Top 10 Professional Golfers of All Time

Golf has been around since the mid-15th century, but it was not until the 19th century that it became a professional sport. It can be said that professional golf began in 1861, when John Reid won the British Open championship and received a prize of 100 guineas (over $630 in 2015 dollars). The following are ten of the most notable golfers in history, ranked by number of majors won (and alphabetically by last name).

1) Arnold Palmer

Most would be surprised to learn that Arnold Palmer ranks in a tie for second place as he won 62 PGA tournaments during his career, including four major championships. Palmer may be most famous for being one half of Arnie’s Army, a legion of fans who followed him on tour and revered him throughout his early years on tour. That said, Arnold Palmer will go down as one of golf’s greatest personalities and arguably its most influential player.

2) Jack Nicklaus

Nicklaus was one of golf’s first big stars. He is one of only two men to win three career Grand Slams, and he’s also won more than 90 international tournaments in his career. Nicklaus has won 18 professional major titles – a record that will likely never be broken.

3) Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods is one of only five golfers in history to have won over 14 major championships. After winning his first Masters at just twenty-one years old, Woods went on to win three straight, becoming a sensation and media darling worldwide. Even after his highly publicized fall from grace due to infidelity in 2009, Tiger Woods returned with a vengeance, winning another Masters tournament as well as The Open Championship in 2013.

4) Gary Player

Gary Player is a South African professional golfer, who has won more major championships than any other (nine). Player was born in Johannesburg and turned professional in 1956. He won his first tournament that same year at Glendower Country Club, one of two he played on tour before being exempt for life.

5) Ben Hogan

Ben Hogan was an American professional golfer who is widely regarded as one of greatest golfers in history. Over his career, he amassed many honors including four-time PGA Tour winner and 1948 U.S. Open Champion. Throughout his lifetime, Hogan won nine major championships and took home six Vardon Trophies for lowest scoring average on tour. He also holds a record for winning 30 PGA Tour events before age 40—and another record for winning 62 official events total during his career.

6) Lee Trevino

Bernhard Langer of Germany watches his tee shot on the seventh hole during the second round of the Insperity Invitational at the Tournament Course at the Woodlands Country Club on May 3, 2014 in The Woodlands, Texas. *** Local Caption *** Bernhard Langer

At various points in his professional career, Trevino was both World Number 1 and 6. He won 42 PGA Tour events and was inducted into both The World Golf Hall of Fame and The Texas Sports Hall of Fame. In 1988, he became a member of The Big Three with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player who were collectively responsible for more than half of all tour victories over a 25-year period.

7) Sam Snead

Sam Snead might be best known for his eccentricities, like being an avid horse racing fan who got thrown out of more than one race for heckling. He was also renowned for his high play, however. A two-time Masters winner, Snead won 82 tournaments in his career, making him one of only four golfers to win 82 or more events on Tour and he did it in just 198 starts.

8) Walter Hagen

Walter Hagen is one of only four players in history to win all four majors in his career. This feat, known as a Grand Slam, was not duplicated until 1951 when Ben Hogan accomplished it. Hagen’s incredible consistency was evidenced by a streak that spanned nearly two decades. From 1920 to 1937 he recorded 20 or more victories each year and competed in over 200 tournaments during that time period. During his career, he had a total of 84 professional tournament wins including three U.S.

9) Bobby Jones

Jones’ golfing career spanned over two decades. Over that time, he became one of only six men to win a total of four different major championships. As a nine-time PGA Tour winner, Jones is also credited with earning more than half of his prize money while retired. He died at age 66 after suffering from intestinal cancer and leukemia.

10) Tom Watson

Tom Watson is a Scottish professional golfer who won eight major championships and 59 PGA Tour events. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on October 2, 1949. He turned pro in 1970 and eventually won two British Opens (1974 & 1977), three U.S. Opens (1975, 1978 & 1983), three PGA Championships (1976, 1982 & 1983) and one Masters Tournament (1977).