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Best Golfers of All Time: Five for the Ages
A review of the greatest golfers of all time with a brief review of the top five with their accomplishments.
To start out I made a list of the potential choices for the top five. As you read my list I am sure many people will say "How can you leave ______________ off the list?". The answer is simply you have to start the process of elimination somewhere. My list is as follows: Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Walter Hagen, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead and Bobby Jones. Those seven should all be in the top five but since math precludes that from happening two will have to be eliminated.
Let me give a couple of personal observations. One is that when I was small I saw Sam Snead and he made quite an impression on me. So he has to make the first list. Of course he won 82 PGA tournaments which is more than any other golfer in history. Second whenever sports lists are made I have always noticed that there is a tendency to favor athletes who have performed in recent years, especially since the advent of television and cable networks. Those athletes have been seen and reported far more often. So maybe I have overcompensated but I think not. The four golfers on my list who predate the modern television era are all deserving and so is Arnold Palmer who is responsible for bringing golf into the television era. So here is my list and you can make your comments.
1. Jack Nicklaus. What more can you say about a man from Columbus, Ohio who shot a 51 for nine holes at age 10 in his first try at golf and then went on to Ohio State and then to the professional ranks at age 22 in 1962 and won his first tournament at the US Open. 73 PGA tournaments wins, 113 worldwide triumphs and 18 major professional wins are just a few of his accomplishments. You can get the complete story at nickilaus.com. His final major win at the Masters in 1986 at age 46 is one of the greatest wins of all time and the back nine on Sunday was in my opinion the greatest finish of any major tournament ever. To see how far he took golf you only have to check the records and see that he received the sum of $15,000 for winning the US Open in 1962. As we discuss shortly he may not hold the number one position for much longer but as of the time I write this he is the best golfer of all time.
2. Tiger Woods. If Tiger's career were to end today he would not be up to the Nicklaus' standard. Of course Tiger is still only 33 and his career is far from over and if it proceeds as expected he will pass Jack and be the best. Tiger started out in Southern California and was the best at his age from age two on. You can go to tigerwoods.com and find out everything about Tiger and golf. In fact, the career statistics of Tiger and all the other golfers in this article are all found at Tiger's website. It is a great website for golf information. As I write this article Tiger has 68 career wins and 14 professional majors. He will no doubt pass both Nicklaus and Snead and win more PGA tournaments than anyone else. The question is whether or not he wins the five majors to pass Nicklaus. At one time it was a given. But as the first three majors of 2020 have shown it still is very hard to win a major and Tiger still has some work to do. One final statistic that is on Tiger's website is the total major wins including the US Amateur and British Amateur. At one time both were considered major tournaments. For the record Jack won two US Amateurs and Tiger won three. Neither won the British Amateur.
3. Bobby Jones. Although his career was short his total dominance of the sport ranks him number three. Born in 1902 in Georgia, Bobby was like all the others on this list a dominant golfer from a very young age. He retired at age 28 after winning what were then the four majors in 1930 for the grand slam. Although he won but 7 professional majors he won an additional 6 US and British Amateurs which were majors during his time. Of course the Masters was not a major then since Bobby Jones created the Masters by designing the course and becoming the driving force behind the Masters. You can go to bobbyjones.com for more information but 13 majors at age 28 and the unbelievable achievement of the grand slam ranks him just slightly below Jack and Tiger.
4. Ben Hogan. From 1946 to 1953 Hogan won 9 major tournaments. He simply dominated golf. In 1953 he won three majors and was prevented from playing in a fourth due to scheduling conflicts. During his career he won 64 PGA titles. He was born in Texas and did not experience success early on the PGA tour. He was 34 when he won his first major but then he went on that great run of success. His greatest accomplishment was winning four US Opens which still today ties him for most US Open victories.
5. Walter Hagen. My final selection won 11 major tournaments from 1914 to 1929. Born in 1892 in Rochester, New York, Hagen became the first full-time professional golfer. He won the PGA Championship five times when the tournament was match play. Hagen was considered the greatest match player of all time. He and Bobby Jones shared center stage in the 1920s and dominated a decade known for great athletes.
So there you have the top five golfers of all time. You can read about all the great golfers at the website for the World Golf Hall of Fame at wgv.com. Golf will always be a special part of sports in America and around the world.