A good starting point in evaluating the greatest golfers in history is to look at their records in the Major Championships. The four are:
The Masters (established 1934)
Jack Nicklaus 6 (1963,65,66,72,75,86)
Arnold Palmer 4 (1958,60,62,64)
Tiger Woods 4 (1997,2001,02,05)
US Open (established 1895)
4 by Willie Anderson (1901,03,04,05), Bobby Jones (1923,26,29.30), Ben Hogan (1948,50,51,53) and Jack Nicklaus (1962,67,72,80)
The Open Championship (established 1860)
6 Harry Vardon (Jersey) 1896, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1911, 1914
5 James Braid (Scotland) 1901, 1905, 1906, 1908, 1910
John Henry Taylor (England) 1894, 1895, 1900, 1909, 1913
Peter Thomson (Australia) 1954, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1965
Tom Watson (United States) 1975, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1983
US PGA (established 1916)
Walter Hagen 5 (1921, 1924-7)
Jack Nicklaus 5 (1963,71,73,75,80)
Tiger Woods 4 (1999,2000,06,07)
Total of Major Wins
Jack Nicklaus 18 (6 Masters, 4 US Open, 3 Opmen , 5 US PGA 1962-1986)
Tiger Woods 14
Walter Hagen 11
Ben Hogan, Gary Player 9
Tom Watson 8
Sam Snead, Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Arnold Palmer 7
Bobby Jones played in an era when the majors could be said to have included the British and US Amateur championships. If these are included he won 13 and the Grand Slam of titles in 1930.
The US PGA Tour is the most competitive and the record number of wins on the Tour is held by Sam Snead with 82 between 1936 and 1965. He is followed by Woods on 79 and Nicklaus with 73.
My choice of the Top Ten male golfers based purely on achievements and not influence is:
- Jack Nicklaus (USA) – a clear number one with by far the most major titles and third on the PGA tour wins.
- Tiger Woods (USA) – now seems unlikely to Nicklaus’s record number of majors but his earlier dominance earns him second spot in my rankings.
- Ben Hogan (USA) – things get more difficult after the top two but I have gone for Hogan’s nine majors and 64 PGA Tour wins.
- Walter Hagen (USA) – eleven majors and 45 PGA Tour wins from 1914 to 1936.
- Bobby Jones (USA) – seven majors and six amateur major titles. He remained an amateur and so only won nine PGA tour events.
- Gary Player (South Africa) – nine majors and a career grand slam. He won 24 PGA tour events and more than 160 worldwide titles.
- Sam Snead (USA) – the all-time record holder for PGA tour wins and a very respectable seven majors.
- Arnold Palmer (USA) – seven majors and 62 PGA tour wins for the man who revived golf in the late 1950s.
- Tom Watson(USA) – eight majors and 39 PGA wins from 1974 to 1998.
- Gene Sarazen (USA) – seven majors and 39 PGA wins in the 1920s and 1930s.