Great Golfers (Worldwide)

Tiger Woods

Born Eldrick Tiger Woods in 1975, American golfer, Tiger Woods, is currently the world’s no.1 professional golfer and has held the leading position on the official world golf rankings, more times than any other golfer in history. Woods began his career at an early age, putting against the comedian Bob Hope, on a television show when he was just three years old. After winning the Junior Championships six times by the time he was thirteen, Woods became the youngest golfer to win the world Junior Amateur Championships, going on to become the Amateur Golf World Player in 1992. By the time he began playing professionally in 1996, Woods had taken part in the PGA tour, the Open Championship and the Masters as an amateur player, and was the only golfer ever to have won three consecutive amateur titles.

Woods played his inaugural event as a professional golfer, in August 1996 at the Greater Milwaukee Open, finishing in 60th place. That same year he went on to qualify for the Tour Championships and was also named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year, an unusual achievement for a player so early on in their professional career. Following a successful first year, Woods became the youngest golfer to win the Masters Championship in April 1997, and two months later was elevated to the no.1 position in the Official World Golf Rankings. Between 1999 and 2002, Woods dominated the major champions, winning the US Open and the British Open in 2000, the PGA Championships in 1999 and 2000, and the Masters in 2001. He went on to win a series of high profile events, although he failed to win any more major championships until 2005. In 2004, Woods remained top of the Official World Rankings for a record-breaking 264 weeks before being knocked off the top spot by Vijay Singh. In 2005, Woods began dominating the major events once more, and in the last two years, he has won the 2005 Masters Championships as well as the British Open and the PGA Championships two further times.

His career achievements to date include sixty one PGA tour wins and twenty two additional professional triumphs. He is only the second golfer to have won all the major championships twice and has set the record for having the lowest scoring career average in PGA Tour history.

Jack Nicklaus

Also known as ‘the Golden Bear,’ Jack Nicklaus is famed for having won more major championships than any other professional golfer and is widely regarded as the greatest golfer of all time. Born in Columbus, Ohio in 1940, Nicklaus was a pioneer of modern golf and is credited with turning the game into the popular spectator sport it is today. Nicklaus began playing golf at an early age, winning his first Ohio State Junior title at the age of twelve. Following six junior titles, Nicklaus went on to win the US Amateur Championships in 1959 and 1961, placing second as amateur player in the 1960 US Open.

Nicklaus became professional in 1962 and soon rose to world success, winning his first event at the US Open that same year. Following his inaugural year, at the end of which he had come third on the PGA tour money list, Nicklaus went on to win both the Masters and the PGA Championships in 1963. By the time he was just 26 years old, Nicklaus had won every major championship, becoming the only golfer to win the Masters in consecutive years in 1965/66. After winning the PGA Championships in 1971, Nicklaus became the first golfer in history to win the major championships’ career Grand Slam for the second time, but amazingly his record didn’t stop there and by 1978 he had won each major championship for a third time. Nicklaus won his final major championship at the 1986 Masters but he went on to win many more high profile events before retiring in 2005. He played his final professional tournament at the 2005 Open Championships at St Andrews, ending his career with a total of 113 professional wins, 18 major titles and 73 PGA tour victories.

He was named the 1970’s ‘Athlete of the Decade’ by Sports Illustrated, PGA player of the year four times and has received two Golfer of the Century Awards. Today Nicklaus spends much of his time designing golf courses world wide but his legacy lives on as one of the longest hitting players and greatest putters in golfing history.

Bobby Jones

Born in 1902, Bobby Jones was one of the pioneering professional golfers and is famed for being the only golfer ever to have won all the major championships in one year. Jones was best known for his natural, balanced swing which led him to win seven major golfing championships in his career. Winning his first competitive event at the tender age of six, Jones won his first high profile event in the 1923 US Open, although he continued to play on an amateur, part-time basis. After winning a series of high-profile events, Jones had his most successful competitive year in 1926, when he stunned the golfing world by winning the Double, the US Open and the British Open. Jones ended his career at just 28, after winning his seven major titles as well as the US Amateur Championships and the British Amateur Championships, which were both considered major events at the time.

He went on to write a series of books about the game and appeared in several instructional films. Despite his short professional career, Jones’ legacy has lived on through the last century and, in 2003, his name was given to one of the largest golfing companies in the world.

Arnold Palmer

One of Jack Nicklaus’s most famous rivals, Arnold Palmer had his first victory at the Canadian Open Championships in 1955 and was so influential that his name has since been given to the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Pittsburgh, USA. Learning to play golf at the tender age of seven, Palmer won a golf scholarship for Wake Forest University, where he learned the skills necessary to win him the US Amateur Golf Championships in 1954. After winning the Canadian Open, Palmer continually demonstrated great charisma and competence on the golf course and is often held responsible for bringing golf to the wider non-golfing audience.

Palmer won his first major championship at the Masters in 1958, a competition that he went on to win a further three times during his professional career. In all, he won seven major titles and placed second three times in the PGA Championships. As well as winning a total of ninety-six professional events, he also raised the profile of the British Open Championships, encouraging many of his fellow Americans to travel across the Atlantic for the tournament. Palmer dominated the game during the early 1960s, but he continued to play in high profile events until his retirement from the game in 2006. In 2004, he made his fiftieth appearance in the Masters Championship and, in the latter years of his career, he made his mark in many senior major events.

As well winning almost a hundred golfing events, Palmer has collected several awards, including four Vardon Trophies, two PGA Player of the Year awards and four awards for being the PGA Tour Money Winner. During his lifetime Palmer’s influence has gone beyond the game of golf and he has made significant contributions to the medical world as well as to the game of golf, founding several world-class hospitals, and even giving his name to a form of iced tea!

Ben Hogan

Born in 1912 and having a long and illustrious golfing career, Ben Hogan was one of history’s most influential golfers, famed for his striking abilities and his contributions to swing theory. Entering the game as a caddy at the age of eleven, in his home town of Fort Worth, Texas, Hogan began his professional career in 1931, although he didn’t win his first professional tournament until 1940. After golfing through nine years of financial difficulties, Hogan finally made his name at the PGA tournament, becoming the PGA tour money winner. After winning a series of high profile events, including the 1946 PGA Championship and the 1948 U.S Open, Hogan had a near-fatal car accident, causing the doctors to say that he would never play golf again. After making a miraculous recovery, Hogan left hospital just fifty-nine days after he went in and continued his path to world domination, winning the Masters for the first time in 1951. After his accident, Hogan developed what is now known as the ‘Hogan fade’ swing, which allowed Hogan the accuracy that he demonstrated during the latter years of his career.

Before his retirement in 1971, Hogan won sixty-four professional titles, including ten major tournaments. He was awarded the PGA Player of the Year four times, topped the PGA Tour Money List five times and received three Vardon trophies. His legendary book, ‘Five Lessons: Modern Fundamentals in Golf’, is arguably the most widely read golfing manual in history and his legacy lives on in the much-loved 1951 film ‘Follow the Sun,’ a biographical film of Hogan’s life and achievements.

Seve Ballesteros

Born in 1957, as Severiano Ballesteros, the Spanish golfer was one of the dominant golfers on the professional circuit, following his inaugural game in 1974. Ballesteros began playing golf on the beaches near his home town of Pedrena in Spain, following in the footsteps of his elder brother, Manuel, who had a number of professional wins during the 1970s. After playing his first professional game at just sixteen, Ballesteros took part in his first high profile event at the Open Championship, wowing spectators by finishing in an admirable second place. That same year he won the European Tour Order of Merit, maintaining the title over the following two years.

Ballesteros won his first major championship in 1979, winning the Open Championship, and during his career, he went on to win five major titles, including the 1984 and 1988 Open Championship and the 1980 and 1983 Masters. Despite never having won the PGA tour, Ballesteros went on to win the European Order of Merit six times and during his career he had a total of ninety four professional wins. Between 1983 and 1985 he topped McCormack’s World Golf Rankings and, following the inauguration of the Official World Golf Rankings, he was the leading golfer at the end of 1988. During the 1990’s Ballesteros began to play less due to serious back problems and he retired from the professional game in 2007 during the Champions Tour. In 1997 he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame and today he spends his time running a successful business, designing golf courses.

Gary Player

Nicknamed ‘the Black Knight’ for his polite but competitive nature, Gary Player is a South African golfer, who turned professional in 1953, rising to national domination almost immediately. In 1956, Player travelled to Britain and won the high profile Dunlop Masters in Sunningdale, winning the South African Open that same year. His rise to world triumph followed shortly after, when in 1959, Player became the youngest golfer ever to have won the Open Championships. Following his inaugural major triumph, Player went on to win ten major titles, including three Open titles, one US Open, two PGA tour title and three Masters, achieving his career Grand Slam when he first won the Masters in 1965. Along with ‘’Jack Nicklaus’’ and ‘’Arnold Palmer’’, Player was regarded as one of the most fearsome players of his day and, as part of ‘the big three’, contributed to making golf a highly popular televised sport.

Player won his last major title at the 1978 Masters tournament but in 1998 he became the oldest golfer ever to have qualified for the Masters. Despite the end of his major triumphs, he continues to be successful in Senior competition and is well on the way to overtaking Jack Nicklaus in the number of professional victories achieved. During his career, Player has picked up numerous awards, marked most recently in 2006 when the World Golf Hall of Fame launched an exhibition of his golfing achievements. In 1966, Player was given the Bob Jones Award in recognition of his contribution to the game. He was inducted into the golfing Hall of Fame in 1974 and has also won the award for South African Sportsman of the century, as well as being made Captain of the prestigious President’s Cup team in 2003.

Nick Faldo

After being inspired to start playing golf after watching Jack Nicklaus play in the early seventies, Nick Faldo quickly rose to success, winning both the English Amateur Championship and the British Youths Championship. In 1976, he became a professional golfer, making his mark by finishing in eighth place on his first European tour, and in 1977 he became the youngest player ever to play as part of the Ryder Cup team. After taking some time out of competition in the 1980s, in order to improve his swing, under the instruction of golfer turned tutor David Leadbetter,” Faldo returned to competitive golf. Since then, Faldo has enjoyed huge success in major tournaments, having won three Open Championships and three US Masters titles, and being ranked No.1 on the official World Golf Rankings for an outstanding total of ninety-eight weeks. In addition to his championship success, he has won a series of high profile competitions and tour events including the French Open, Irish Open, Spanish Open, the PGA, the British Masters and the European Open. He has also had several team triumphs including the Alfred Dunhill Cup, the World Cup and the Ryder Cup.

Harry Vardon

Born in 1870, Harry Vardon grew up on Jersey and began to play golf in his teens, turning professional at the age of 20. Vardon made his mark in 1896, when he won the first Open Championships and went on to win a record breaking five further Open Championships over the next two decades, a record that stands to this day. In 1900, Vardon toured America as a golfing celebrity, winning eighty matches and finishing with a victory at the US Open. He won an outstanding sixty-two tournaments during his life time, including the high profile British PGA Matchplay Championship and the German Open. Vardon was an influential player during his lifetime and his legacy lived on after his death in 1987. Vardon introduced what is now referred to as the ‘Vardon grip,’ a way of gripping the golf club so that the little finger of the trailing hand (lowest hand on the club) is placed between the index and middle finger of the lead hand (the highest hand on the club), with the thumb of the lead hand fitting in to the lifeline of the trailing hand. He also inspired the ‘Vardon Trophy’ which is awarded each year on the PGA tour to the golfer with the lowest adjusted scoring average