Authored by Geoff Vaughan in Golf
Published on 12-10-2009
There are many ways to define greatness when it comes to sports. For some, superb individual statistics mean the difference between a good player and a great one. Others think it all comes down to the number of career wins, whether considering players in a team sport or an individual one. And still others think a combination of sportsmanship and off-the-field activities make a player great. But in Golf, most with knowledge of the sport agree that there’s one main criterion that makes a player great.
Like Tennis, Golf has its own collection of Grand Slam tournaments, which are commonly referred to as “Majors” in golf parlance. While a large importance is put on winning regular season tournaments, many players base their entire focus on being able to qualify for and compete in the four Majors each year, which include the Masters Tournament, the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship. Often, players will design their whole schedule around these tournaments, taking weeks off beforehand or using the minor tournaments in the weeks preceding a Major as a warm up to the real thing. So while total career wins are important in the golfing world, the real barometer for measuring greatness is the number of Major wins.
With 11 Major victories, New York native Walter Hagen was a real force in the golfing world during the first half of the 20th century. He played during a time when one of the Majors, the Masters Tournament, had yet to be established, so one can speculate where he would rank on this list had he been able to compete in all four tournaments year after year. And as a golf pro during a time when amateurs ruled the game, he is widely considered one of the true pioneers who advanced the cause of professional golf.
Although many believe it will be just a few short years until he bags the four more wins he needs to tie for first, Tiger Woods’ total of 14 Majors ranks second on the all time list. A golf prodigy since he was a little tyke hitting drives out on the course with his dad Earl, Tiger has taken the golf world by storm, transforming the game into what it is today. With his long, booming drives and signature fist pumps, he has elevated professional golf’s popularity to dizzying heights.
With Tiger hot on his tail, this next golfer probably shouldn’t be resting too comfortably atop the career Major leader board, but with 18 wins Jack Nicklaus is still the king, and considered by many to be the greatest golfer of all time. One thing that makes Jack special is that he not only won big tournaments often during his prime, but that he was able to win for such an extended period of time. His last major came in 1986 at the ripe old age of 46, when most PGA pros are mapping out their plans to play on the Senior Tour. These days, he still keeps busy in the world of golf, designing courses, running his own pro tournament, and writing books.