Over the past century, golf has gotten quite possibly the most popular sport on the planet. Golfers have gotten famous all over the world. Playing golf has also brought them wealth because the prize pools are large compared to other sports. Today’s golfers owe a ton to the players who were at the front line because it was they who paved the way for today’s young stars. Here are 20 of the greatest and most influential players of all time.
Top 20 Greatest Golfers of All Time
1. Tiger Woods
In April 1997, Woods began a trajectory that drove him straightforwardly to the first spot on this list. We as a whole recall the Masters-record 18-under par total that Woods shot in his first Masters as an expert. We recollect his mind-blowing 12-shot margin of triumph. (Next in line Tom Kite’s 282 total would have been sufficient to win 17 past Masters, but it just had him inside 12 chances of Tiger.)
We recall the way his mammoth drives transformed the par-5s into pitch-and-putts. Many people don’t recall about the 1997 Masters is how badly Tiger started the tournament. On the front nine on Thursday, Woods went out in 40, leaving him 4-over par. That, apparently, is when the stars aligned and the golf divine beings grinned. Over the course of the following 63 openings, Woods moved through Augusta National like a tornado, playing with the course and demoralizing the greatest players on the planet.
The Woods File
- 82 PGA Tour wins, tied for most all-time with Sam Snead
- 15 major championships, a second all-an ideal opportunity to Jack Nicklaus
- Only player at any point to win four continuous majors
- Lowest scoring average in PGA Tour history
- Scoring average of 67.79 in 2000, the least single-season average in Tour history
- PGA Tour Player of the Year a record multiple times
2. Jack Nicklaus
Nicklaus brought out greatness in his rivals — Palmer, Player, Watson, Trevino. But more importantly, he made golf a greater game through his physical ability and strength, his mental sturdiness, his sustained degree of greatness, and his virtuoso for strategically dismantling golf courses around the world.
You know the litany of accomplishments. 18 major championships, more than Hogan and Palmer consolidated. A staggering 37 top twos in majors.
The Nicklaus File
- Winner of 73 PGA Tour occasions, including a record 18 major championships
- Winner of a record six Masters
- Finished in top 5 in majors a record multiple times, in the main 10 a record multiple times
- Posted most minimal scoring average on Tour multiple times
- Won PGA Tour cash title multiple times
- Won at least two PGA Tour occasions in 17 sequential seasons (1962-78)
3. Sam Snead
If winning is the standard for deciding greatness, there is no greater player in golf history than Sam Snead. Utilizing a smooth, sweet swing that looked as natural and easy as breathing, Slammin’ Sammy won more golf tournaments than any other player — a staggering total of 82 PGA Tour titles and anywhere from 135 to 165 triumphs around the world, contingent upon whom you ask. He posted successes in four different decades, from the 1936 West Virginia Closed Pro to the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open (his eighth title on that occasion), when he was 52 years old.
Snead won three Masters, including a 1954 playoff win over companion and rival Ben Hogan. He won three PGA Championships and a British Open.
The Snead File
- A record 82 PGA Tour wins, spanning 1936 to 1965
- Seven major championships, including three Masters and three PGA Championships
- Oldest player to win, make a cut, and shoot his age in PGA Tour history
- Posted top 10s in majors in five different decades
4. Arnold Palmer
There have been exceptional players with prettier swings. But there has never been a more important golfer than the King, Arnold Palmer. He quadrupled satchels, brought golf away from the nation clubs and into our lounges, and assembled an army of dedicated supporters. He won — and lost — with more flair than any other athlete.
The Palmer File
- 60 PGA Tour wins
- 7 Major Championships
- 4-time PGA Tour cash champ
- First PGA Tour millionaire
- 15 sequential years with at least one triumph
5. Ben Hogan
Agonizing, temperamental, centered — Ben Hogan was not a charismatic figure who rallied the masses to follow the la Arnold Palmer game. Instead, he was all about golf shots. The Hawk remains the greatest shotmaker golf has at any point produced. Rather than depending on today’s technologically advanced equipment, Hogan utilized an uncanny ability to control the trip of his ball to win nine majors — and a greater percentage of majors entered than even Jack Nicklaus. To Hogan, “the Hawk,” “Bantam Ben,” who was 5’7″, 140 pounds when he was at the peak of his game, striking a ball very much was a higher priority than scoring.
Hogan’s life was one battle after another. In the early years, when Hogan couldn’t handle the snare. The later years, when he battled back from a horrible 1949 auto crash that nearly killed him. But he never gave in or gave out until enduring a major stroke after his brain, and his body had been ravaged by Alzheimer’s and colon cancer.
The Hogan File
- Winner of 64 PGA Tour occasions, including 9 majors
- One of five players to have an advanced career Grand Slam
- The only player to win Masters, U.S. Open, and British Open in the same year
- Also, a transcending figure in equipment manufacturing and golf guidance
6. Bobby Jones
In the Golden Age of sports, no one sparkled more brilliant than Bobby Jones. Not Babe Ruth, not Red Grange, not Jack Dempsey. From 1923-30, a nation that was genuinely embracing sports on an epic scale watched in awe as Jones won everything in sight. Then, having no more universes to overcome, he walked away from cutthroat golf at age 28. No sports legend accomplished more in a more limited period of time, and no sports legend walked away at a particularly young age.
A golf prodigy at age 14, Jones really didn’t track down his game until the ripe advanced age of 20, when he began his remarkable run. He took the 1923 U.S. Open in an 18-opening playoff, then ripped off another 12 majors before calling it a career. His record of 13 major championships would stand for 40 years before a youngster named Nicklaus came along.
The Jones file
- Winner of the 1930 Grand Slam — the U.S. and British Opens and U.S. and British Amateurs
- Played in 31 majors, won 13, and completed in the best 10 27 times
- Founder of Augusta National Golf Club and The Masters
7. Tom Watson
Watson won eight majors and dominated golf’s most established tournament, the British Open, similar to nobody else, winning multiple times in a nine-year span and approaching a noteworthy 6th win in 2009 at age 59. Like Trevino, he won four memorable duels with Jack Nicklaus in major championships, including the 1977 British Open, the greatest head-to-head duel in golf history. Watson and Nicklaus so distanced themselves from the remainder of the field on that baked, desolate surface that Hubert Green, who completed third, remarked, “I won the tournament I was playing. I don’t know what tournament they were playing.” For the end of the week, Nicklaus shot 65-66 — and lost. Watson’s 65-65 gave him his subsequent British Open title.
The Watson file
- 39 career PGA Tour wins, including eight major championships
- 5 British Open successes, trailing just Harry Vardon
- 6-time PGA Tour Player of the Year
- Made at least one cut per year from 1971–2007, a streak of 37 years.
8. Gary Player
Before Seve Ballesteros, before Greg Norman, before Ernie Els, there was Gary Player, golf’s first great international ambassador. Before the modest South African packed his wife and kids and a couple of suitcases and set out on his five-decade international odyssey, golf was primarily dominated by British and American players. Then along came the little man dressed in black. Over a career that began during the 1950s, Player has logged more air miles than the Space Shuttle, and he has saved many of his greatest achievements for his trips to the States.
The Player File
- One of five players — Jack Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, and Tiger Woods are the others — to claim a career Grand Slam.
- One of four players — Nicklaus, Woods, and Nick Faldo are the others — to have won the Masters and British Open multiple times each.
- Recorded successes on the PGA or Senior Tours in a record five decades — the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s.
9. Gene Sarazen
It’s a shame, really, that Gene Sarazen is recollected primarily for a solitary shot when he meant far beyond that to the game. But what a shot it was. It was his first Master, 1935. He trailed Craig Wood by three shots on the final day when he came to Augusta’s No. 15, a par-5 that is reachable in two shots.
The Sarazen File
- Winner of seven major titles and a career Grand Slam
- Owner of 38 career PGA titles
- Inventor of the sand wedge
- AP Male Athlete of the Year in 1932
- He won his second U.S. Open (1932) by playing the last 28 openings in a fantastic 100 strokes in one of the great performances in golf history
- Struck the Shot Heard Round the World, his 4-wood that settled in the red for a double eagle at Augusta National’s No. 15
10. Phil Mickelson
Tagged from the start as the Next Nicklaus, Mickelson has always lived with massive expectations, some of them purposeful, and Phil’s failures are almost as celebrated as his many triumphs. But there have been many triumphs — 45 PGA Tour wins (tied for eighth all-time) and six majors, including three Masters. His success at the 2021 PGA Championship — almost eight years after his last one, at the 2013 British Open — was perhaps his generally staggering, as he became the most established major victor in history at 50 years, 11 months, seven days, and the crowd that encompassed him on the 72nd opening said a lot of his undying popularity as his generation’s Arnold Palmer.
The Mickelson File
- Winner of six major championships (3 Masters, 1 British Opens, 2 PGA Championships)
- One of just 8 players with as many as three Masters wins
- One of just 15 men to hold at least three legs of the career Grand Slam
- Runner-up at the U.S. Open a record multiple times
- 24 top-3 completions, 39 top-10 completions at major championships
- Winner of 45 PGA Tour occasions, tied for eighth all time
- Inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2012
- He remains last amateur to win on the PGA Tour (1991 Northern Telecom Open)
11. Seve Ballesteros
Maybe we adored him because we could identify with him. We were regularly hitting free and clear, from shelters, from parking parcels, very much as was he. The difference? Seve Ballesteros would frequently make a birdie from the forested areas, or the fortification, or the parking part, and he’d do it’s anything but a style and grace that was incomprehensible not to admire and begrudge. Almost two decades before Tiger Woods, Ballesteros detonated onto the scene as a gifted 19-year-old, completing tied for second with the great Jack Nicklaus at the 1976 British Open at Royal Birkdale. Having fashioned his game by hitting rocks on the beaches of Pedrena, Spain, with a homemade 3-iron, Ballesteros was ready to attack any falsehood, any condition, any circumstance, making him ideally appropriate for the demanding conditions at Britain’s links courses.
The Ballesteros File
- Winner of five major championships (2 Masters, 3 British Opens)
- Winner of 50 European Tour occasions, six European Tour Vardon Trophies for low scoring average
- Earned 20 Ryder Cup focuses in 37 career matches
12. Byron Nelson
For a couple of months in 1945, Byron Nelson played better than anyone at any point. That year, Lord Byron won 11 tournaments straight, including the PGA Championship. When you consider that Payne Stewart won 11 tournaments in his career and is viewed as one of the all-time greats, you feel the magnitude of that accomplishment. More than one-fifth of Nelson’s 52 career wins came kindness of the Streak.
13. Lee Trevino
The Merry Mex got a great deal out of an unorthodox, self-trained game, winning 29 PGA Tour occasions and six majors. Trevino denied Nicklaus at a major championship multiple times, adding to his legend as one of only a handful few players who could stare down the Golden Bear.
14. Scratch Faldo
Sir Nick dominated world golf for a period to the detriment of boss rival Greg Norman. He drubbed in a memorable British Open showdown in 1990 and beat in the 1996 Masters following Norman’s epic collapse. Faldo won six majors — three Masters and three British Opens — and earned 30 successes on the European Tour while giving a steadying impact in five Ryder Cup-winning teams.
15. Walter Hagen
The flamboyant Hagen was the first ultra-fruitful touring master. He raised the stature of the modest professional golfer substantially in an era when amateurs like Bobby Jones governed the game. Hagen won 11 professional majors — two U.S. Opens, four British Opens, and five PGAs — to set a record that would stand until the 1960s. He also won five Western Opens when that tournament was essentially a major.
16. Ernie Els
With four majors — two U.S. Opens and two British Opens — the Big Easy is a legitimate challenger for the second-best player of the Tiger Woods era. His smooth, easy swing is the jealousy of hackers from here to Johannesburg and has driven him to 19 PGA Tour triumphs.
17. Billy Casper
The Big Three — Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Gary Player — dominated the golf headlines during the 1960s, but the unassuming Casper was as great as anybody in his era. Casper won 51 PGA Tour occasions, seventh all-time, and earned three majors, including the 1966 U.S. Open, where he denied Palmer a pined for a win.
18. Vijay Singh
His career may be tainted toward the front by cheating allegations and on the back end by association with performance-enhancing drugs, but it’s hard to deny Vijay a spot in the golf pantheon. He’s won multiple times on the PGA Tour, including two PGA Championships and a Masters win.
19. Rory McIlroy
McIlroy is a four-time major champion and is just a Green Jacket away from holding a career Grand Slam. However, there is a nagging doubt that the best may, in any case, be on the way for the Northern Irishman, who has yet to get back to the overjoyed statures he scaled in 2014 when he won two majors. He’s undoubtedly the player on this rundown with the most upward portability.
20. Greg Norman
The star-crossed Norman is better associated with his spectacular failures than his triumphs, but we can’t disregard his 20 career PGA Tour wins and his 331 weeks spent as the world’s No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Rankings. A little better karma and somewhat more grasp play, and he would have seven or eight major successes instead of two (1986 and 1993 British Opens).