Doug Sanders, colorful 20-time PGA Tour winner and 4-time major runner-up, dies at 86

Doug Sanders 1985 PGA TOUR  Photo by Ric Clarson/PGA TOUR Archive
Doug Sanders' wardrobe was ahead of his time. (Ric Clarson/PGA TOUR Archive)

Doug Sanders, the “Peacock of the Fairways” who won 20 PGA Tour events but infamously missed out a major win, died of natural causes Sunday in Houston, the PGA Tour announced. He was 86.

Sanders’ wardrobe earned him widespread recognition during his playing days between the 1960s and 1970s. Unfortunately, despite all his wins, he was also remembered for his runner-up finishes in four different majors — the 1959 PGA Championship, 1961 U.S. Open, and 1966 and 1970 Open Championships.

The 1970 finish was the most unfortunate. Sanders led Jack Nicklaus for most of the final round, until the final green. Needing only a three-foot putt to win the championship, Sanders missed.

He would go onto lose an 18-hole playoff the following day.

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Sanders made no mystery of how he felt about the miss. From the PGA Tour:

“I feel very sick about the British Open,” Sanders told the Sporting News after the loss to Nicklaus. “Not so much for myself, but for my wife and my son. I’ll tell you something, I never got so many letters and wires than after the British Open. They came from people who said they felt so bad to see me miss winning. Many of them weren’t even signed, just ending with ‘A fan.’”

A Georgia native and Southeastern Conference champion at Florida, Sanders went pro in 1956 and later racked up eight PGA Tour wins between 1961 and 1962. He was a member of the 1967 U.S. Ryder Cup team, which registered the largest margin of victory in the history of the event.

His colorful outfits made a him a popular figure on the Tour, and he fully leaned into the persona. He once proclaimed he owned 359 pairs of golf and dress shoes to match his sizable wardrobe, according to the PGA Tour.

Sanders’ final PGA Tour win came at the 1972 Kemper Open, defeating Lee Trevino by a stroke. He would go onto be an active participant of PGA Tour Champions.

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