Major championship performance and PGA Tour wins are the biggest factors in determining where players stand in the history of golf, but making cuts and Top-10 finishes are also important for identifying excellence and consistency.
In deriving our ratings, major championship wins carry the most weight, followed by major runner-up finishes and Tour wins. Top-5’s and Top-10’s at the majors also receive strong consideration, along with wins on the DP World Tour and to a lesser degree, wins on other recognized Tours (Japan Tour, Asian Tour, etc.).
Making cuts and Top-10 finishes are calculated on the basis of percentage in relation to total starts at PGA Tour sanctioned events through age 49 (when players become eligible for the Champions Tour). Top 10 percentage is given considerable weight, and cut percentage is also a factor in the rating a player receives.
Cuts and Top-10 percentage are overstated as a measure for Snead and Hogan, because fields were limited–but this is offset by the fact that each lost prime years in their career due to WWII (they were both 29 in 1941).
While Bobby Jones is certainly among the top 5 players in history with 4 U.S. Open and 3 Open Championship titles, he chose to remain an amateur and therefore has no PGA record for reference–and is not included below.
Number 1: Jack Nicklaus (361)
In addition to his 18 major championship wins, Jack recorded 55 Top-10 finishes at the majors (19 runner-up’s, 19 Top-5’s and 17 Top-10’s)–by far the most of any player in history. The Golden Bear also recorded 55 Tour wins along with his major championships for a total of 73, and he had the highest Top-10 percentage (60.2%) and cut percentage (93.6%) of any modern-day player.
Number 2: Tiger Woods (346)
Tiger is second to Jack with 15 major championship wins, a close second in Top-10 percentage (91%) and just behind Nicklaus in cut percentage as well at 54.9%. With his 67 Tour wins, Tiger is tied with Sam Snead for the most wins in history (82), and also added 8 wins on the DP world Tour. At 46 years old, Tiger still has a number of years with which to add additional wins and Top-10 finishes—so Jack’s position at No. 1 is by no means a certainty when all is said and done.
Number 3: Sam Snead (335)
Sam Snead recorded 7 major championship victories along with 75 wins on Tour, setting the mark of 82 total wins (tied by Tiger.) Snead made the cut in 391 of the 394 tournaments he entered (99%), and recorded Top 10 finishes in 75% of those events. When you include 8 runner-up finishes, 15 Top-5’s and 18 Top-10’s at the major championships, Snead comes up at No. 3—just behind Tiger.
Number 4: Ben Hogan (281)
Ben Hogan won 9 major championships along with 55 PGA events. He made the cut in 97.8% of the tournaments he played, and finished in the top 10 close to 80% of the time. After his near fatal auto accident in 1949 at age 36, Hogan never played more than 6 tournaments in any year—yet won 6 more major champions and recorded an additional 15 top 10’s at the majors (including 4 runner-up’s).
Number 5: Arnold Palmer (265)
Arnie’s career spanned 55 years from 1949 through his last appearance at The Masters in 2004, and while Tiger has had a huge impact on the popularity of golf in the last 25 years, Palmer brought the game to prime-time—and set the stage for the global appeal that golf currently enjoys. And he was perfect for the role. Photogenic with a big personality, tremendous power and ability combined with a go-for-broke style of play that endeared him to millions—commonly known as “Arnie’s Army.”
Throughout the course of his career, Arnie won 7 major championships and recorded 55 wins on tour. When Jack burst onto the PGA Tour in 1962, Palmer was still in his prime at 32 years and had just won The Masters and The Open Championship—and while Arnie added only one more major win (1964 Masters), he recorded an additional 7 major runner-up’s and 7 Top-10’s through 1970.
Palmer also made the cut in 90% of the tournaments he entered, with a Top-10 percentage of 43.5%.
Keep an eye out for Greats of the Game Volume II, where we will take a look at Gary Player (No. 6), Byron Nelson (No. 7), Walter Hagan (No. 8), Phil Mickelson (No. 9) and Tom Watson at No. 10.
Watching Tiger walk the fairway at the final hole on the Old Course at St. Andrews, where he received a rousing tribute at a place where golf history has been made for centuries, brought back images of Nicklaus when he made his last appearance at The Open in 2005.
While the 2022 Open may not be the last for Tiger, it seems an appropriate moment to look at the greatest two players in the history of golf side by side—and the similarity is striking.
Tiger’s eventual induction to the World Golf Hall of Fame was inevitable from the moment he burst onto the golf scene, as he surpassed Jack with three U.S. Amateur titles (1994-1996), while Jack won only two, losing in the quarter-finals in 1959. Under the carefully scripted guidance of Earl Woods, the father whom he deeply loved and admired, Tiger’s arrival on Tour had been long anticipated (most everyone has seen the famous clip of Tiger, at two years old, putting against Bob Hope on the Mike Douglas Show).
For Tiger though, it was always about Jack. Unlike every other sport, in golf there was never a debate about the best ever—hands down it was Nicklaus. And since Tiger’s goal from when he first picked up a club was to be the greatest ever to play the game, then Jack was the man to beat.
As a boy, Tiger had a list of Nicklaus’ amateur accomplishments hanging on his wall, with Jack’s age when each was achieved. Nicklaus was 17 years old when he first stepped onto the stage at the 1957 U.S. Open, and Tiger made his debut at 16 (the 1992 Nissan Open)—becoming the youngest ever to compete in a PGA Tour event. Expectations were sky high for Tiger as an enormous gallery gathered to follow him, and he also got a glimpse of the future, as the media hounded him relentlessly while exiting the eighteenth green when he completed his first round.
Pushing himself to stay ahead of Jack, however, would be no easy task. In ’93, when Tiger was 17, he entered three PGA Tour events, but missed the cut in each by a wide margin. At 18 he entered three more PGA tournaments, once again missing the cut in each. Jack, at 18, played two events—the U.S. Open (missing the cut), and the Rubber City Classic, where he made the cut and finished in a tie for 15th. Tiger needed to kick it up a notch.
In 1995 at age 19 he did just that—making his first ever cut at a PGA sanctioned event, and ironically it was The Masters, where his star shines the brightest. Jack, at 19, played seven Tour events, including the Masters and U.S. Open, missing the cut in both, but making the cut in all five regular Tour events, including a T12 at the Buick Invitational. But for Tiger and Jack, it’s always all about the majors, so Tiger had nudged ahead.
In ’96, at 20 years old and still an amateur, Tiger entered three tournaments–The Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship. He missed the cut at The Masters, but made the cut at the U.S. Open, and tied for 22nd at The Open Championship. In 1960, when Nicklaus was 20 and still an amateur, he also entered three tournaments–the Masters (tied for thirteenth), the U.S. Open (where he famously finished second to Arnie at Cherry Hills), and the Buick Open (making the cut). Again, Tiger would need to elevate his game to stay ahead of Jack, and once again he did exactly that—but with a different approach.
Nicklaus retained his amateur status through his 21st birthday in 1961, recording a T7 at The Masters and a T4 at the U.S. Open, while entering five regular tour events—and making the cut in each (including a T6 at the Milwaukee Open.)
Tiger, on the other hand, decided to turn pro at 20 following the ’96 Open Championship, and immediately dominated the Tour. He made the cut in all eight tournaments he entered, including 2 wins (The Vegas Invitational and The Oldsmobile Classic), a T3 at The Texas Open, T5 at The Quad Cities, and finished up with a trip to The Tour Championship.
For Tiger, his early challenges against seasoned tour pros served only to deepen his resolve, intensify his focus, and set the stage for an assault on the record book that Nicklaus had rewritten. And while Tiger and Jack have much in common, including tremendous power, uncanny putting, and the ability to hit towering long irons and destroy Par 5’s, what sets them apart from all others is a monumental will to win. Who can forget Tiger’s putt on eighteen at Torrey Pines in the 2008 U.S. Open, where he fought through seventy-two holes with a fractured leg and torn ligaments in his knee to defeat Rocco Mediate. Or the putt Nicklaus holed on seventeen at The Masters in 1986, when he fired a back nine 30 on Sunday to win his final major at forty-six years old.
Both Tiger and Jack won their first major championship at 22 years old (the ’62 U.S. Open for Jack and the ’97 Masters for Tiger). While in his twenties, Tiger won eight Major’s, including four in a row (the famous “Tiger Slam”) beginning with the 2000 U.S. Open through the 2001 Masters, putting him ahead of Jack’s pace (Nicklaus won seven majors in his twenties).
Curiously, both Jack and Tiger went into a lull at exactly the same time, as neither recorded a major win at 28 and 29 years of age. But Tiger came out of it faster, with four major wins between ‘05 and ’06, giving him a total of 12 major championships at 31 years old, while increasing his margin to 3 over Jack, who had 9 majors at 31.
Tiger added 2 more majors in ‘07 and ‘08, giving him 14 major championship wins at 33 years old as he headed into the 2009 season. Jack had picked up 3 majors between ’72 and ’73, giving him a total of 12 at age 33— so Tiger held a comfortable lead as he prepared to make his final assault on Jack’s record.
Following his incredible win at the 2008 U.S. Open, Tiger underwent surgery to repair the ruptured tendons in his knee, and missed the rest of the season. But with intensive rehab, he was back for the ’09 season and looking like the Tiger of old. He recorded six wins including top 10’s at the Masters and U.S. Open, and a runner up at the PGA Championship. As the season came to a close it seemed certain that he would break Nicklaus’ record for major championship victories.
The runner-up finish at the ’09 PGA, however, would prove to be a turning point, the beginning of what became a long and difficult struggle for Tiger. He went into Sunday as the leader by two shots over Y.E. Yang and Padraig Harrington, having never yielded the lead at a major going to the final round. On this day, however, the clutch putts that had always been Tiger’s trademark failed to fall, and Yang charged past him to take the championship. The veil of invincibility had been lifted.
Within months his world was rocked again by reports of marital infidelity, his pristine image pummeled by the media as past transgressions came flooding out. Shortly thereafter his wife filed for divorce, and sponsors began to abandon him. While Tiger had been able to overcome physical injury, and even the loss of his dad in 2006, the steely mental toughness that defined him had taken a major blow, and he failed to record a single win in 2010 and 2011.
The Come Back
As the 2012 season got under way Tiger picked himself up, and at 37 years old he was determined to continue his pursuit of Jack. With seventy-one tour wins, he was only two behind Nicklaus, and even though he hadn’t won a major since 2008, he was still on pace to challenge Jack’s record for major championship wins (Jack also had fourteen majors at 37). Tiger recorded three wins in 2012 to pass Nicklaus in regular Tour titles, and added five more in 2013 to put some distance between them. Unfortunately, though, he was unable to take any of the majors (his best finishes were a T3 at the Open Championship in 2012, and a T4 at the Masters in 2013), so for the first time, at 39 years old, Tiger was behind Jack’s pace in his quest for the major championship record (Jack had recorded 15 major wins at age 39).
And then Tiger’s back blew up. It started toward the end of the 2013 season when he was hit with severe back spasms at The Barclays, just as the FedEx Cup playoffs were getting under way. Somehow, he was able to finish second, and make it through the final weeks of the season to the Tour Championship, but the writing was on the wall. Even after a few months of rest and rehab, the pain was only getting worse. Tiger tried to push through it as the 2014 season got underway, but was forced to withdraw from the Honda in early March and underwent his first back surgery shortly thereafter, announcing that he would miss the Masters (and he would miss the U.S. Open as well).
Determined to compete at the remaining majors, Tiger came back for the Open Championship and the PGA, but it was clear that the surgery had been unsuccessful, and even his indomitable will just wasn’t enough. Finishing well back at The Open, and then missing the cut at the PGA Championship, Tiger shut it down for the remainder of the season, opting for rest and rehab once again—but the pain would not subside.
In 2015 he tried to fight his way through once again, but was only able to tee it up 11 times, with his best finish a T17 at the Masters, while missing the cut at the other three majors. And so, at age 40, Tiger found himself 3 behind Nicklaus’ pace for the record in major championship wins (Jack recorded his seventeenth at 40).
Tiger made a decision to have a second back surgery in September, followed by another procedure barely a month later, and the 2016 season was completely lost. When he tried to return in 2017, his back broke down again, leaving him only one alternative for resuming his pursuit—a fourth surgery, this time spinal fusion, and the loss of yet another full season.
Most people would have given up at that point, but Tiger is not most people. After the surgery he dedicated himself to an even more rigorous rehab, and returned for the 2018 season ready to go. In 18 events he finished in the top ten 7 times, including a T6 at the Open Championship and a runner-up at the PGA, and then capped off the season with a win at the Tour Championship. But he had failed to move closer in his goal of reaching Jack’s record for major championship wins.
And then Tiger won The Masters in 2019, his 15th major title (and 5th Green Jacket), so at 44 he had suddenly moved back to within two of Nicklaus’ pace (Jack had recorded 17 major wins at 44, with his 18th and final major championship coming at age 46).
As the 2020 season got going Tiger came out strong with a T9 at The Farmers, held each year at Torrey Pines where he had won the 2008 U.S. Open. It looked like Tiger would make his presence felt in a big way at the 2020 major championships when suddenly the pandemic hit, putting the Tour season (and Tiger’s pursuit) on hold. By the time the world began opening up again, only two major championships could be held—The PGA, where Tiger recorded a T37, and the U.S. Open (that had been moved to September), where Tiger missed the cut.
As everyone knows, Tiger was involved in a horrendous automobile accident in February 2021, suffering massive leg injuries from which he is making a slow but steady recovery. At 46, it may appear that Tiger’s chase to match or surpass Jack’s major championship record is over.
Counting Tiger out, however, is never a good idea. You can be sure he has no intention of walking into the sunset just yet, and he’ll be back giving it everything he has. As the saying goes, “if there is a will, there is a way,” and Tiger has proven again and again that there is no one with a greater will to win.
With 82 PGA Tour victories, Tiger has surpassed Jack at seventy-three, and matched the record held by Sam Snead. And his 15 major championship wins are second only to Jack’s 18. Regardless of whether Tiger comes back to win another major or breaks Sam Snead’s record for Tour wins, the sports world now has a fierce debate as to the greatest golfer of all time.
Tiger holds 3 U.S. Amateur Championships to Jack’s 2, while Jack holds 18 Major Championships to Tiger’s 15, but Tiger won 82 tour events to Jack’s 73. Some may point to Jack’s overall record at the majors (Nicklaus finished in the top five 56 times, while Tiger recorded 33 Top-5 finishes), and others may say that Tiger faced much deeper fields throughout his career than did Jack.
Much of Tiger’s prime was lost to injury as well, and there is little doubt that he would have matched or surpassed Jack’s major championship win total had he remained healthy. Illness and injury have impacted the careers of great athletes throughout history, however. Lou Gehrig recorded 2,721 hits and had 493 home runs when he was diagnosed with ALS on his 36th birthday. And Bo Jackson, who likely would have been recognized as the greatest athlete in the history of sport, suffered a career ending injury at age 29 (he was selected for both the MLB All-Star team and NFL Pro Bowl—the only athlete ever to accomplish that feat).
Tiger has created a legacy of greatness that is simply remarkable, and while he may fall just short of his ultimate goal all those years ago, he has allowed us to witness golf history in the making— and don’t be surprised if he doesn’t find a way to keep Jack in his sights.
The Open Championship returns to the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland this week to crown the 150th Champion Golfer of the Year. Scotland is the birthplace of golf, with historical records of play at the Old Course going all the way back to 1414. While Open week is always special for everyone who loves golf, 2022 promises to be uniquely memorable with images of past champions at a place where golf has been played for centuries.
In the 1840’s and 50’s, Allan Robertson was the greenskeeper and golf professional at St. Andrews, and universally recognized as the greatest golfer in the world at the time (he also is said to be the first golf professional). In 1848 he made the first recorded modifications to the Old Course–widening the fairways and creating the famous “double greens.” A few years earlier Robertson had laid out the original 10 holes at Carnoustie Golf Links, so he is also the first to be credited for golf course design and architecture.
In the mid-1830’s Robertson hired a youthful Tom Morris, Sr. as an apprentice, and their relationship would bring about the most famous golf tournament in the world: “The Open Championship.” Although Robertson was already unbeatable on the links (it is said that he never lost a match when money was involved), he soon saw that his young apprentice possessed an uncanny talent for golf, and since matches were often played in a two-man alternate shot format, he shrewdly enlisted Tom as his partner to create an invincible tandem. In 1851, however, Morris and Robertson had a falling out when Tom began playing a new kind of golf ball, rather than the “feather” balls that Robertson made and sold at St. Andrews. As a result, Morris left for Prestwick Golf Club in Ayrshire, where he laid out the course and became club pro and greenskeeper. His admiration for Robertson remained steadfast, however, and when Robertson passed away in 1859, Morris decided to organize a tournament in his honor—with the winner recognized as the “Champion Golfer.”
The first Open Championship was played at Prestwick Golf Club in 1860, and was won by Willie Park, Sr. Prestwick hosted The Open for the next 11 years, with Tom Morris, Sr. (Old Tom) and Tom Morris, Jr. (Young Tom) each winning 4 times. In 1873 The Open moved to St. Andrews, and Tom Kidd became the first to be crowned “Champion Golfer” at the Old Course. 2022 will mark the 30th Open to be contested at St. Andrews, the most by far of any course to host a major championship. And the list of winners at the Old Course includes many of the legendary names in golf history.
Champion Golfers at St. Andrews
Jack Nicklaus, acknowledged by most as the greatest golfer in history, won two of his 18 major championships at the Old Course (1970, 1978). Tiger, the greatest of all-time to those who do not think it is Jack, also won 2 of his 15 major championships at St. Andrews (2000, 2005).
Multiple winners at St. Andrews also include John Henry Taylor (1895, 1905) and James Braid (1905, 1910). Both won the Open Championship 5 times, and each are also known for their work in golf course architecture and design.
Other members of the World Golf Hall of Fame who have won the Open Championship at St. Andrews include Sam Snead in 1946, Seve Ballesteros (a 3-time Open Champion) in 1984, and Sir Nick Faldo in 1990 (also a 3-time Open Champion).
Coming off his victory at the U.S. Open in June, and a Top 10 last week at the Scottish Open, Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick has his game in fine form to contend at St. Andrews. Scottie Scheffler is a virtual lock to be among the leaders come Sunday, as he looks to add another major to his resume following an impressive win at the Masters and runner-up at the U.S. Open. Reigning PGA Champ Justin Thomas, enjoying an outstanding season that includes 8 Top 10’s in 17 starts on the PGA Tour this year, will also be a force as he looks to etch his name among the legends of golf who have won at the Old Course. Jon Rahm, in the midst of another stellar year where he has made the cut in 14 of 15 events with a win and 5 additional Top 10’s, will undoubtedly be lurking should the opportunity arise.
Rory McIlroy, with his peerless talent, has been pounding on the door with a runner-up at Augusta, Top 10 at the PGA, and a Top 5 at the U.S. Open thus far in 2022. If the putter cooperates even a bit, Rory will be a formidable presence in the field—and perhaps this will be the week he adds that 5th major championship.
Tiger Woods, returning to St. Andrews where in 2000 he delivered one of the most decisive wins in Open history (an 8-stroke margin over runners up Thomas Bjorn and Ernie Els), looms large over the field. While it would seem unlikely for him to be among the leaders as The Open moves into the weekend, there has never been a player with a greater will to win than Tiger—and the Old Course has provided many magical moments through the ages.
One thing is for sure, the 2022 Open at St. Andrews, where much of golf history has been written, promises to be a championship that will be remembered for many years to come.
While Major Championships and Tour wins define a player’s legacy, making cuts and recording Top-10’s are the most revealing measurement of success in professional golf. Not surprisingly, Jack and Tiger set the high-water mark for these criteria as well, and they are the standard of comparison when looking at the current group of highly talented young stars.
In the graphic below, Jack’s numbers include the entirety of his career, through his retirement at age 65—and it is particularly impressive that his percentage of Top-10 finishes remains so much higher than any player other than Tiger, even when his twilight years on Tour are included.
Athletes peak at different ages, and unfortunately, injury also plays a significant role. For Jack, his percentage of Top-10’s actually increased throughout his 30’s (his Top-10 percentage was 71.8% on his 30th birthday, and 74.5% when he turned 40). Tiger, on the other hand, built the bulk of his record in his 20’s, with serious physical issues beginning to impact his play almost immediately on turning 30. He lost significant portions of the 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2015 seasons, so although Tiger’s Top-10 percentage stood at 66.0% on his 30th birthday, it fell to 60.4% when he turned 40. And then he lost the entire 2015-2016 season following another back surgery.
Current players are at different stages in their career, so the best way to view performance is by looking at percentages, rather than just the totals. As shown in the graphic below, there is a vast gulf in Top-10 percentage between Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy (No.’s 1 and 2), and Dustin Johnson (No. 3).
Jon Rahm, at 27 years old, is only just entering the peak performance years of his career, and Rory, at 33, is at the height of his ability. Collin Morikawa, 25 years old, with the same Top-10 percentage as Dustin Johnson and a significantly higher cut percentage, has virtually his entire career before him. It will be fascinating to track the progress of the current group of talented young PGA Tour stars over the next decade and more, when viewed against the eye-popping numbers that Jack and Tiger put up.
Although Scottie Scheffler has the look of a much more “seasoned” pro, he only just turned 26 on June 21. On top of his Masters victory in April, and strong performance at the U.S. Open (T2), Scottie has made the cut in 18 of the 20 events he’s played this year while recording 9 Top-10’s (including 4 wins). When The Open Championship gets underway at St. Andrews in July, it’s a pretty safe bet that Scheffler will be on the leader board come Sunday.
Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, boyhood rivals with 5 major championships between them, are both at the top of the list when it comes to making cuts and Top-10 percentage. Still in their 20’s, each is a lock for the World Golf Hall of Fame when the curtain comes down on their careers.
Will Zalatoris (No. 8), at 25 years old, has already recorded 6 Top-10’s in major championships. While he has yet to record his first Tour victory, his ball striking is second to none. Should Will begin to putt with more consistency, the possibilities are virtually limitless.
With so much talent currently on the PGA Tour, challenging the records of Jack and Tiger would seem an impossible task—but it makes for tremendous excitement week in and week out.
While LIV has picked off 7 of the Career Top 30, closer inspection reveals that the Tour hasn’t given up a whole heck of a lot. As a group, the PGA ex-pats played a total of 99 events in the 2021-2022 season, making just 66 cuts (66%) along with a grand total of 10 Top-10 Finishes (10%). Surprisingly, the star of the show is Abraham Ancer with 3 Top-10’s.
Perhaps it’s mostly related to age, with just one defector under 30 years old (Bryson DeChambeau). Two are soon to be 40 (Louis Oosthuizen–39 and Dustin Johnson–38), Sergio is 42, and Phil just turned 52.
Phil and Dustin have already punched their ticket to the World Golf Hall of Fame, but with only 1 major and 6 Tour wins, Sergio has become an extreme long shot (although his 22 worldwide wins give him an outside chance). Pat Reed with 1 major and 9 Tour wins, has removed himself from any consideration. Koepka, with 4 major championships, has closed out his PGA Tour career with a total of only 8 wins—so his chances of getting to the Hall are now very much in doubt.
The Saudi’s have paid a boatload of money with this venture, but the quality of their purchases have thus far been questionable to say the least.
As we enter Masters week at Augusta National, where the greats of the game are celebrated to a degree unmatched at any other major championship, it seems like a good time to examine the best who have ever teed it up, and see where they stand in relation to each other. Because Bobby Jones never competed as a professional, he is not included here—but feel free to place him among the top five, as you see fit. We have also included a group of top active PGA Tour players to see where they currently rate among the all-time greats, and consider their chances of joining golfs elite.
Because the major championships are the most demanding tests of golf with the deepest fields, the majors are given the most weight in our ratings, followed by tour wins, major runner-up, top 5 and top 10 finishes, as well as worldwide wins (wins on other tours, such as the European and Asian tours). Golf clubs and courses have evolved dramatically over the past century, so it is our view that the best way to evaluate a player is by his record against the other tour professionals at the time he was active—without consideration to scoring average, driving distance, etc.
It is no surprise that Jack Nicklaus is at the top, followed closely by Tiger. Sam Snead rounds out the big three, with a wide margin between them and number four (Ben Hogan). Both Hogan and Snead’s ratings are negatively affected by World War II, when the majors (and all PGA events) were put on hold—while each was in his prime. Also, following the war, American golf dominated the international scene, with the U.S. winning six of the seven Ryder Cups played between 1947 and 1959 in overwhelming fashion, led by Hogan and Snead. With world-wide travel being a challenge, and neither feeling they needed to prove anything by competing at The Open (then known as The British Open), they pretty much ignored it—although they each made the trip once during that time (and both won—Snead by four shots in ’46 and Hogan by four in ’53). Snead played the British Open two more times later in his career, recording a T6 in 1962 at fifty years old. In addition, the ratings for Walter Hagan and Gene Sarazen are negatively affected because the Masters wasn’t founded until 1934, when Hagen was 42 years old and Sarazen was 34. Field depth and competition level also affect ratings and ranking, and this is addressed in the wrap-up.
The Chase: Tiger and Phil
If Tiger returns for the Masters this week, so too will his relentless pursuit of Jack. And should he somehow pull off another eye-popping win, as he did in 2019, Tiger will move within two of Jack’s record for major championship wins. With another major victory, a few more major Top 10’s and a couple of additional regular tour victories, Tiger will definitively move past Jack as the greatest of all time. Even if he doesn’t tee it up at the Masters this year, he is obviously getting close—and that means he may be seeing Jack in the rear-view mirror by as early as next year.
Phil, on the other hand, is conspicuously absent from the Masters this week. While it is not likely that Mickelson can reach Palmer and Player, he can most certainly add to his accomplishments (as demonstrated by Phil’s win at the PGA Championship last year), and put some distance between himself and those closest to him (Walter Hagan, Tom Watson, and Byron Nelson). And when he joins Tiger for the opening ceremony on the first tee at Augusta in the distant future, the current unpleasantness will undoubtedly be forgotten.
The Current Crop
The chance that anyone currently on tour can make a run at Jack and Tiger is extremely remote—making their accomplishments all the more amazing. Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson are the leaders among active players, followed by Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia.
Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson
At 32 years old, Rory still has a chance to move into the top ten, but he will need to pick up his pace. His last win at a major was eight years ago, and all four of his major victories came between 2011 and 2014. If his putter were to suddenly return from the dead, however, Rory would climb the list at lightning speed—with plenty of time to get near the top.
Dustin, at 37 years old, has enough time to break into the top twenty, but the group of talented youngsters behind him will make it a tough task.
Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia
At 41 and 42 years old respectively, both Scott and Garcia appear to have enough left in the tank for a move into the top thirty. Both are fit and healthy, so if the youngsters’ edge over a bit, they should be able to take their seats.
Brooks Koepka and Justin Rose
Brooks Koepka is 31 years old, and he has ample time to muscle his way up the list. But while his record at the major championships is impressive, he will need to continue his performance at the majors while recording a significant number of additional regular tour wins along the way if he is to reach the top ten. The talent is there, but his motivation seems to be lacking when a major trophy is not on the line.
Justin Rose, at 41 years old, can still get to the top thirty–if his back can hold out for a few more years. Lately he has been getting off to fast starts, only to struggle on the back nine—an indication that the back is not so good. Justin still has that gorgeous golf swing with plenty of power, so if he can maintain his physical condition the top 30 is still within reach.
Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Jason Day
Jordan Spieth, at 28 years old, has plenty of time to make a move into the top twenty, or perhaps even the top ten. Jordan will have to put his foot down hard on the accelerator, however, to make that happen. Spieth won the last of his three majors back in 2017, although he showed signs of returning to form in 2021 with a runner-up at the Open Championship and a T3 at the Masters.
Justin Thomas, also 28 years old, and with a vast amount of talent, has plenty of time to make a move as well. With only one win, a Top 5 and three Top 10’s thus far in his career at the major championships, however, Justin will need to make his presence felt at the majors in a much bigger way as he heads into his thirties.
For Jason Day, at 34 years old, the clock has begun to tick. The talent and putting stroke appear to be intact, so if he can stay healthy there is still time for him to make a move.
Jon Rham, Bryson DeChambeau and Hideki Matsuyama
At 27 years old, Jon Rham will be a force at the major championships for many years to come. Like Koepka, however, Rham will need to start packing on regular tour wins to move into the top thirty and beyond.
Bryson DeChambeau can certainly hit it, and at 28 years old a great many opportunities remain before him. He’s also a lot of fun to watch, so hopefully he can double down on his 2021 U.S. Open Championship and make a push to join the greats of the game.
With his win at the Masters in 2021, Hideki Matsuyama suddenly came back into focus as one of the top players on the PGA Tour. Having just turned 30 years old at the end of February, he’s got some time to beef up his record. Perhaps his Masters win will ignite a run?
In only two full seasons on tour, Collin Morikawa has already notched two major championships and five regular tour wins. Of all the young guns currently on tour, Collin has the best chance to make a move on Jack and Tiger. If he can maintain his current pace for the next twenty-odd years, Collin will find himself among the top five players in golf history. But both Rory and Jordan were in similar positions when they were 24 years old, and neither were able to sustain it.
First there was Snead, then Jack, and now Tiger. Will Collin be the mega-star of the next generation? We’ll just have to watch as golf history continues to unfold before us.
Nicklaus was up against Arnie, Gary Player, Tom Watson and Billy Casper. Tiger had Phil, Ernie Els, and a large cast of highly talented players to contend with. Sam Snead lost four years to the war at the height of his career (but conversely, he also chose to skip The Open throughout the ‘50s, which makes a statement about the level of competition at that time). There are other factors to consider as well, but hopefully our ratings and ranking can form a basis for debate. And we will continue to provide updates as Tiger makes his latest come-back, and the young stars seek to stake their claim among the legends of golf.
The golf world has always been fixated on driving distance, and Bryson DeChambeau has ignited another cycle of discussion and controversy. How does he hit it so far? All of the classic courses will become obsolete—look at the way he destroyed Winged Foot at the Open. Better regulate club length and start looking at the ball again. Well, guess what—Bryson isn’t the first one to get golf’s proverbial head spinning around in the face of revolutionary power. It began with Sam Snead and his silky-smooth swing that regularly propelled his tee ball twenty yards past everybody else on tour. Then came Arnie, driving the green with a 350-yard bomb on the first hole at Cherry Hills in the 1960 US Open. And then there was Jack, who quickly eclipsed Arnie with a combination of Snead’s beautiful swing and Palmer’s brute power, playing in the words of Bobby Jones “an entirely different game, and one which I’m not even familiar with.” Since driving distance stats were not officially tracked by the PGA until 1980, there is no way to know for sure if Jack is the longest of all time (in 1980, at the age of 40, Jack finished tenth in driving distance). But he is certainly the measuring stick—and that leads to John Daly.
Since the PGA began tracking distance off the tee, no one approaches Daly for sheer power. Big John led the tour in driving distance an astounding eleven times, with Bubba Watson a distant second (five times). In 1997, John was the first to average north of 300 yards (Tiger finished second in ’97 at 295 yards, and never led the tour in distance from the tee). John then averaged over 300 yards for ten consecutive years (from 1999 through 2008). With golf ball and equipment changes continuously pushing up driving distance across the board year after year, the only way to compare John with players currently on tour is to look at his numbers against the rest of the tour at the time. In the ten-year span from 1992 through 2001, when John was in his prime (age 25-34), the average drive on tour was 267.5, while Daly averaged 295.6—a 10.5% distance margin. His biggest year was ’99, when he averaged 305.6 compared to a tour average of 272.5 (a margin of 12.5%). In 2021 Bryson DeChambeau led the tour at 323.7, against a tour average of 295.3—a margin of 9.6% (his longest on tour thus far). If we apply Daly’s 1997 margin to the 2021 tour average, that would put him at 332.2 yards—no contest. Bubba Watson’s longest year was 2006, when he averaged 319.6 yards against a tour average of 289.4, a margin of 10.4%, still lower than Daly’s average margin over a ten-year span. In 2003, Hank Kuehne led the tour at 321.4 yards, against a tour average of 286.3, a margin of 12.3%, just short of Daly’s big year in ’96. Unfortunately, Hank’s career was cut short due to injury, so we will never know how he would have stacked-up against Daly over the long haul. That leaves only Jack and John Daly in a discussion about the longest ever on the PGA Tour—and “Long John” has an excellent case. And just as Jack maintained his length later in his career, Daly kept on bombing it as well, finishing second in tour driving distance in 2007 at the age of 40, and sixth in 2010 at 43 years old.
As big as John’s drives were over the years, so too have been his life struggles. His battles with alcohol have been well documented, and his junk food diet with associated weight gain have been highly publicized as well (John has never subscribed to the DeChambeau theory of adding distance through a regimental strength and conditioning program, supplemented with protein shakes). In that regard, I guess you could say that John is a bit like the Babe Ruth of golf. Through it all, Daly has always commanded a huge following of faithful fans. But what made him so popular from the moment he came out on tour was not just his ability to hit it a mile, or his colorful personality, but the fact that he is a regular guy. Someone everyday people can relate to and pull for. Daly was not cut from the same cloth as many of his peers on the PGA Tour, and would not be described as the “country club” type. He wasn’t “groomed” for greatness, or tutored by a golf pro from the moment he could walk. Daly taught himself the game by reading Jack’s instructional book on golf (Nicklaus’ Lesson Tee). And his early years were not easy, as he describes in his candid autobiography “My Life in and Out of the Rough.” Daly escaped the challenges of his youth by dedicating himself to golf, and in so doing achieved monumental heights, winning the 1991 PGA and 1995 Open Championships.
When John asked Tiger to join him for a beer at the 2004 Target World challenge as he was headed for the work-out room, Tiger famously declined, saying “If I had your talent, I’d be doing the same thing.” There is more than a grain of truth to that. Not only could Daly bomb it off the tee, he had amazing touch and feel around the greens, along with an excellent putting stroke. One can only speculate on the number of Tour wins and major championships John would have amassed without the personal issues with which he contended throughout his career—but it’s safe to say he would be among the very top. One thing is for sure though, no one can hit it with Daly off the tee (with the possible exception of Jack).
John’s most recent challenge has been a bout with bladder cancer, and we are all happy to hear that he is doing very well, playing a ton of golf with his son John, Jr. (who appears to be a chip off the old block when it comes to hitting a golf ball). And while cancer treatment generally takes a toll on people, John seems to be brushing that aside as well, averaging 299.9 yards off the tee this year on the Champions Tour (currently third).
There is nothing like watching John Daly grip it and rip it, so if there’s a Champions Tour event coming to a course near you, go out and have a look—you will be glad you did.
A group of young guns is emerging on the PGA Tour, flexing their muscle and exerting a powerful influence that will change the landscape of professional golf for the next decade and more. Each is seeking to etch his name in golf history, and all have the talent to do so. Currently twelve players under the age of 30 are included among the top twenty in the World Golf Rankings, and we will take a look at them all as the 2022 tour season gets under way. Can one of these mega-talented young stars approach the seemingly unattainable records of Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods? To put it in perspective, Jack Nicklaus recorded 73 tour wins in his career (30 in his twenties), with 18 major titles (7 in his twenties).Tiger Woods has accumulated 82 wins on tour (46 in his twenties) including 15 major titles (8 in his twenties). Last time we looked at Jon Rham, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas. Here are three more dynamic young stars with an opportunity to approach, and possibly even surpass, the extremely high bar that’s been set by Jack and Tiger.
Bryson DeChambeau (28 years old/No. 9 in the World Rankings)
In addition to focus and fortitude, what separated Jack and Tiger from their contemporaries was a combination of prodigious power and uncanny putting. Bryson’s massive length has been well documented, but keep in mind that he can also roll his rock. In 2020 Bryson not only led the tour in driving distance, he also ranked 12th in putting. DeChambeau was born in Modesto California, and began looking at golf through a different lens from an early age, playing from the forward tees to perfect his wedge game and build confidence with the scoring shots in golf (100 yards and in). When he was 18, Bryson postulated that he could achieve a more repeatable swing plane (and thus consistency) if all of his clubs from 3 iron to wedge were exactly the same length, so he thumbed his nose at a hundred and fifty years of golf dogma and made the switch. And on receiving a golf scholarship to SMU in Dallas, Texas, he continued his analytical vision of the golf swing by majoring in physics (the genesis of his moniker as “The Scientist”). Bryson’s game began its meteoric rise when he won the NCAA division I individual championship in 2015, and followed that up by winning the US Amateur title in the same year, joining Jack, Tiger, Phil and Ryan Moore as the only players to achieve that distinction. Bryson turned pro following The Masters in 2016, where he finished 21st as the low amateur, and won his first PGA Tour event in 2017 at the John Deere Classic. His success continued in 2018 with three tour wins, including The Memorial at Muirfield Village. Bryson added another win in 2019, and decided it was time to power up with an intensive strength and conditioning regimen, which led to two more wins in 2020, including the U.S. Open, where his length dominated Winged Foot to capture his first major title. Once again, Bryson ignored conventional wisdom where lean muscles and flexibility were accepted as the key to generating speed and power, instead opting for massive daily protein intake, the weight room, and sheer bulk. In 2021 DeChambeau added another victory to his resume, winning Arnie’s event at Bay Hill. Eight tour wins including a major in under six years is impressive, but Bryson will need to keep the lab running on overtime to make a move on Jack and Tiger.
Jordan Spieth (28 years old/No. 15 in the World Rankings)
Like Justin Thomas, his boyhood rival, Jordan Spieth has been on the PGA Tour for so long that it’s hard to believe he’s still in his twenties. And like Thomas, Jordan made his debut on the tour scene as an amateur when he was sixteen years old (the 2010 Byron Nelson, where he popped everybody’s eyeballs with a top 20 finish). He made the cut at the Byron Nelson again in 2011, and in 2012 Jordan qualified for the US Open at the Olympic Club, where he finished 21st as the low amateur (and tying Tiger as well). Jordan turned pro in 2013, making the cut in eighteen of the twenty-three events he entered, recorded nine top 10’s including his first tour win at the John Deer Classic, and finished the year with a runner up at the Tour Championship. In 2014, Spieth failed to record a win, but made the cut in twenty-four of the twenty-seven events he entered, including a runner up at the Masters. 2015 would prove to be a break-out year for Jordan, with five wins, including two majors (The Masters and the U.S. Open), top 10 finishes in fifteen of the twenty-five tournaments he entered, and victory at the Tour Championship where he took home the FedEx Cup. He tacked on two wins in 2016, including eight top 10’s, and three more in 2017, including his third major title (The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale). 2018 through 2020, however, were lean years for Spieth, and he failed to record a win or advance to the Tour Championship (although he made the cut in 51 of the 63 tournaments he entered, with twelve top 10’s). In 2021 Jordan ended his drought with a win at the Valero Texas Open, recorded nine top ten finishes, including a runner up at Open Championship, a T3 at The Masters, and a return to the Tour Championship. Spieth currently stands with twelve wins and three major titles, and even with the three-year lull, Jordan can still put himself into position for an assault on Jack and Tiger with a big year in 2022—and he has the pedigree to do it.
Patrick Cantley (29 Years old/No. 4 in the World Golf Rankings)
Injury has robbed Patrick Cantlay of the opportunity to build his professional golf legacy in his twenties, but he has set the stage to show the world what he can do in his thirties. Born in Long Beach, California, Cantley received a golf scholarship to UCLA, and was awarded the Haskins Award as outstanding college golfer in the country as a freshman in 2011 (and also the Jack Nicklaus Division I Player of the Year award presented by the Golf Coaches Association of America). Cantley holds the record for the most consecutive weeks as the number one amateur in the World Golf Rankings (54), holds the record for lowest score (60) ever recorded by an amateur in a PGA tournament (2011 Travelers Championship), and was the low amateur at the 2011 US Open where he tied for 21st. As the golf world looked on with great anticipation, Cantley turned pro in 2012 following the US Open, and made the cut in six of the seven tournaments he entered. But the train derailed in May of 2013, at The Colonial Invitational (now the Charles Schwab Challenge), where Cantley suffered a severe back injury (fracture of the L5 vertebrae) and was forced to withdraw, subsequently missing the bulk of the season. The back injury continued to plague him through 2014, where he could only tee it up six times, and then he missed the entirety of the 2015 and 2016 seasons. In 2017 Cantlay began his comeback, making the cut in all thirteen of the events he entered, recording a runner up at the Valspar that helped him gain entrance to the FedEx Cup playoffs, where three consecutive top 10’s got him to the Tour Championship. In the Fall of the 2017/2018 wrap around season, Patrick notched his first tour win at the Shriners, and made the cut in twenty-one of the twenty-three tournaments he entered, including seven top 10’s and another trip to the Tour Championship. In 2019 he added another win (The Memorial), making the cut in eighteen of twenty-one events he entered and nine top 10 finishes. In 2021 Cantlay fulfilled the promise of his superlative amateur career, as he won four times, including another win at the Memorial, wins at The BMW and Tour Championship, and ultimately becoming the FedEx Cup Champion. Patrick will be a force to be reckoned with at the majors in 2022, and the adversity he’s overcome make you believe that anything is possible. One thing is for sure, we will be pulling for him.
Stay tuned as we next look at Victor Hoveland (24 years old/No. 3 in the world), Xander Schauffele (28 years old/No. 10 in the world, and Cameron Smith (28 years old/No. 10 in the world)
A group of young guns is emerging on the PGA Tour, flexing their muscle and exerting a powerful influence that will change the landscape of professional golf for the next decade and more. Each is seeking to etch his name in golf history, and all have the talent to do so. Currently twelve players under the age of 30 are included among the top twenty in the World Golf Rankings, and we will take a look at them all as the 2022 tour season gets under way. Can one of these mega-talented young stars approach the seemingly unattainable records of Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods? To put it in perspective, Jack Nicklaus recorded 73 tour wins in his career (30 in his twenties), with 18 major titles (7 in his twenties).: Tiger Woods has accumulated 82 wins on tour (46 in his twenties) including 15 major titles (8 in his twenties). Let’s take a look at the first three to see where they currently stand, and consider the possibilities.
John Rahm (27 years old/No. 1 in the World Rankings)
John Rahm is currently at the top of the official World Golf Rankings, and it should really not come as a surprise. With power and precision off the tee, steely nerves and singular focus, Rahm has recorded 6 PGA Tour Wins in the span of just 4 years, including a major title (2021 US Open). Born in Barrika, Spain as ‘John Rahm Rodriguez’, he was an exceptional golfer from an early age, earning a golf scholarship to Arizona State University where he won 11 college golf tournaments before graduating in 2016 (second only to Phil Mickelson, who recorded 16 wins at ASU). He waited to turn pro until the conclusion of the 2016 US Open, having received an invitation to compete as the #1 ranked amateur in the world, and recorded a top 25 finish. The following week he finished 3rd at the Quicken Loans National Tournament, gaining an invitation to The Open at Royal Troon where he made the cut, and followed that up with a runner-up finish at the Canadian Open the very next week. Adding two top 15 finishes in the fall secured his tour card, and Rahm exploded onto the golf scene in January 2017 with a remarkable come from behind victory at the Farmers Insurance Open (Torrey Pines–against a powerhouse field). He continued his success, recording four more wins between 2018 and 2020, and then took home the U.S. Open title in 2021, where he fired a final round 67 to defeat Louis Oosthuizen on the difficult South Course at Torre Pines. And with two Ryder Cups under his belt already, expect Rahm to be a pillar of the European team for many years to come. To get close to the bar set by Jack and Tiger however, Rahm will need to pick up his pace quite a bit with at least fifteen more wins and four or five major titles in the next few years. It can be done though, since he won’t turn 30 until November of 2024, giving him 3 more full seasons to beef up his record. Jack won 19 times from 1971-1973, and Tiger recorded 22 wins between 1999 and 2001. The problem is that Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy are still in their prime, along with a host of youthful superstars who also want to make their mark on the game.
Collin Morikawa (24 years old/No. 2 in the World Rankings)
When talking about young guns on the PGA Tour, Collin Morikawa jumps right to the top of the list. Known for precision iron play, Morikawa evokes images of Johnny Miller at the top of his game. When you add his accuracy off the tee and a beautiful putting stroke, the possibilities are unlimited. Morikawa was born in Los Angeles, California. Like Rahm, Morikawa started playing golf very early and proved himself to be a talent. He received a golf scholarship to play at the University of California, Berkley, where he excelled on the collegiate golf stage, winning numerous amateur championships and rising to #1 in the World Amateur Golf rankings in 2018. After graduating from college in 2019, Morikawa turned professional and immediately recorded a top 15 finish at the Canadian Open after receiving a sponsor’s exemption (a field that included Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson). The following week he made the cut at the US Open (held at Pebble Beach), closing with a final round 69. He then finished runner up at the 3M Open, recorded a top 5 at the John Deere Classic the very next week, and secured his card for the 2020 season by winning the Barracuda Championship. After making the cut in all nine of the tournaments he entered in 2019, Morikawa started the 2020 season by making the cut in his first 11 events before the season was put on hold due to COVID 19. When the season resumed, Morikawa recorded a runner up at the Charles Schwab Challenge, the 21st consecutive cut he had made from the start of his PGA career, with a chance to challenge Tiger’s record of 25. Unfortunately, his streak ended at 22 with a missed cut two weeks later at the Travelers, but Morikawa wasted no time with what might have been, and notched a second tour win two weeks later in a playoff with Justin Thomas (the Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village). The following month Morikawa won the PGA Championship, his first major title, firing a final round 64 (tying Steve Elkington’s record for lowest final round at the PGA) and ended the season with a sixth-place finish at the Tour Championship. The 2021 season was even more spectacular, as Morikawa added two more wins, including his second major title at the Open Championship, a top 5 at the US Open, top 10 at the PGA Championship and a top 20 at the Masters. With 5 wins including 2 majors under his belt already, and six full seasons before he will turn 30, Morikawa has plenty of time to make Tiger and Jack take a serious look over their shoulder.
Justin Thomas (28 Years old/No. 7 in the World Golf Rankings)
It may come as a surprise that Justin Thomas is still in his twenties, since he made his first appearance on the PGA tour way back in 2009. Thomas was just sixteen years old, and still in high school, when he teed it up at the Wyndham Championship, where he opened with a first round 65 and made the cut. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, he was taught the game almost as soon as he could walk by is his father, Mike Thomas, the head golf professional at Harmony Landing Country Club. In 2012, as a sophomore at the University of Alabama, Thomas received the Haskins Award as the outstanding college golfer of the year, and opted to join the PGA Tour in 2013, after Alabama won the National Championship. He recorded his first tour victory in 2015 (the CIMB Classic), and added 13 more titles over the next five years, including a major (2017 PGA Championship) and the Players Championship in 2021. Known for his length off the tee, Thomas can roll it on the green as well (ranked 5th in putting in 2017 while recording 5 wins). He only has one more full year in his twenties though, so 2022 needs to be a big one for him if he wants to keep Tiger and Jack in his sights. Keep in mind that Vijay Singh won nine times in ’04, and with his power and putting stroke, Thomas can most definitely make a statement.
Stay tuned as we next look at Bryson DeChambeau (28 years old/No. 13 in the world), Jordan Spieth (28 years old/No. 15 in the world, and Patrick Cantley (29 years old/No. 4 in the world).
Last week concluded The Players Championship, and it was quite a wild ride to say the least. At the end of the week, Justin Thomas emerged as the victor. Thomas had been rather quiet the first two days of the championship, but on Saturday he fired a blistering 64 which left him only three shots off the pace set by tournament leader, Lee Westwood. On Sunday, Thomas continued his solid play, shooting a comfortable 68, and finishing one shot ahead of Westwood. This was Thomas’ first win of the season and it kicked him all the way up to second place in the FedEx Cup standings. The Players almost felt like a replay of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, as Bryson DeChambeau was in the mix again on Sunday, going off in the final pairing in back-to-back weeks with Lee Westwood. I think it’s a safe bet that Bryson will be lifting the championship trophy on quite a few Sundays in 2021 with the way he’s playing. And how about Lee Westwood, suddenly making putts to go along with the pure ball-striking that has been his trade mark for so many years. You won’t find a classier guy on tour, and it’s impossible not to pull for him (which it looks like we can do every week these days).
The Honda Classic
The Honda Classic is set to kick off this week in south Florida, with thrilling golf and a nail-biting finish pretty much guaranteed. Last year, seven players finished within three shots of eventual winner, Sungjae Im. In 2019, six players finished within three shots of winner Keith Mitchell, and in 2018 it came down to a playoff between Luke List and eventual winner, Justin Thomas. The event was originally played at Inverrary Country Club, and was known as “Jackie Gleason’s Inverrary Classic”. Honda became the tournament sponsor in 1982, and from ‘84 through ‘91 the championship was held at Eagle Trace Golf Club in Coral Springs. After 1991, the tournament was hosted at a number of venues, including The Club at Weston Hills, Heron Bay Golf Club, and The Country Club at Mirasol, before finally settling at the Champion Course at PGA National Resort and Spa in 2007. When Jack remodeled the Champion Course in 1990, he created the treacherous three-hole stretch on the back nine that has become known as the “Bear Trap,” which over the years has provided some of the biggest thrills in golf (while guaranteeing that a player will have to hit more than a few extraordinary shots under pressure to take home the trophy).
Following the Players Championship, a number of big names will be taking the week off–but the field will still be plenty strong with past champion Sungjae Im, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Ricky Fowler, Daniel Berger, Jim Furyk, and the red-hot Lee Westwood all teeing it up. Another player to keep a close eye on this week is the young Joaquin Niemann, who had consecutive runner- up finishes earlier in the year at the Tournament of Champions and Sony Open. Past Champions at the Honda include Jack Nicklaus (twice), Lee Trevino, Hale Irwin, Johnny Miller, Fred Couples, Mark O’Meara, Curtis Strange, Tom Kite, Tom Weiskopf, and Vijay Singh.
PGA National Resort and Spa
PGA National Resort and Spa was established in 1980, and consists of five 18-hole courses, three of which (including the Champion Course), were originally designed by Tom Fazio, one of the great modern course architects. Jack Nicklaus lifted the Champion Course to even greater heights with the changes he made in 1990, with Arnie and Ed Seay adding their touch to this wonderful golf venue with the “The Palmer Course.” Karl Litten, a highly respected architect who often flies under the radar, designed the ‘The Estates Course.” In addition to the Honda, PGA National has been the site of many high-profile championships over the years, including the 1983 Ryder Cup, 1987 PGA Championship, and the Senior PGA Championship from 1982 through 2000. If you are planning a golf vacation, PGA National is a perfect choice. With five great courses and terrific accommodations, you will find an experience that will last a lifetime. And don’t forget to tune in for the Honda this week, you are guaranteed to see some great golf and big-time excitement come Sunday.
Last week concluded The Genesis Invitational, and it was quite a wild ride. Max Homa fired a 66 on Sunday to tie Tony Finau, and then bested him in a playoff to claim victory. This was Homa’s second win on tour, and it vaulted him to number 10 in the FedEx Cup standings, as well as securing a spot in this week’s WGC Workday Championship. This latest defeat will likely weigh heavily on Finau, being the third playoff loss in a row in his quest to become a multiple winner on tour. When you shoot 64 at Riviera on Sunday to give yourself a chance, there is one hell of a lot to feel good about though. And the way Tony strikes the ball, it is only a matter of time—perhaps a major (or two) is in the near future. Another big story was 24-year-old Sam Burns, who led the tournament for most of the week and a good piece of Sunday, falling one shot short of the playoff with three bogeys on the back nine. Paired with Dustin Johnson in the final group on Sunday, he handled himself like a tour veteran. No doubt we’ll be seeing big things from this youngster as the season moves along.
This week marks the start of the WGC-Workday Championship. Normally this would be the WGC-Mexico Championship, but due to logistical issues related to COVID-19, the venue had to be switched from Mexico City to south Florida. Prior to Mexico City, the WGC-Workday was played at a number of different venues, most notably a six year stretch at Trump National Doral in Miami from 2011 through 2016. Before moving to Doral, it was held on a rotational basis at different locations around the world including Spain (Valderrama), Ireland (Mount Juliet, a magnificent Nicklaus design), and Britain (The Grove). This year it will be held at the Concession Golf Club in Florida, another wonderful Nicklaus design. Tiger Woods has won this WGC event an astounding 7 times, a record that will stand for a very long time indeed. Outside of the majors and The Players, WGC events are the most highly prized championships on tour, and the winner is awarded 550 FedEx Cup points (50 more than what is awarded for a normal PGA Tour event).
WGC events are always great theater because the field is comprised of only the top ranked players in the world—the top 50 for the WGC-Workday. Players to keep an eye on this week include Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, Rory McIlroy, and Xander Schauffele. Johnson may be particularly motivated after his lack-luster finish at Riviera last week (one over 72 on Sunday). Brooks Koepka is another player to keep a close eye on, coming off his win in Phoenix a couple of weeks back, and it’s hard to imagine Tony Finau very far from the lead on Sunday after the way he was moving it in LA. Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas are always dangerous, given the prodigious power they can bring to bear, particularly on a demanding Nicklaus layout where length is always at a premium. One thing is for sure, it’s going to be a great tournament.
The Concession Golf Club
The Concession Golf Club is a private club located in Bradenton, Florida. It was founded in 2006, and designed by World Golf Hall of Famers, Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin. The club’s name is derived from one of the magical moments in golf history, when Jack Nicklaus conceded the final put to Tony Jacklin in the 1969 Ryder Cup, resulting in the first tie in Ryder Cup history. The Concession is considered one of the best golf courses in Florida, with countless accolades from Golf Digest, Golf Magazine, and Golfweek. The Concession also offers one of the finest Par 3 courses in the country (The Gimme) as well as a wonderful putting course (Snake Acre). The star of the show, however, is the eighteen-hole championship layout, which has a course rating of 76.7 and a slope of 155 from the tips—guaranteed to be a very stiff test for even the greatest players in the world.
The Puerto Rico Open
This week also marks the start of the Puerto Rico Open, an alternate tournament held for players not eligible for the field at the WGC event. The tournament is being played at the Grand Reserve Country Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. This Championship offers an opportunity for veterans to build their FedEx point total, while giving some of the young stars a chance to shine. The winner of the Puerto Rico Open is awarded 300 FedEx Cup points along with a spot in the field at the 2021 PGA Championship. If there are any superstitious coves among you, some believe there is a curse attached to the Puerto Rico Open, because with the exception of Michael Bradley (a 2-time winner of the event), and more recently Victor Hovland (who later won the Mayakoba Classic), nobody who won here ever won another event on Tour. Keep in mind that Tony Finau, who won the Puerto Rico Open in 2016, is a lock to put an end to the curse theory forever.