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The Best Golfers of All Time

A golfer is judged mostly on winning the biggest tournaments with the greatest level of competition. Those tournaments are the majors (Open, Masters, US Open, PGA Championship), but also in more modern times the Players Championship and WGC’s are significant wins. I have chosen to include the Players Championship as the “5th Major”. Unlike the WGC’s it’s history dates back to 1974 incorporating most of the modern golf. I’ve also chosen to include 2nd place finishes in Majors as well. While some may not feel like this has any value, it’s still a significant accomplishment to take home silver in my opinion. It shows just how close you were. It also tells a story of when you were close and how often you actually closed. You can look at it from either point of view. More information is always better regardless.

It’s also important to note that early golfers didn’t play all 4 majors. The Masters didn’t exist until 1934 and the PGA Championship until 1916. Early golfers like Walter Hagen had fewer opportunities so they should be given more credit for winning percentages in the majors they did play.

MajorsMajor
2nd’s
Players
1Jack Nicklaus*18193
2Tiger Woods*1572
3Walter Hagen113
4Ben Hogan*96
4Gary Player*96
6Tom Watson88
7Harry Vardon75
7Bobby Jones76
7Gene Sarazen*74
7Sam Snead78
7Arnold Palmer710
12Lee Trevino621
12Nick Faldo63
12Phil Mickelson6121
15James Braid54
15John Henry Taylor57
15Byron Nelson56
15Peter Thomson53
15Seve Ballesteros53
20Raymond Floyd451
20Ernie Els46
20Rory McIlroy421
20Brooks Koepka44
*completed the grand slam

Jack Nicklaus


Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer of all time. He won 18 major championships, including six Masters titles, five PGA Championships, four U.S. Open titles, and three Open Championships. He is also the only golfer to have won each of the four major championships at least three times. He also put himself near contention in 19 other 2nd place finishes, by far the most of anyone.

Tiger Woods


Tiger Woods is at nearly the level of Nicklaus. He has won 15 major championships, including five Masters titles, four PGA Championships, three U.S. Open titles, and three Open Championships. Woods is also the only golfer to have held all four major championships at the same time, which he accomplished in 2000-2001. I think it’s possible to say Woods may have been the most talented golfer that ever lived even if he wasn’t the most accomplished. Injuries and off-the-course personal matters likely cost him 2 or 3 more majors in the end.

Ben Hogan


Ben Hogan won nine major championships, including four U.S. Open titles, two PGA Championships, and one Masters and Open Championship each. Hogan is known for his meticulous attention to detail and his dedication to practice and improving his swing.

Bobby Jones


Bobby Jones was a legendary amateur golfer who won 13 major championships, including seven U.S. Amateur titles, four U.S. Open titles, one Open Championship, and one British Amateur Championship. Jones is also known for founding the Augusta National Golf Club and creating the Masters Tournament.

Arnold Palmer


Arnold Palmer, also known as “The King,” won seven major championships, including four Masters titles, two Open Championships, and one U.S. Open title. Palmer is widely credited with popularizing the sport of golf in the 1960s and bringing it to a wider audience.

Gary Player


Gary Player, also known as “The Black Knight,” won nine major championships, including three Masters titles, three Open Championships, and two PGA Championships. Player is known for his intense physical fitness regimen and his dedication to the sport.

Sam Snead


Sam Snead won seven major championships, including three Masters titles, three PGA Championships, and one Open Championship. Snead is known for his unique swing and his longevity in the sport, playing at a high level well into his 60s.

Walter Hagen


Walter Hagen won 11 major championships, including five PGA Championships, four Open Championships, and two U.S. Open titles. Hagen is known for his flamboyant personality and his colorful outfits on the course.

Phil Mickelson

Lefty deserves to be on this list. Winning a major one month before his 51st birthday is one of the greatest accomplishments in golf in my opinion. Mickelson has the heartbreak of 12 runner-up finishes as well. He was there so often over the years.

Conclusion

These golfers are the greatest to have ever played the sport. They have all left their mark on the game and have inspired generations of golfers to follow in their footsteps. While there have been many great golfers over the years, these eight stand out as the best of the best. Hopefully, in the future, some of the current generations like Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka who still have time to add trophies can join this list fully.


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