After the exceptional roller coaster of emotions that we experienced last week at the Open Championship when Zach Johnson won his second major with a South African finishing second to him again, the chance to watch another major was presented to us already with the Senior Open Championship that produced a last hole battle to see Marco Dawson win the biggest title of his life. It made me wonder, who has won the most Champions Tour (golfers over 50) majors and would there be some more unknown names. The Champions Tour was started in 1980 with only 2 majors, but it now has 5 major championships per year. Here are the men with the most Major wins.
1. Jack Nicklaus (USA) – 8 Champions Tour Majors
Its no surprise who is the top of the charts here as the Golden Bear also holds the record for most major championships on the normal PGA Tour. Nicklaus also holds the record as the only person to have won four different senior majors. At the time, this was a ‘Career Grand Slam’ as the Senior British Open did not become the 5th major until 2003, by which time Nicklaus had effectively retired from senior golf (his only appearance in the Senior British Open was in 2003). Nobody has managed to win all five different majors.
2. Hale Irwin (USA) – 7 Champions Tour Majors
Hale Irwin is most famous for being the oldest winner of the US Open when he won his third US Open title in 1990 at the age of 45. It would prove to be his last major on the regular tour, but he underlined his love for the US Open winning the senior equivalent twice and coupling it with four senior PGA Championships and one Senior Players Championship. Impressively he won a senior major in 5 consecutive years from 1996.
3. Gary Player (RSA)- 6 Champions Tour Majors
South Africa’s greatest ever export, at least in his own words, coupled his 9 regular majors with 6 Champions Tour majors. The Black Knight may very well have won more than that, but in the time he played there were only 3 in the initial years. Between 1986 and 1988 he won 5 out of the 7 in play. He completed the Slam at that time when he won PGA, US Open and the Senior Open before the Tradition was added in 1989.
3. Tom Watson (USA) – 6 Champion Tour Majors
Tom Watson won 8 career majors on the regular tour where he has still competed up until recent times (He missed the cut at the recently completed Open Championship). In 2001 Tom won his first Senior Major and had already won five of the six senior majors that he would win before almost creating the greatest story in the history of sport. Instead what happened was that Stewart Cink became the most unpopular winner of a Major ever at the 2009 Open Championship. He would still win another Senior Major and is still very active on the Champions Tour with hopes of winning more.
T5. Miller Barber (USA) – 5 Champion Tour Majors
So Miller Barber is the most interesting inclusion on the list. The late American was a winner on the PGA Tour 11 times but was never able to win a regular Major. His best being a 4th placed finish in 1971 at the PGA Championship. On the Senior Tour he proved far more successful with 24 Champions Tour wins including 5 Senior Majors. Miller Barber passed away at the age of 82 in 2013.
T5. Arnold Palmer (USA) – 5 Champion Tour Majors
Its no surprise that the third member of the “big three” features here too. Arnie won his Senior Majors when there were only two and three majors on the Champions Tour. He still managed to win the PGA twice, the Players twice and of course the US Senior Open, completing a slam of the available trophies back then. Until 2015 he was an honorary starter at Augusta each year and still a big part of the golfing world.
T5. Bernhard Langer (GER) – 5 Champion Tour Majors
Bernhard Langer has probably one of the best heads in the game of golf. On the regular tour he won 42 European Tour events (the second most in history) and 3 on the PGA tour which included two Green Jackets. He has won 24 Senior events since his first win in 2007 and picked up 5 Majors including the PGA, the Open and the Players. At 58 he is still a big force on the Champions Tour and could yet pick up a few more as shown by his runner up finish this past weekend.