The Ten Best Players To Have Never Won The Masters

With the Masters beginning exactly a month from today, we look at a list of players who had – and some still have – all the ingredients to win at Augusta but who never slipped on that famous Green Jacket

The Ten Best Players To Have Never Won The Masters
Nick Price (left) set the course record at Augusta (63) in 1986, which was equalled by Greg Norman ten years later. But neither player has a Green Jacket
(Image credit: Getty Images)

No golf tournament throws up the thrills and spills quite like The Masters at Augusta, and over the years the heartbreak of defeat, those near-misses and late collapses, have proved just as memorable as the epic winning moments. 

The Masters has produced the fewest number of multiple winners (17) compared to the other three majors (US Open 22), PGA (20) Open (27), but this is mainly due to there having been only 85 events in comparison to 121 (US Open), 103 (PGA) and 149 (Open). But no other Major delivers the same roster of near-misses for players who have failed to register a win at Augusta. Put simply, the course has built a reputation to keep on punishing and haunting those who have failed before.

In the modern era, no players have suffered Augusta heartbreak to the extent of the ten below – and while one or two still have a chance of slipping on that Green Jacket, the rest have been consigned to the pile of second best despite seemingly having all the tools required for Masters success... 

The Ten Best Players To Have Never Won The Masters

Red alert: Tom Kite has arguably the greatest record at Augusta of any player not to win The Masters

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Tom Kite
It is one of life’s great mysteries how Tom Kite did not win the Masters. Twelve top-10 finishes over a 15-year span is some going, and between 1979 and 1984, his worst return was a tie for sixth place. Kite’s consistency – especially with his iron play and expert green-reading, made him the perfect fit for Augusta National. In 1997, at the age of 47, he famously finished second to Tiger Woods and while he was a distant second some 12 shots back, it was testament to his longevity that his score would have seen him win 34 of the previous 60 Masters.

Greg Norman
For a guy who spent the best part of 350 weeks ranked as the world’s best player, and who recorded nine top-10s as well as three second places, Greg Norman’s Masters career has something of a car crash feel to it. He let a chance go in 1986 with a horrible pushed approach to 18 and then a year later suffered at the hands of Larry Mize’s miraculous chip in a play-off. But nothing haunts him like giving away that six-shot lead to Nick Faldo in 1996, with an 11-shot Sunday swing condemning him to arguably the worst collapse in Major history.

David Duval
It is perhaps just a savage dose of bad luck that David Duval’s best golf at Augusta came when Tiger Woods was playing golf at a level never seen before. But during the height of his powers and before his game deserted him, he was one of a small handful of players (one of whom is also on this list) who had the skills to challenge Woods. From 1998 to 2001, he finished T2-T6-T3-2. His propensity to attack even the tightest of pins meant he was always a threat on the leaderboard, although it was a strategy that would sometimes see him come unstuck with a flurry of birdies followed by the occasional big number.

The Ten Best Players To Have Never Won The Masters

David Duval made four top-10 finishes from 1998 to 2001

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Johnny Miller
If the world rankings had been around in the early to mid 1970s, it is possible that Johnny Miller would have ruled supreme, despite Jack Nicklaus being in his pomp. Nobody had the skills to dismantle a golf course like Miller; his final-round 63 at a brutal Oakmont to win the 1973 US Open was testament to that. But amid all the brilliance, there were a number of missed opportunities and notably they came at the Masters where he had the potential to blow hot and cold. In 1971, Miller led with four holes to play, only to bogey at 16 and 18; then in 1975, weekend rounds of 65 and 66 would not be enough to surpass Nicklaus, and again in 1981, a closing 68 left him two shots adrift of Tom Watson. Many players have come closer and have shown more consistency at Augusta, but for sheer talent, Miller ranks as one of the true greats to never win here.

Lee Trevino
There were never any near-misses for Lee Trevino at Augusta, but for a golfer who had such a great short game – and who would win six Majors during a glittering career including two Opens, Two US Opens and two PGA Championships – it is baffling how poor his record is. Quite simply, ‘Supermex’ hated the place, and would famously once 'pray' the Masters committee would never invite him back. Two top 10s from 20 appearances sum it up, but more revealing was the fact that during the prime of his career Trevino famously boycotted the tournament three times – in 1970, 71 and 74 (a decision he said he hugely regretted). Trevino's shot shape, a fade, meant Augusta perhaps didn't suit his eye, but most of his demons appeared to be psychological. There were always complaints: from the way his caddie was treated to the lack of tickets he would receive for his entourage. But it was perhaps his uneasy relationship with chairman Clifford Roberts that did most of the damage. “We locked horns the first time we met,” Trevino once said. “I took a disliking to the man and he took a disliking to me.”

Ernie Els
Before his infamous putting woes began to cripple his game, Ernie Els was a constant feature on leaderboards at the Masters and it seemed inevitable that he would win a Green Jacket. Admittedly, his best days at Augusta came when Tiger Woods was ruling supreme but such was his consistency that from 2000 to 2004 his worst return was tied for sixth. The final year of that run was inevitably his last dance at Augusta as his game began to slip away on the greens. After finishing his round on that Sunday, Els waited on the nearby practice putting green, preparing for what seemed a likely playoff with Phil Mickelson. But as ‘Lefty’s’ 18-footer dropped for a winning birdie, Els was left standing in the rain contemplating another missed opportunity. He would never threaten again in the season's first Major.

The Ten Best Players To Have Never Won The Masters

Ernie Els missed out on a playoff at the 2004 Masters after Phil Mickelson holed from 18 feet to win on the 72nd hole

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Nick Price
Nick Price would endure a tempestuous relationship with Augusta National. He recorded four top 10s from 20 visits – not a bad return but nothing to write home about for a player noted as being one of the best iron players the game has seen. In 1986, he also set the course record – a nine-under-par 63 that ten years later would be equalled by his friend Greg Norman – but that came two days after opening the tournament by carding a horrible 79. Price won back-to-back majors in 1994 and briefly held the world No1 spot, but he would never really shine to that level at Augusta, with the exception of that course record.

Justin Rose
Justin Rose first threatened in the final round at Augusta when he put himself within one shot of the lead in 2007 with two holes to play – before Zach Johnson tidied things up for his first Major win. But he first raised eyebrows that he had the potential to challenge here in 2004 when he held the lead after the first and second rounds, only to slip away over the weekend. Always a presence, his biggest chance came when he let a three-shot lead slip away on the back nine in 2017 during his epic battle with Sergio Garcia, losing after the first playoff hole. Six top 10s from 16 outings is a decent return – but is there a win still in the tank?

The Ten Best Players To Have Never Won The Masters

Cabin fever: Rory McIlroy blew a four-shot lead in 2011, shooting a final-round 80 that included a triple bogey on the 10th hole

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Rory McIlroy
In 2015, Rory McIlroy was hunting the final part of the jigsaw that was dubbed the ‘Rory Slam’ by winning all four Majors. At that time, he was on top of his game – the reigning Open and PGA champion, and the dominant player in the world. But despite finishing fourth that year and recording four more top 10s since, he has never really looked like threatening a win on a  golf course that appears to be made for his game. His most infamous outing at Augusta came in 2011, when he led for the first three days and held a four-shot lead going into the final round only to collapse with a dismal 80 on Sunday that included a triple bogey seven at the 10th and a four-putt double bogey at 12. 

Hale Irwin
One of the grittiest players in the history of the game – and his three US Open wins spanning 16 years are testament to that. Hale Irwin once admitted that he thrived on the challenge of playing tough golf courses, which goes some way to explaining his win at one of the most brutal major set-ups at the 1974 US Open at Winged Foot. But at Augusta, he could never get over the line despite five top 10s on the spin from 1974. 

The Ten Best Players To Have Never Won The Masters

Hale Irwin won three US Opens, but there was no joy at Augusta

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Alex began his journalism career in regional newspapers in 2001 and moved to the Press Association four years later. He spent three years working at Dennis Publishing before first joining Golf Monthly, where he was on the staff from 2008 to 2015 as the brand's managing editor, overseeing the day-to-day running of our award-winning magazine while also contributing across various digital platforms. A specialist in news and feature content, he has interviewed many of the world's top golfers and returns to Golf Monthly after a three-year stint working on the Daily Telegraph's sports desk. His current role is diverse as he undertakes a number of duties, from managing creative solutions campaigns in both digital and print to writing long-form features for the magazine. Alex has enjoyed a life-long passion for golf and currently plays to a handicap of 13 at Tylney Park Golf Club in Hampshire.