How Often Does the Third Round Leader Win a Golf Major?

Blurred Golfer Making PuttThere are few sports that demonstrate the importance of a strong mentality quite like golf. It is just the player, their club and the ball on the course for most of their time there, occasionally accepting guidance or suggestions from their caddy but knowing that the ultimate decision lies with them. It is a sport that takes extreme mental fortitude to win, especially when the pressure comes on the player as the final holes approach.

Elsewhere on the site you can read about the number of golfers that have gone on to win a Major after leading on the opening day, so on this page we’ll tell you all about those that lead at the start of the final day and go on to win the trophy. The pressure of leading can be just as crushing for some golfers as the pressure of chasing a leading pack, so it’s fascinating to see how often the leader wins out.

How Often Does the 3rd Round Leader Win in the Majors?

Between 2000 and 2019, the leader or joint leader at the start of the final day went on to be the outright tournament winner in 48 out of 80 Major Championships played, or 60% of the time.

The 3rd round leader/joint leader won the PGA Championship in 65% of the tournaments played, 60% of the Open Championships and PGA Championships played, and won the US Open 55% of the time.

Overall, 106 players have held the lead either individually or jointly at the start of the final day’s play at the Majors between 2000 and 2019, with a 45.2% chance of going on to win the event in this period.

Winning 3rd Round Leaders in 20 Years’ Worth Of Majors

The four Majors in golf, namely the Masters, PGA Championship, US Open, the Open Championship, are some of the most popular events on the golfing calendar. The Ryder Cup is one of the few events that can match up, but the fact that it only takes place biennially and is formatted in an entirely different way means that it is treated differently to the Majors.

Typically speaking, the Majors take place over four days and feature 18 holes of golf per day for the participants. As with other golf tournaments, there is a cut off point at which the number of participants is culled, with only those that have managed to score fewer shots than a given number proceeding to the final half. It is common for the leader on the final day to go out last, meaning that he knows that his target is as the game progresses.

Given that the Open Championship, often also referred to as the British Open, began in 1860 and therefore offers nearly 170 years’ worth of results, we are going to slim things down to the 20 years between 2000 and 2019. This will still give us a really solid basis on which to base our thoughts and will give you plenty of ideas when it comes to placing a bet on the leader of any given Major before the final day gets underway.

Golf Majors: Winning Third Round Leaders – 2000 to 2019

Year Masters PGA Championship US Open Open Championship

There are a few notable things straight off the bat, including just what an incredible player Tiger Woods was. The 2009 PGA Championship was the only time when the American was either in the lead going into the final day or else was tied for the lead and didn’t go on to win the Major he was playing in. It’s little wonder, then, that so many people talk about Woods as having a truly elite mentality.

On 48 occasions, the player that was either in the lead on the final day or was tied for the lead went on to win the Major in question. That is 48 out of 80 occasions, meaning that the final day leader has gone on to win the Major that they’re playing in 60% of tournaments. That suggests that a bet on the final day leader is one well worth placing, especially if they’re ahead by more than a few shots and seem to playing well.

When you consider that the number of Day 1 leaders that go on to win the Major is around 17.5%, it’s a significantly higher number that have one hand on the trophy that go on to win it. It’s fairly clear that playing consistently well over four days isn’t easy, whereas keeping yourself within reach of the leaders and then peaking at the right time is the way to get yourself in with a shot of winning one of the Majors.

Which Major Does The Final Day Leader Win Most Often?

Now that we know how many final day leaders tend to go on and win the Major, the next interesting question to look at is whether there is one Major that tends to favour a player leading the way more than the others. Here is the breakdown of the tournaments, showing how many times the final day leader or joint-leader has then gone on to win the Major itself when all of the relevant golf has been played:

Chart That Shows the Number of Third Round Leaders or Joint Leaders That Went on to Win the Tournament in Each of the Four Majors Between 2000 and 2019

Whilst far from conclusive, it is fair to say that all of the Majors are essentially quite level when it comes to the number of times that the leader on the final day has gone on to win the tournament. The PGA Championship is slightly ahead of the others with 13, but any notion that that might be because of US courses being more generous than British ones is put to bed by the fact that the Open Championship comes in joint second with 12 winners leading on the final day alongside the Masters. The US Open is notorious for picking tough course though they third round leader/joint leader still won on 11 occasions.

Notable Final Round Leaders

Golfer Placing Ball on Tee

It’s perhaps not all that surprising that, in the world of golf, the same names tend to come up time and again. It is, as mentioned in the introduction to this piece, a game that requires a degree of mental fortitude in order for a golfer to win a Major. Resilience in the face of adversity is important, which is why it’s rare to see a golfer’s name only come up once in the tables below.

It’s not a shock to see Tiger Woods’ name come up time and again, such is the extent to which the American golfer dominated the sport for a time. It’s also interesting to see some names have a brief run before falling away slightly, with the likes of Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen and Pádraig Harrington falling into this bracket. They were golfers that shone brightly for a time before others came in to take their place.

The other thing that the table shows us is the name of golfers who stood the test of time. Names such as Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson come up repeatedly, sometimes as nearly men and others as those that were able to get themselves across the line at the moment that it mattered. If golf is game in which the player has to play against himself, those that managed to translate their final day lead into a Major are the ones that won the toughest battle of all.

Finally, it’s interesting to note that there have only been three occasions on which all four of the Majors have been won by either the leader or the joint-leader on the final day within the same year. Perhaps if you’re thinking of betting on the leader after Day 3, it might be worth checking out whether or not that has already happened in one of the other Majors earlier that year.

Full List of 3rd Round Leaders & Their Finishing Positions

Below, for each of the four golf majors, we have full lists of the third round leaders between 2000 and 2019 and their finishing position at the end of the final day’s play.

The Masters | PGA Championship | US Open | Open Championship

Masters 3rd Round Leaders – 2000 to 2019

Year Round 1 Leader(s) Score (to Par) Finishing Position
2019 Francesco Molinari 203 (-13) 5th (Tied)
2018 Patrick Reed 202 (-14) Winner
2017 Sergio Garcia 2010 (-6) Winner (Playoff)
2017 Justin Rose 210 (-6) 2nd (Playoff)
2016 Jordan Spieth 213 (-3) 2nd (Tied)
2015 Jordan Spieth 200 (-16) Winner
2014 Bubba Watson 211 (-5) Winner
2014 Jordan Spieth 211 (-5) 2nd (Tied)
2013 Angel Cabrera 209 (-7) 2nd (Playoff)
2013 Brandt Snedeker 209 (-7) 6th (Tied)
2012 Peter Hanson 207 (-9) 3rd (Tied)
2011 Rory McIlroy 204 (-12) 15th (Tied)
2010 Lee Westwood 204 (-12) 2nd
2009 Angel Cabrera 205 (-11) Winner (Playoff)
2009 Kenny Perry 205 (-11) 2nd (Tied, Playoff)
2008 Trevor Immelman 205 (-11) Winner
2007 Stuart Appleby 218 (+2) 7th (Tied)
2006 Phil Mickelson 212 (-4) Winner
2005 Tiger Woods 205 (-11) Winner (Playoff)
2004 Phil Mickelson 210 (-6) Winner
2004 Chris DiMarco 210 (-6) 6th (Tied)
2003 Jeff Maggert 211 (-5) 5th
2002 Tiger Woods 205 (-11) Winner
2002 Retief Goosen 205 (-11) 2nd
2001 Tiger Woods 204 (-12) Winner
2000 Vijay Singh 209 (-7) Winner

PGA Championship 3rd Round Leaders – 2000 to 2019

Year Round 1 Leader(s) Score (to Par) Finishing Position
2019 Brooks Koepka 198 (-12) Winner
2018 Brooks Koepka 198 (-12) Winner
2017 Kevin Kisner 206 (-7) 7th (Tied)
2016 Jimmy Walker 199 (-11) Winner
2015 Jason Day 201 (-15) Winner
2014 Rory McIlroy 200 (-13) Winner
2013 Jim Furyk 201 (-9) 2nd
2012 Rory McIlroy 209 (-7) Winner
2011 Jason Dufner 203 (-7) 2nd (Playoff)
2011 Brendan Steele 203 (-7) 19th (Tied)
2010 Nick Watney 203 (-13) 18th (Tied)
2009 Tiger Woods 208 (-8) 2nd
2008 Ben Curtis 208 (-2) 2nd (Tied)
2007 Tiger Woods 203 (-7) Winner
2006 Tiger Woods 202 (-14) Winner
2006 Luke Donald 202 (-14) 3rd (Tied)
2005 Phil Mickelson 204 (-6) Winner
2005 Davis Love III 204 (-6) 4th (Tied)
2004 Vijay Singh 204 (-12) Winner (Playoff)
2003 Shaun Micheel 206 (-4) Winner
2003 Chad Campbell 206 (-4) 2nd
2002 Justin Leonard 207 (-9) 4th (Tied)
2001 David Toms 196 (-14) Winner
2000 Tiger Woods 203 (-13) Winner (Playoff)

US Open 3rd Round Leaders – 2000 to 2019

Year Round 1 Leader(s) Score (to Par) Finishing Position
2019 Gary Woodland 202 (-11) Winner
2018 Brooks Koepka 213 (+3) Winner
2018 Dustin Johnson 213 (+3) 3rd
2018 Tony Finau 213 (+3) 5th
2018 Daniel Berger 213 (+3) 6th (Tied)
2017 Brian Harman 204 (-12) 2nd (Tied)
2016 Shane Lowry 203 (-7) 2nd (Tied)
2015 Jordan Spieth 206 (-4) Winner
2015 Dustin Johnson 206 (-4) 2nd (Tied)
2015 Branden Grace 206 (-4) 4th (Tied)
2015 Jason Day 206 (-4) 9th (Tied)
2014 Martin Kaymer 202 (-8) Winner
2013 Phil Mickelson 209 (-1) 2nd (Tied)
2012 Graeme McDowell 209 (-11) 2nd (Tied)
2012 Jim Furyk 209 (-11) 4th (Tied)
2011 Rory McIlroy 199 (-14) Winner
2010 Dustin Johnson 207 (-6) 8th (Tied)
2009 Ricky Barnes 202 (-8) 2nd (Tied)
2008 Tiger Woods 210 (-3) Winner (Playoff)
2007 Aaron Baddeley 212 (+2) 13th (Tied)
2006 Phil Mickelson 212 (+2) 2nd (Tied)
2006 Kenneth Ferrie 212 (+2) 6th (Tied)
2005 Retief Goosen 207 (-3) 11th (Tied)
2004 Retief Goosen 205 (-5) Winner
2003 Jim Furyk 200 (-10) Winner
2002 Tiger Woods 205 (-5) Winner
2001 Retief Goosen 205 (-5) Winner (Playoff)
2001 Stewart Cink 205 (-5) 3rd
2000 Tiger Woods 205 (-8) Winner

Open Championship 3rd Round Leaders – 2000 to 2019

Year Round 1 Leader(s) Score (to Par) Finishing Position
2019 Shane Lowry 197 (-16) Winner
2018 Kevin Kisner 204 (-9) 2nd (Tied)
2018 Xander Schauffele 204 (-9) 2nd (Tied)
2018 Jordan Spieth 204 (-9) 9th (Tied)
2017 Jordan Spieth 199 (-11) Winner
2016 Henrik Stenson 201 (-12) Winner
2015 Louis Oosthuizen 204 (-12) 2nd (Tied, Playoff)
2015 Jason Day 204 (-12) 4th (Tied)
2015 Paul Dunne 204 (-12) 30th (Tied)
2014 Rory McIlroy 200 (-16) Winner
2013 Lee Westwood 210 (-3) 3rd (Tied)
2012 Adam Scott 199 (-11) 2nd
2011 Darren Clarke 205 (-5) Winner
2010 Louis Oosthuizen 201 (-15) Winner
2009 Tom Watson 206 (-4) 2nd (Playoff)
2008 Greg Norman 212 (+2) 3rd (Tied)
2007 Sergio Garcia 204 (-9) 2nd (Playoff)
2006 Tiger Woods 203 (-13) Winner
2005 Tiger Woods 204 (-12) Winner
2004 Todd Hamilton 205 (-8) Winner (Playoff)
2003 Thomas Bjørn 212 (-1) 2nd (Tied)
2002 Ernie Els 208 (-5) Winner (Playoff)
2001 David Duval 207 (-6) Winner
2001 Bernhard Langer 207 (-6) 3rd (Tied)
2001 Ian Woosnam 207 (-6) 3rd (Tied)
2001 Alex Čejka 207 (-6) 13th (Tied)
2000 Tiger Woods 200 (-16) Winner