Arnold Palmer in the Majors: His Wins and Near-Misses

Arnold Palmer with Bobby Jones after Palmer's win in the 1958 Masters
Arnold Palmer (left) receives a plaque from Bobby Jones after winning the 1958 Masters Tournament. Bettman/Getty Images

Arnold Palmer had a long, legendary career in golf, first on the PGA Tour and then on the senior tour. From 1958 through 1964, he was all over the leaderboards at golf's major championships: During that stretch he won seven of them, and the bulk of his Top 10s also came during that era.

Key Takeaways

  • Arnold Palmer won seven times in PGA Tour major championships during his career.
  • He was the first golfer to win The Masters four times, but never won the PGA Championship.
  • He was runner-up 10 times in major championships.
  • Palmer also won one amateur major and five senior majors.

Let's take a look at The King's performance in the majors, starting with his victories:

Palmer's 7 Major Wins in Chronological Order

  • 1958 Masters: Arnie's Army was born, Amen Corner was named, there was a huge rules dispute between Palmer and Ken Venturi. This was a momentous major. Palmer won by one stroke over Doug Ford and Fred Hawkins.
  • 1960 Masters: Palmer won by a single stroke over runner-up Ken Venturi.
  • 1960 U.S. Open: Palmer's only victory in the U.S. Open championship was by two strokes over an amateur golfer named Jack Nicklaus.
  • 1961 British Open: After losing by one stroke (to Kel Nagle) the year before in the Open, Palmer this year won the Open Championship by one stroke over Dai Rees.
  • 1962 Masters: Palmer beat Gary Player and Dow Finsterwald in a playoff for his third Green Jacket. He scored 68 to Player's 71 and Finsterwald's 77.
  • 1962 British Open: A six-stroke victory over runner-up Kel Nagle gave Arnie back-to-back wins in the Open.
  • 1964 Masters: Palmer's final win in a major championship was also by six strokes; the distant runners-up were Nicklaus and Dave Marr.

Arnie's total of seven wins in majors is tied for seventh-best in golf history. Others on the list of golfers with the most major wins with seven wins are Bobby Jones (not including his amateur majors), Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead and Harry Vardon.

Palmer's Major Wins by Tournament

Palmer was the first golfer to win The Masters four times, but his lack of victories in the PGA Championship prevented Arnie from claiming the Career Grand Slam. Palmer finished tied for second in the PGA Championship three times.

Palmer's Playoff Losses and 2nd-Place Finishes in Majors

Palmer lost three times in playoffs for the U.S. Open:

  • 1962 U.S. Open: Shot 74 to Jack Nicklaus' 71; this was Nicklaus' first win in a major championship.
  • 1963 U.S. Open: Shot 76 too Julius Boros' 70 (Jacky Cupit, the third man in the playoff, scored 73).
  • 1966 U.S. Open: Shot 73 to Billy Casper's 69. This playoff took place after Palmer blew a seven-stroke lead with nine holes to play in the final round. Palmer led in the playoff, too, before Casper came back to win.

Palmer placed second twice in The Masters (1961, 1965); four times in the U.S. Open (1962, 1963, 1966, 1967); once in the British Open (1960); and three times in the PGA Championship (1964, 1968, 1970).

That's a total of 10 runner-up finishes in majors.

Palmer's Top 10s in Majors

Palmer's first Top 10 finish in a major was 10th place at the 1955 Masters. And his last was seventh place at the 1977 British Open. In all, Palmer finished in the Top 10 at 38 majors.

  • The Masters: 12 finishes in the Top 10
  • U.S. Open: 13
  • British Open: 7
  • PGA Championship: 6

Palmer's Amateur and Champions Tour Majors

Palmer also won amateur and senior majors, before and after his PGA Tour career.

Amateur Majors:

  • 1954 U.S. Amateur

Senior Majors:

  • 1980 Senior PGA Championship
  • 1981 U.S. Senior Open
  • 1984 Senior PGA Championship
  • 1984 Senior Players Championship
  • 1985 Senior Players Championship

The 1981 U.S. Senior Open was just the second time that tournament was played, and Palmer won it in a playoff over Billy Casper and Bob Stone. An interesting note: When the U.S. Senior Open debuted in 1980, the minimum age to play was 55. But Palmer had just turned 50. By Year 2, the USGA realized that keeping Arnold Palmer out was was kinda silly. So they lowered the age requirement to 50-and-over, Palmer became eligible, he played and won.

His first senior major win, the 1980 Senior PGA, also came via playoff (over Paul Harney).