Which Golfer Has Played The Masters The Most Times Without Winning? Rory McIlroy Isn’t Even Close To The Record

The Masters logo on a green jacket

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Winning one of golf’s four major tournaments is a lifelong dream for people who’ve devoted most of their existence to the sport.

There’s obviously something to be said for winning the PGA Championship or raising the Claret Jug at the British Open, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest there’s no higher honor than earning the right to don the green jacket and join the exclusive list of people who’ve come out on top at The Masters.

Rory McIlroy was able to rack up victories at the U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA Championship over the span of just three years starting in 2011, but the man who will be competing in his 14th tournament at Augusta National in 2023 has been unable to cap off the career grand slam with The Master championship that continues to elude him.

McIlroy did what he could to cross The Masters off of his list in 2022, and while the -7 he shot during the tournament was good enough for second place, he still finish three strokes behind Scottie Scheffler.

Those two men (along with Jon Rahm) are at the top of the list of favorites to walk away with the green jacket when everything is said and done in 2023, but if the Northern Irishman fails to complete the quartet, he’ll head back The Masters next year knowing one of the biggest remaining gaps on his résumé will once again be a major storyline.

However, Rory can take a bit of solace in knowing there are other golfers who’ve had even more chances to take on Augusta without coming away with the win—including one man who tops the list of the individuals who came up short on the highest number of occasions.

Which golfer competed in The Masters the most times without winning it?

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No person has competed in the masters more than Gary Player, who took part in the tradition unlike any other a grand total of 52 times before participating for the last time in 2009 (he’s apparently soured on the tournament a bit based on what he had to say before the 2023 edition).

However, Player was able to set that record with the help of the lifetime exemption that’s granted to every golfer who wins the event (which is also how Arnold Palmer played in The Masters 50 years in a row).

The nature of golf means you’re not going to have the chance to try to win The Masters as much as McIlroy and others have unless you’re a consistent player who’s able to sustain a certain level of talent and success over an extended period of time.

Gene Littler more than fit that particular bill, as the California native recorded his first PGA Tour victory in 1955 and secured the last of his 29 tournament wins (which included a triumph at the U.S. Open in 1961) more than 20 years later at the Houston Open in 1977.

Littler got the chance to tackle Augusta on 26 separate occasions and averaged a score of 72.9 (around one over par) during the 100 rounds he played at The Masters.

In 1962, Littler secured a fourth-place finish after finishing two strokes behind the trio of players who participated in the playoff that resulted in Arnold Palmer becoming the champion.

In 1970, he earned the right to face off against Billy Casper in another playoff but was forced to settle for second after losing by five strokes. He had another solid showing the following year but once came in fourth after finishing his final round four strokes behind winner Charles Coody.

As a result, Littler has the somewhat dubious distinction of being the golfer who’s tried (and failed) to win The Masters more than any other.

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