Wait a minute, I hear you say. Are you seriously suggesting that Jack Nicklaus, arguably the greatest golfer of all time, underachieved in any way, shape, or form? The short answer to that question is no, not really, but Nicklaus’ name is included here not solely for devilment.
What you may not know is that, while ‘The Golden Bear’ won a record 18 major championships during his career, three more than his nearest pursuer, Tiger Woods, he also finished runner-up in 19 more. Nicklaus turned professional in 1961 and, the following June, recorded the first of 117 professional victories, in the 1962 US Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. On that occasion, he beat Arnold Palmer by three strokes in an 18-hole playoff.
However, although still only 22, Nicklaus was playing in his sixth US Open, having already finished second, two strokes behind Palmer, while still an amateur in 1960. Nicklaus would win the US Open again in 1967, 1972 and 1980, but also finished second in 1968, 1971 and 1982. In the Masters Tournament, which he won a record six times between 1963 and 1986, Nicklaus finished tied second three times, in 1964, 1971 and 1981, and second on his own in 1977. Likewise, Nicklaus won the Open Championship three times in 1966, 1970 and 1978, but was second, outright or tied, on six other occasions. It was a similar story in the PGA Championship, which he won five times between 1963 and 1980, but also outright and tied second twice apiece.
All told, in his career as a whole, Nicklaus contested 164 major championships – including an unbroken sequence of 154 between 1957 and 1998 – and his record of 18 wins is unlikely to be beaten any time soon. Granted the narrow margins by which major championships can be won and lost, future generations of golfers can thank their lucky stars that Nicklaus didn’t win more than he did!