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10 Best Golfers Of All Time

When you write something which derives who is the best at something then the subsequent debate is a given, particularly when it comes to an individual sport like golf.

In choosing the best golfers in history we considered many things – how they impacted the sport’s growth, the number of wins, world rankings, records, longevity, and of course, major victories.

At PledgeSports, we’re huge golf fans and have worked with players of all levels to raise money through sports crowdfunding. So, it’s natural that we wanted to weigh in on the “greatest ever” debate.  The hardest part of writing this article was the decision for first and second place, Outside of the big three in tennis – Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic or LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan in basketball, there is no harder greatest ever debate in sports than Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus.   But there always has to be a number one.

We don’t expect you all to agree, so we welcome your comments and suggestion. But for now, here are the 10 Best Golfers Of All Time and the big names to watch out for in 2022:

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10. Byron Nelson

A reserved man who shied away from golf’s limelight, Byron Nelson’s ability to strike a crisp ball is the stuff of legends.

1945 was a record year for Nelson, he recorded 19 wins that season, deeming him access to the illustrious group that is the best golfers of all time.

Byron was alleged to hit a golf ball straighter than anyone before or since him. But he disliked tournament golf, often to the point of nausea before big matches.

Once Ben Hogan, who saw Nelson with his head in the toilet before the 1942 playoff for the Masters, actually offered to delay the start of the match. ultimately, they didn’t and Nelson won. After his record-breaking 1945 season, he would retire two years later.

9. Tom Watson

golfworld-2010-06-gwar01-watson-chip-620Watson won 39 PGA Tour events, eight of them majors, and of course came within a whisker of winning the British Open at the age of 59 in 2009. He may be best known for his memorable battles (and victories) with Jack Nicklaus when Jack was in his prime.

Watson was thought of by some as a third-wheel to the fierce rivalry of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, but as the legendary duo moved into their twilight years, Watson shone brighter than ever, asserting his dominance on the sport.

8. Gene Sarazen

A career grand slam winner, Sarazen enjoyed the best years of his career in the 1920s and 1930s. He was only 20 in 1922 when he won both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

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At age 71, Sarazen made a hole-in-one at The Open Championship in 1973, at the “Postage Stamp” at Troon in Scotland. Sarazen is also known as the man who invented the modern sand wedge, a staple in the golf bags of all serious golfers today.

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7. Sam Snead

Sam-Snead-630x472Sam Snead to this day holds the record for most wins on the PGA Tour. With one of the sweetest swings ever seen, Snead amassed 81 wins on the PGA Tour, all while playing in the era of Hogan and Nelson.

He won the West Virginia Open 17 times, often playing in bare feet in the early days. A natural athlete who took great care of his body, Snead could kick the top of a door frame with his other foot on the ground!

6. Gary Player

With nine majors and over 100 victories worldwide, Gary Player brought physical and mental fitness to the world of professional golf. He was also the first to play the game internationally at the highest level.

Player is one of only five players to win the modern grand slam, and he also won the World Match Play Championship an unprecedented five times. However, because he played in the same era as Nicklaus, Player’s place in history is sometimes greatly underrated.

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5. Arnold Palmer

Arnold PlamerEvery young player who collects a big, fat paycheck today should quietly thank Arnold Palmer. “The King” popularised the game and brought it to the masses like no player before him.

Loved and adored by fans for his go-for-broke style, the swashbuckling Palmer saved a dying game after the Hogan era came to a close. Consider this: from 1960 to 1966, Palmer won the U.S. Open once (Cherry Hills, 1960), and played off for the title in 1962, 1963 and 1966.

Consider this: from 1960 to 1966, Palmer won the U.S. Open once (Cherry Hills, 1960), and played off for the title in 1962, 1963 and 1966.

Although he lost all those playoffs, that is first or tied for first for four out of six years!

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4. Bobby Jones

The best amateur golfer of all time and his No. 4 ranking here could have been higher — Jones quit tournament golf at the unthinkable age of 28. In 1930, his grand slam year, he only played in two other events.

Remember this: Jones averaged one round per week during his playing days, and, like any club hack, he put the clubs away most of the winter. He was an amazing talent that may never be duplicated. In his last 12 national championships (U.S. and British), he was first or second a staggering 11 times.

3. Ben Hogan

hogan-merion-famed-shotjpg-885baa67d4948d03Hogan was the consummate ball striker, winning three consecutive majors in 1953 — The Masters, the U.S. Open and the British Open (he didn’t play in the PGA Championship).

The “Wee Ice Man,” as the Scots affectionately named him, was one of the best ever. His nine major championships in a five-year stretch are the stuff of legends, and it seems that his legend is improving as the years go by.

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Hogan won 63 titles in his career, despite serving in the US Air Force during World War II and having being involved in a near-death car crash aged 36.

Despite suffering a double-fracture of the pelvis, a fractured collar bone, a left ankle fracture, a chipped rib, and near-fatal blood clots, Hogan returned to being one of the world’s best.

2. Tiger Woods

In his prime, Tiger Woods was the best golfer the world has ever seen. Winning the U.S. Open Championship by 15 shots, the British Open by 11, the Masters by 12 and the “Tiger Slam” are just a few of the things that separate him from the others.

Consider this statistic: Tiger has won 25 percent of the professional tournaments he has played. The next best on that list is Phil at 8 percent. And I, for one, believe his comeback is almost complete and inevitable, purely because his career to date has thrived on unparalleled mental strength and a never-say-die approach.

After a period of turbulence in his life he pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in sport– in 2018 Tiger rapidly moved from 656 in the world to 13 in the world inside 1 season. Then in 2019,  Tiger secured his place in sporting legend on the 15th of April 2019, when he won the US Masters by 2 shots, his first major since 2008!  After Jack Nicklaus he’s the only golfer to win a major in 3 different decades

But until then he remains in second place, four majors away from the No. 1 spot.

Major Wins: 1997 Masters, 1999 PGA Championship, 2000 U.S. Open, 2000 British Open, 2000 PGA Championship, 2001 Masters, 2002 Masters, 2002 U.S. Open, 2005 Masters, 2005 British Open, 2006 British Open, 2006 PGA Championship, 2007 PGA Championship, 2008 U.S. Open, 2019 Masters.

In July 2022 Woods reportedly turn down a massive 700-800 million to join the LIV Tour, but Woods stayed true to the PGA Tour and said no!

1. Jack Nicklaus

NICKLAUSWith 18 professional majors, 2 U.S. Amateur titles and 73 PGA Tour wins over 25 years, Jack’s record speaks for itself. Tiger has won three more times on the PGA Tour than Nicklaus, but until him or someone else tops his record 18 major championships, there is no question that “The Golden Bear” is the greatest golfer of all time.

The best golf that has ever been played was from Woods from 2000 to 2008, but he still has work to do to catch Jack in longevity (Nicklaus won his last major at the age of 46).

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Outside the top 10:

Nick Faldo

English golfer and television commentator Faldo spent most of his career in Europe and only won nine events on the PGA Tour. However, three of those nine events were the 1989, 1990 and 1996 Masters, and three others were the 1987, 1990 and 1992 British Opens. He alsospent 97 weeks at number one.

Seve Ballesteros

One of the greatest Spanish athletes ever,  this much loved character of golf, Spain and sport in general, won five majors (three British Opens, two Masters) over nine years.

Lee Trevino

American golfer Trevino could never quite master the Masters, never finishing better than 10th place, however he won the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship twice, a total of 29 PGA Tour events, was named the PGA Player of the Year in 1971, and was inducted to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1981.

Phil Mickelson

American and sometime controversial personality Mickelson, nicknamed Lefty, or big Phil, has won 45 events on the PGA Tour, including six major championships: three Masters titles, two PGA Championships, and one Open Championship.  He’s still a tour regular and sometimes winner at 51 years old.

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Rory McIlroy got massive attention pre 2020, the Irish golfer is a regular tour winner even though he hasn’t won a major since 2014.  Along with Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, he is one of three players to win four majors by the age of 25.  McIlroy sits on 21 PGA tour wins after winning the 2022 Canadian Open and at only 32 he has many more winning years left.

Colin Morikawa has really blasted on to the golf world, the 25 year old Californian has recorded through 60 professional starts- six wins, two majors, 24 top 10’s.  He is earmarked by many for golf super stardom and is one to watch in this 2022 season.

John Rahm

The Spaniard was the number one golfer in the World Amateur Golf Ranking for a record 60 weeks, progressing to world number 1 on the senior tour in June 2020.   He followed this up in 2021 with fifteen top-10’s in 22 starts,including a US Open win.   All eyes will be on Morikawa and Rahm this season.

Scottie Scheffler

The American was building up to massive 2022 and boy he has delivered!

Scheffler has cleaned up so far this year.  He won the WM Phoenix Open in February, then three weeks later won the Arnold Palmer Invitational.  The 25 year old then backed those wins up by winning the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Texas in March.   Then came the big one- the world number one beat McIlroy by three shots to win the 2022 US Masters.

Dustin Johnson, a still young but out of form Jordan Speith, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay are other top players to watch out for in 2022.

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