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The Open is not just golf’s oldest major but arguably its most coveted.
Winning the Claret Jug is the stuff of folklore for aspiring golfers dreaming of replicating their heroes and getting their hands on the famous silver chalice.
Many players have enjoyed their most defining moments in this great championship, but some of the most celebrated icons in golfing history have failed to win the event.
Here is a look at five of the biggest names to never taste Open glory…
Singh can be regarded as one of the best players to never win the Claret Jug. The Fijian hit his peak during the era of the indomitable Tiger Woods and his three major wins showed he had serious pedigree in the most eminent tournaments. He was a fantastic links player, too, finishing in the top ten four times at the Open. The closest he came to lifting the Claret Jug was when he had to settle for a runner-up spot one shot behind unlikely champion Ben Curtis at Royal St Georges.
Casper won three majors, including two of his national championships at the 1959 and 1966 US Opens. He won 51 PGA Tour titles in total, but was soon to be overshadowed by golf’s transformative “Big Three” of Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer. He was acknowledged as one of the best putters ever seen in the sport, but could not use his exceptional short game to guide him to victory around an Open links test. His best finish was a tie for fourth at the 1968 Championship at Carnoustie.
The 2014 Champion Golfer of the Year: @McIlroyRory
Will he be the 2023 Champion at Hoylake once again? pic.twitter.com/TaF9T01egb
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 10, 2023
Jose Maria Olazabal
Olazabal will always be remembered for his two Masters wins in 1994 and 1999, with his place at golf’s top table well and truly secure. His memories of the Open are not so fond, however, with two third place finishes the best he could muster in the great championship. He was a distant third when Woods won at St Andrews back in 2005 and was two shots shy of Sir Nick Faldo at the 1992 Open at Muirfield.
Nelson won five major championships and 52 times in total on the PGA Tour. The Open was the only tournament that stopped him joining the extremely exclusively club with a career grand slam. The trouble was that, during his decades of dominance across the 1930s and 40s, he rarely played in the historic championship. There was not enough value for Nelson at that time to travel to these shores and he enjoyed most of his success in his native America. Nelson’s highest finish in the Open was fifth place in 1937.
It would be remiss to exclude Westwood from a list of Open nearly men. Of course, the European great never got his hands on a major at all and the best player never to win one of the Big Four is a separate debate that Westwood features prominently in. The Englishman spent 22 weeks as the world number one and has runner-up or third place finishes in all four majors. His closest call in the Open came in 2009, where he spoke of his “sickening” near miss after his three putt when chasing Tom Watson down the last before Stewart Cink’s victory. Westwood will miss his first Open in 27 years at Hoylake after deciding against competing in Final Qualifying.
Like Westwood, Montgomerie belongs in the list of greatest players never to have won a major. He won 31 European Tour events and finished top of the circuit’s Order of Merit on a record eight occasions. But he never got it done on the biggest stage of all, and in truth, the Open was never in his grasp. He only had two top ten finishes in his home major and his sole runner-up spot was behind the dominant Woods at St Andrews in ’05.
Garcia will miss his first Open in 25 years after falling short in Final Qualifying at West Lancashire. The Spaniard has come agonisingly close to lifting the Claret Jug, most memorably in 2007 when he lost out to Padraig Harrington at Carnoustie. He narrowly missed the putt to defeat his rival to secure the title and was then beaten in a four-hole playoff by the Irishman.
Floyd is one of the only players to have won at least four major titles, but not the Open. Like Bryon Nelson, he was a Claret Jug short of a career grand slam, the feat that has only ever been achieved by five players. The 1976 Masters champion came closest two years after winning the Green Jacket, finishing second behind Jack Nicklaus in 1978.
Woosnam was one of the finest European golfers of his generation and cemented his legacy with his Masters triumph in 1991. The Welshman’s most famous scrape with The Open came in 2001, when he declared a two-shot penalty on himself whilst in contention at Royal Lytham for accidentally carrying 15 clubs. He ultimately finished four shots behind champion David Duval.
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