The Greatest Golfers In PGA Tour History
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Since 1929, the PGA Tour has been home to the best golfers in America, as well as many of the best players the world has ever seen. Thousands of golfers compete in its events every year, making a game that is brutally difficult look easy because of their incredible skill.
We looked back through the history of the PGA Tour and chose the players we think were the best to ever compete in its tournaments. Some of the guys on the list were never even regular members of the organization for one reason or another but dazzled us in the times where they did compete in PGA Tour events regardless.
Young players like Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau could easily make this list with a little more experience at the rates they are going early in their careers, but we’ve left them off until they can show a bit more longevity.
Here are our picks for the greatest golfers in PGA Tour history.
25. Bernhard Langer
Germany’s Bernhard Langer may have only won three PGA Tour events, but that includes two Masters Tournaments, and he had three top-five finishes at other major championships. Langer’s astounding 42 wins on the European Tour are the second-most in history, and he has more than proven his brilliance later in life as a member of the PGA Tour Champions organization, which is open to players over 50 years old.
24. Lloyd Mangrum
The World Golf Hall of Fame, of which Lloyd Mangrum is a member, remarked that he was “movie star handsome” and “one of golf’s toughest competitors.” The Texan won 36 PGA Tour events in the 1940s and ’50s, including the 1946 U.S. Open, which was his lone victory in a major championship. He finished in the top three at four other majors, however, and twice earned the Vardon Trophy, which is given to the PGA Tour’s player with the lowest average score for the year.
His golfing accomplishments would likely be even more impressive if he hadn’t taken time out to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II, where he earned a Purple Heart and four battle stars before returning to the game.
23. Cary Middlecoff
Tennessee native Cary Middlecoff was called “Doc” because he worked as a dentist before becoming a professional golfer in 1947. He won at least one PGA Tour event every year of his career, according to the World Golf Hall of Fame, finishing his run with 40 wins, which is the 10th-most in history. Among that massive tally of victories, the last of which came in 1961, Middlecoff also won three majors and finished second at the 1955 PGA Championship.
He was also the first amateur to ever win the prestigious North and South Open, which had also counted legends like Ben Hogan and Sam Snead among its victors.
22. Nick Faldo
Within four years after taking his first golf lesson, Nick Faldo became Britain’s best amateur golfer. He would go on to become a brilliant professional, winning 30 events on the European Tour, including five in 1983 alone. In the States, Faldo would win nine PGA Tour events, including an astounding six majors. He won the British Open and the Masters three times each, including both in 1990, and finished as runner up of the other two majors. In recent years, he’s become one of the game’s most respected television commentators.
21. Ernie Els
Ernie Els is among the greatest South African golfers in history, which puts him in some elite company with guys like Gary Player and Bobby Locke. He’s won 19 PGA Tour events in his impressive career, including four major championships. “The Big Easy” has also finished inside the top three at the Masters and the PGA Championship, putting him dangerously close to a career Grand Slam. For 758 straight weeks, from 1994 to 2009, he was ranked among the world’s top-10 golfers by the Official World Golf Ranking, which is a record.
20. Rory McIlroy
The youngest player to make our list, Rory McIlroy has done some incredible things in just 12 years on the PGA Tour so far. In that time, the Northern Irishman has won 17 tournaments, averaging out to more than one per year, and four majors. If he wins the Masters at some point, he’d become only the sixth man to win the career Grand Slam, having conquered all four major tournaments. He’s also been named PGA Tour Player of the Year three times and, in 2019, he became only the ninth man ever to win the Vardon Trophy three times.
19. Greg Norman
Probably the best PGA Tour player to ever come from Australia, Greg Norman won the Byron Nelson Award, for the year’s lowest adjusted average score on the tour, five times in his career, which is the second-most ever. That kind of repeated excellence for entire seasons in the ’80s and ’90s came with plenty of winning. “The Great White Shark” won 20 PGA Tour events, including two British Opens, and he finished as runner-up of the other three major championships multiple times. He was named PGA Tour Player of the Year in 1995, which was also one of three years that he led the circuit in prize earnings.
18. Hale Irwin
Hale Irwin is the Sam Snead of the PGA Tour Champions circuit, as his 45 wins on the senior tour are the most in history. But he didn’t just start dominating after he turned 50, as the Missouri native also won 20 tournaments during his days on the PGA Tour, starting in 1968. Among that impressive list of wins are three U.S. Opens, his only major championships. In addition to being a great player, Irwin has been hailed as a perfect steward for golf, being given the prestigious Payne Stewart Award in 2019 for his work as an ambassador for the game.
17. Seve Ballesteros
Similar to Nick Faldo, Spain’s Seve Ballesteros did most of his dominating on the European Tour — but he saved plenty of fireworks for the PGA Tour. The former teen prodigy won nine PGA Tour events, including five majors, in a short span from 1979 to 1988. The mind-blowing 50 events he won on the European Tour are the most in history, making him arguably the most dominant golfer in history of the sport in Europe.
16. Raymond Floyd
North Carolina’s Raymond Floyd was two strokes from finishing the career Grand Slam, finishing just behind Jack Nicklaus at the British Open in 1978. He won four majors in his long PGA Tour career, one coming in the 1960s, one in the 1970s and two in the 1980s. Floyd won 22 tournaments overall, which puts him in the all-time top 30, before moving on to the PGA Tour Champions circuit and winning 14 events there, including four senior majors. He’s 77 years old now, but we’d bet he could probably still take you in a round of 18.
15. Vijay Singh
When he was growing up in Fiji and dreaming of a professional golf career, Vijay Singh decided to drop out of school at 16 years old and seriously pursue the game he loved. That risky decision turned out to be a great one, as he would end up being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2006. The 34 tournament wins that Singh earned during his PGA Tour career are the most of any non-American player. Those victories include three majors, including two PGA Championships.
He made history by winning nine events in 2004 alone, which is tied for the most wins in a single year by anyone since 1950.
14. Phil Mickelson
Unquestionably the best left-handed golfer in PGA Tour history, Phil Mickelson has taken his southpaw stance to 44 wins on the tour, which is the ninth-most in history. His five major championships include three Masters victories, but he’s taken plenty of flack for never being able to close the deal at the U.S. Open, where he’s finished in second place six times. Even without that career Grand Slam, Mickelson’s career has been incredible and has seen him continue to win events in the last two years, well into his late 40s.
13. Bobby Jones
The World Golf Hall of Fame, which inducted Bobby Jones in 1974 as part of its inaugural class, has said, “there’s a strong argument that he was the greatest golfer, period.” We’re going to dampen that just slightly because of Jones’ limited number of PGA Tour events — but there’s no question he was incredible on the course. Jones never turned professional, spending his entire career as an amateur, but he nonetheless dominated the pros.
Jones won nine PGA Tour events in his relatively short career, including seven major championships from 1923 to 1930. In that latter year, Jones made an incredible bit of history by winning the U.S. Amateur, British Amateur, U.S. Open and British Open in a single year, becoming the only person to ever do so.
12. Lee Trevino
Not only did Mexican-American icon win 29 events on the PGA Tour, he matched that number by notching 29 more victories in the PGA Tour Champions circuit, both of which put him among the best players ever. He played in 481 tournaments from 1962 to 2000, winning one approximately every 17 tries, and winning at least one every year from 1968 to 1981. Trevino was undoubtedly the most dangerous player on tour in five different seasons, which is how many times he won the Vardon Trophy, tying for the second-most times getting that honor.
Among Trevino’s 29 PGA Tour wins were six majors, including three from 1971 to 1972.
11. Gene Sarazen
If you thought Lee Trevino’s average of winning a PGA Tour event every 17 times out was impressive (it is), you’d better sit down before hearing Gene Sarazen’s win average. From 1920 to 1973, Sarazen played in 316 tournaments and won 38 of them, which averages out to a victory about every eight starts. Sarazen was truly dominant throughout the 1920s and ’30s, winning seven majors from 1922 to 1935, including the career Grand Slam. The New Yorker was a charter inductee into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.
10. Byron Nelson
Texas native Byron Nelson holds one of golf’s most ridiculous records, but it comes with a caveat. In 1945, when many of the top players were serving in the military during World War II, Nelson won 11 consecutive tournaments and 18 total that year, by far the most wins for anyone in one PGA Tour season. Of course, Nelson was far from a one-season pony, winning 52 total events in his long career, including five majors, only one of which came in 1945.
In the three seasons from 1944 to 1946, Nelson competed in 75 tournaments and only finished outside the top 10 once.
9. Gary Player
Probably South Africa’s most legendary golfer, Gary Player won at least two PGA Tour events in six different seasons from 1961 to 1978. He was truly dominant from the start of his career, completing the career Grand Slam by the time he turned 29 and becoming the only non-American to pull it off. Player won an incredible nine majors from 1959 to 1978 as part of his 24 career wins on the PGA Tour. He’d end up winning 22 more events, including nine more majors, on the PGA Tour Champions circuit and is the only player to ever complete the career Grand Slam at both the normal and senior levels.
8. Billy Casper
Billy Casper is one of only seven players to win at least 50 PGA Tour events during his career. He played his first tournament in 1952 and his last in 2005, giving him a remarkable span in the sport, helped by his brilliance with a putter. His 51 career victories were all recorded between 1956 and 1975, meaning he won nearly three tournaments every year in that lengthy span. Casper was a three-time major champion and simply dominated his competition in the late 1960s, leading the PGA Tour in wins four times from 1966 to 1970 and winning the Vardon Trophy five times.
7. Tom Watson
Missouri is where Tom Watson was born, but it’d be easy to think he’s European because of the way he handled the links. He won a commanding eight major championships during his long PGA Tour career, including five British Opens, which is a record for any American golfer and the second-most in the history of that tough tournament. In the wake of Jack Nicklaus’ dominant period, Watson was the golfer of the late 1970s and ’80s, leading the PGA Tour in wins six times and the money list five times.
After putting together 39 career wins on the regular tour, Watson went on to have a great career in the senior circuit, winning 14 events and six majors under the PGA Tour Champions banner.
6. Walter Hagen
Another charter member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Walter Hagen was described as “golf’s greatest showman” by the organization. The native New Yorker is one of only three players in PGA Tour history to win at least 10 major championships, which were just part of his 45 career wins. He and Tom Watson are the only American to win the British Open at least four times and his ridiculous five PGA Championships, including four consecutive wins in the 1920s, are tied as the most ever.
5. Sam Snead
Sam Snead has ruled golf’s record book for a long time, with his 82 career wins standing as a PGA Tour record since 1965. Snead won at least one event in all but two years from 1936 to 1961, giving him an incredible run of relevance at the top of the sport. Among that massive list of victories were seven majors, including three each at the Masters and the PGA Championship. The only major that eluded him was the U.S. Open, which saw him as runner up on four occasions across three decades.
Of course, many have argued that the competition in Snead’s day wasn’t nearly as tough as it is today, and that many of the tournaments he won had fewer players. But winning 82 events at the world’s highest level of golf is an incredible achievement that has yet to be matched.
4. Arnold Palmer
Only five golfers have ever won at least 60 PGA Tour events, and it could be argued that none of them did it with as much style as Arnold Palmer. The late, great icon of the game crushed his competition from the late 1950s through the 1960s, putting together 62 victories. He led the tour in wins for four straight seasons from 1960 through 1963, winning at least six events every year in that span. Palmer won on the biggest stages, too, capturing seven major championships but barely missing the career Grand Slam by finishing in second at the PGA Championship three times.
3. Ben Hogan
Of all the golfing legends who were part of the first class at the World Golf Hall of Fame, Ben Hogan was definitely the toughest. He won 64 PGA Tour events, including nine major championships and the career Grand Slam. In 1953, he put together one of the most memorable seasons in golf history by winning all three majors in which he played (he was unable to compete in all four because the British Open and PGA Championship had overlapping dates that year). Hogan was a pure force in the 1940s, winning 10 events in two separate seasons, which is a feat that’s never been done again.
All this was accomplished despite the fact that he took about two years off in his prime to serve in World War II and had to recover from a near-fatal car crash in 1949.
2. Jack Nicklaus
“The Golden Bear” has long been the benchmark for which all other golfers aim to measure themselves — and pretty much everyone has fallen short. Jack Nicklaus won 73 PGA Tour events in his career, which is the third-most, but it was in the game’s biggest tests where he truly proved his might. The Ohio native won 18 major championships, a record that may never be touched, including winning each tournament multiple times. His six wins at the Masters are the most ever, while his five wins at the PGA Championship and four wins at the U.S. Open are tied for the most ever.
Nicklaus’ most-dominant years came in the 1960s and ’70s, when he was routinely competing against other legends on this list, including Lee Trevino, Tom Watson and Billy Casper. Despite all that stiff competition, he led the tour in wins six times from 1965 to 1975 and led the money list eight times total.
1. Tiger Woods
Playing in a time of unrivaled competition, better athletes and higher stakes, Tiger Woods has managed to claw his way to the top of nearly all of golf’s most storied record books. His career earnings of $118.7 million from PGA Tour winnings alone is by far the all-time record, and his 81 wins on the tour are one away from tying him with Sam Snead’s mark, which was thought to be untouchable. Woods won his 15th major championship in 2019, after more than a decade of not winning one, putting him within three of Jack Nicklaus’ mark.
From the late 1990s through the 2000s, Woods dominated the game like few players ever have and turned the sport into a worldwide phenomenon, leading the PGA Tour in wins a record 12 times from 1997 to 2013, being named PGA Tour Player of the Year a record 11 times and winning the Vardon Trophy a record nine times.
As a bonus, Woods has also won 41 times on the European Tour, which is the third-highest tally on that storied circuit. If you count those victories with what he’s done in the PGA Tour, he’s unquestionably the best to ever pick up a set of clubs.