Golf has had its fair share of shocks, superstars and comebacks. This is a global sport, played all over the world and enjoyed in every country. There’s a lot at stake, a lot of people watching and a lot of talent on display week-in week-out. In this article we’ll look at the history of golf in its greatest performances, its greatest players and its greatest shots.
The Best Players
3. Sam Snead
Sam Snead never won a US Open, but he pretty much won everything else. He tops the win table in the PGA Tour, ahead of the two other players on this list. He also won a total of 7 majors in his career.
One of the most notable things about Snead’s career is that he played for more than 50 years and he continued to win tournaments throughout. His first PGA Tour victory was in 1936, and his last was nearly 30 years later.
Even when he was in his 60s Snead was still playing at the highest level and achieving big finishes in many major tournaments. That alone deserves some respect.
2. Jack Nicklaus
Nicklaus has won more majors than any other golfer, with a total of 18 to his name. He set the bar for everyone else to follow and was consistently brilliant throughout his career. Nicklaus also played for a very long time. He turned professional in 1961, but didn’t retire until 2005.
Of course, like so many aging sports stars that stick around and continue to play the game they used to dominate, Nicklaus wasn’t as good in his later years. In fact, his winning ways pretty much stopped in the 1980s, after a spell of dominance throughout the 60s and 70s. Nicklaus inspired many others to follow in his footsteps. He wrote many books and starred in many videos, doing a great deal to advance this sport around the world.
1. Tiger Woods
There is a divide in golf, and that divide separates those who believe Tiger Woods is the best ever and those who believe that accolade belongs to Jack Nicklaus. If you’re basing it on how many Masters they have won, then it would go to Nicklaus. But you wouldn’t do that in any other sport. You wouldn’t base the best soccer player on how many World Cup medals they have, and few people claim that Stephen Hendry is a better snooker player than Ronnie O’Sullivan, even though he has many more titles.
There is more to it than Masters, and when you take these out of the equation, Woods beats Nicklaus in so many areas. He has more tour wins, more money titles, more point titles and more Player of the Year awards. You could also argue that Woods is facing bigger and better competition, as golfers are fitter, stronger and more knowledgeable than they were in Nicklaus’s heyday.
Woods is a long way from his best and Nicklaus’s best was a number of years ago, so we can’t compare these two. But many players who played with Nicklaus at his best have said that Woods’s best was better.
The Biggest Shots
3. Larry Mize – 1987 Masters
During a playoff hole on a par 4, Mize hit a sand-wedge chip shot for 140 yards, dropping it into the hole and beating both Norman and Ballesteros in a playoff as a result. This would be his only major win and that, combined with the pressure, the occasion and the shot itself, makes this one of the best shots ever seen.
2. Tom Watson – 1982 U.S. Open
With the lead in sights and just one hole left, Tom Watson’s hopes were dashed when he hit his first shot into the deep rough on a par 3. The ball was in deep, the slope and the rough was against him and he needed a miracle to get out. But that’s what he got.
Watson’s shot lifted out of the rough, hit the flag and dropped into the hole, giving him the tournament lead with just one hole left to play.
1. Gene Sarazen – 1935 Masters
An albatross is a rare shot in golf, and one you don’t see very often. Getting the ball into the hole in 2 shots on a par 5 takes a massive tee shot and a big, accurate shot from the green. You could be a golf fan all your life and never see one live, let alone on the big stage, but Sarazen did it on the biggest stage of all in 1935.
It was the 69th hole. There were just 4 holes left to play and Sarazen was three shots behind. But after a 235-year second shot landed in the hole, he tied with the lead and would go on to win the tournament.
The Biggest Shocks
3. Yang Beats Woods
In 2009, Woods was at the height of his success. He was leading the PGA Championship with just 1 round to go and the bookies had all but signed and sealed his victory. Padraig Harrington wasn’t too far behind him and after that was the little known Y.E. Yang, who everyone had pretty much written off.
But a combination of bad play from Woods and astonishing play from Yang turned things around. It culminated with a massive birdie on the final hole after he had already taken the lead. Yang became the first Asian to win a major and set about the beginning of a decline for Woods.
2. Faldo Beats Norman
At the 1996 Masters it looked like Greg Norman was set for a third major. He had been obsessed with the Masters throughout his career and after taking a 6 shot lead over Nick Faldo, it seemed like he would finally get his hands on the trophy. But despite his massive lead, the final round didn’t quite go his way and that lead gradually vanished.
By the 11th hole, it was gone altogether and the momentum was with Faldo from there on out. Faldo was 5-under during the final round, which gave him a sizable jump on Norman’s 6-over par round.
1. Ouimet Wins the Open
There has been no bigger shock in the sport of golf than when amateur Francis Ouimet won the US Open back in 1913. He was an amateur, yet he went on to defeat some of the biggest stars of the game at the time. He paved the way for many more amateurs who tried to follow in his footsteps and he became known as the Father of Amateur golf from that moment onwards.
Francis Ouimet was just 23 when he won and while he didn’t win any major tournaments after that, he did have a glittering amateur career.
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