Tag: Justin Thomas

Golf Legends: Ranking the Top 30

The Masters: Honoring the Greats of the Game

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.

The Criteria

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.

The Ranking

Tiger and Jack

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.

Rory, Jordan and Justin

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

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?

Collin Morikawa

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.

The Wrap-Up

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.

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The PGA Tour: Changing of the Guard-Volume I

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).

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