden Bear’s #1 ranking in 1977—Tom Watson won five Open Championships, two Masters, and one U.S. Open title.
With boy-next-door looks and fierce competitiveness, he earned the name Huckleberry Dillinger, a play on the title character of the Mark Twain novel and gangster John Dillinger. He was also known for his longevity, leading the Open Championship in 2009 at the age of 60, but ultimately losing in a four-hole playoff to Stewart Cink.
Tom Watson won eight major championships over his career, but could never earn the elusive PGA Championship victory to propel him to the grand slam. Still, he remains an iconic figure in the game and one of the greatest players ever to hit the links.
Interestingly, Watson is also regarded as the finest putter the game has ever known. If you want to hone your putting game, hop on YouTube and watch the putting master in action.
Surprisingly, “The King” won “only” seven majors during his career and never solved the course to win a PGA Championship. Despite this shortfall, Arnold Palmer is one of the most famous players ever due to his friendly demeanor, charity work, and outgoing personality.
He won four Masters, two British Opens, and one U.S. Open between 1958 and 1964 when he dominated the ranks of the PGA Tour. And while he didn’t win the grand slam, his legacy on and off the course, as well as his eponymous beverage—a mix of lemonade and iced tea—will never be forgotten.
During his dominant run from 1942 to 1954, Sam Snead won seven majors—an impressive feat by any stretch. However, his 82 PGA victories over the course of his career are tops all-time—tied only with Tiger Woods.
A natural on the golf course with little formal instruction, Snead was adored by his fellow golfers. Gary Player once said, “I don't think there's any question in my mind that Sam Snead had the greatest golf swing of any human being that ever lived.”
Maybe that’s why he won three Masters, three PGA Championships, and one Open Championship—just a hunch.
From 1923 to 1930, Bobby Jones won four U.S. Opens and three Open Championships. However, his best feat was his career “grand slam” — done entirely in the 1930 season.
Jones played prior to the creation of the PGA Championship and the Masters, but he won the the two other tournaments considered majors at the time—the British Amateur Championship and the U.S. Amateur Championship—on top of the U.S. Open and Open Championship.
If you’re wondering which golfer has won the most major championships, but was also the first to win a grand slam, the answer is Gene Sarazen. Although it took him 14 years from his first major until winning the elusive 1934 Masters, Sarazen was the best golfer of his era.
Perhaps more interestingly, Sarazen simply took jobs at famous courses in the New York area, piecemealed a set of golf clubs, and taught himself to play—not too shabby for the son of poor immigrants from Sicily.
Winning the Open Championship a record six times and adding a single U.S. Open title in 1900, Harry Vardon was perhaps the greatest golfer at the turn of the 19th century.
Born and raised on the autonomous island of Jersey in the English Channel, he started as a greenskeeper in England at the age of 20 and turned professional just a year later. If there ever was a naturally gifted player, Vardon might be it.
The major champions listed above are a testament to just how difficult it is to win a major. Perhaps that’s why it’s surprising that so many famous golfers are omitted from this list. While any major victory is an outright accomplishment, you may not see your favorite golfer—but even hall-of-fame caliber golfers can’t win every year.
Here are some of the most famous golfers and how they’ve fared in golf majors over the years:
Several other famous golfers—such as Dustin Johnson, John Daly, Justin Thomas, and Bubba Watson—each have two major titles. But with several years to add more to the trophy case, don’t be surprised if they flirt with the top 10 on this list.
The interesting part about which golfer has won the most championships—it’s always a challenge for new competitors. Maybe that’s what makes golf such a magical sport to