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Doug Sanders, 20-time PGA Tour winner and four-time major runner-up, dies

April 12, 2020
Augusta National Archive

Augusta National

Doug Sanders, one of the more colorful personalities in the PGA Tour's tapestry, died in Houston on Sunday.

Sanders was a 20-time winner on Tour, which included a victory at the 1956 Canadian Open as an amateur, the last amateur to win a Tour event until Scott Verplank's victory in the 1985 Western Open. But Sanders was just as well known for finishing second 20 times, including four runner-ups at majors, the most notable coming at the 1970 Open Championship after failing to convert a three-foot putt at St. Andrews. Sanders would lose to Jack Nicklaus the next day in an 18-hole playoff by a shot.

"I missed a 30-inch putt on the last green that would have won the 1970 British Open. It's all anybody wants to talk about," Sanders told Golf Digest's Guy Yocom in 2003.

Sanders likewise finished a stoke behind Bob Rosburg in the 1959 PGA Championship at Minneapolis Golf Club, a stroke back of Gene Littler at the 1961 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills and one short of Nicklaus in the 1966 Open Championship at Muirfield. He also had the third-round lead at the 1960 PGA Championship but finished two back of winner Jay Herbert.

"I won 20 times on the PGA Tour, and if you gave me one birdie, four pars and a bogey wherever I could put them, I'd have five majors," Sanders told Golf Digest. "But it's that putt [at St. Andrews that] everybody remembers. What can I say? It's what I remember most, too."

Sanders was also famous for his bright ensembles. His wardrobes, often painted in rainbow colors, led to the nickname "the Peacock of the Fairways," and he was once named by Esquire as one of America’s “Ten Best Dressed Jocks." He told Golf Digest in 2007, "The two most frequent questions on tour were, ‘What did Arnold Palmer shoot?’ and ‘What’s Doug Sanders wearing?' " Sanders boasted that he owned over 350 pairs of golf and dress shoes, and operated his own dry cleaning chain in the 1960s.

"Clothes make the man," Sanders told Yocom. "You know how you go to a hardware store to buy paint and they have 50 shades of white? I went to great lengths to blend the colors of my clothes just right. I found my best color combinations at the pharmacy. I'd look at all the colorful medicine capsules, choose the ones I liked, then have the pharmacist dump out the medicine. I'd stick the top half of an empty yellow capsule onto the bottom half of a blue one, then send it to the factory where my shirts and slacks could be colored the same way."

Sanders died Sunday of natural causes. He was 86 years old.