Over the past century, golf has become one of the most popular sports in the world. Golfers have become famous all over the world, playing golf has also brought them wealth, because the prize pools are very large compared to other sports. Today’s golfers owe a lot to the players who were at the forefront because it was they who paved the way for today’s young stars. Here are ten of the greatest and most influential players of all time, in reverse order.
10. Byron Nelson
Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan were all born seven months apart in 1912. A native of Waxahachie, Texas, Nelson played between 1935-1946 and won 52 times, including five major championships. He was a two-time winner of the Masters and PGA Championship, and only the absence of the Open Championship prevented him from completing a grand slam. His legacy remains untouched thanks to the Byron Nelson Championship, which took place annually in Dallas. Until his death in 2006, he attended this tournament almost every year.
9. Tom Watson
Watson, a Kansas native, was one of the most dominant players in the world from 1970-1980, winning eight majors, including five Open Championships. As a golfer, he never finished the season better than second in the PGA Championship. Watson also climbed the heights of golf thanks to Byron Nelson. Nelson showed interest in young Watson in 1974 and became his mentor, and it was under his tutelage that Watson’s career took off, as he won his first major within a year of working together.
8. Arnold Palmer
You might have expected to see Palmer higher on the list, because when you start to name some of the most famous golfers after Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, Arnie most likely goes next on the list. And rightly so, as this working guy ultimately became one of the greatest and most popular golfers of all time. Arnie’s Army of fans grew with every round he played. He won seven majors, including four Masters titles, but he never won the PGA Championship, and ended his career without completing the Grand Slam.
It would come to no surprise to say that even now Arnold Palmer enjoys great popularity in Canada. He won the tournament in 1980 in Canada and citizens of the country love him till this time. While this sport is not particularly popular in the North American country, some took an example from Palmer to pursue a golfing career. And his influence is visible in various industries. We have mentioned drinks named after him, but also, the gambling industry which is gaining popularity and foothold in the country is also affected. Various casino promotions in Canada still at the present time carry a name after Palmer. Some refer to them as ‘Palmer promotions’ and they enjoy a great deal of popularity.
7. Bobby Jones
Bobby Jones is the only amateur to make the top-10 list. Jones won four US Opens and three Open Championships in seven years. He is also a five-time champion in US Amateur and even won British Amateur in 1930. And then, at the age of 28, he stopped playing in tournaments. However, his influence on golf did not stop there; he participated in the organisation of Augusta National. And, after retiring from the game co-founded the Masters. He played until 1948 and he had to abandon the game due to poor health.
6. Sam Snead
Sam Snead has managed seven majors throughout his long and brilliant career; most of his careers are victories were on the PGA Tour. Between his many victories, Snead also fought in World War I. During his career, he won three Masters, three PGA Championships and one US Open, which happened a year after returning from the war.
5. Gary Player
South African-born Player, who earned the nickname ‘The Black Knight” because he often wore black from head to toe, is perhaps the most successful non-American golfer in history. He was a contemporary and rival to Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. He ended his career with nine major victories, including three Masters and three Open Championships. He is also the only non-American to complete his Grand Slam career and win 165 victories on six continents over the past 60 years.
4. Walter Hagen
One of the greatest players in the first half of the 20th century, Hagen won 11 major championships in his career. A native of New York, Hagen became a national hero when he first brought the British Open title to American history and continued to win four further Open titles. At the end of his career, only the Masters’ title was missing from his CV.
3. Ben Hogan
No player practised as much as Ben Hogan. He spent a lot of time training, developing a technique and this led to the fact that he is the legend of golf. He won the four major championships, and from 1938 to 1959, he won 63 professional tournaments, despite serving in the army and surviving a car accident from which he received many serious injuries, but was able to continue to play golf.
2. Tiger Woods
Some may find Tiger Woods to be in the second place unfair, but we can tell why. His list of victories begins with a 14-times leadership of majors, he won 77 PGA competitions and 39 European tournaments. He is a billionaire, but most of the money he made was from advertising, not golf. The celebrity of golf has established a foundation that helps poor children to play golf. He is the youngest Grand Slam winner. After a back injury, he walked away from the game, underwent surgery and is now undergoing rehabilitation to continue full-fledged competitions in tournaments.
1. Jack Nicklaus
Nicknamed the Golden Bear, Nicklaus gained 73 victories in his career, including 18 major golf championships. Nicklaus is the first player to win up to $2m in prize money, and, at 46 years old, he is the oldest player to win the Masters. He has five US Open titles, which he won from 1963 to 1980. At the end of his career, he wrote several books, created a company for the manufacture of golf equipment. He was one of the first to enter the Hall of Fame in 1974. And he is rightfully considered the greatest golfer of all time.