By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The United States annual weekend of actually caring about the sport of golf begins today in Augusta, Ga.
The 2021 Masters Tournament is scheduled to get underway at the Augusta National Golf Course with $11.5 million on the line. From April 8-11, the best in the world will tee off at he historic course chasing down the precious Green Jacket. On Saturday, the a person can observe Golfer’s Day. While icons like Bobby Jones, Sam Sneed, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Tom Kite, Bernhard Langer, Seve Ballesteros, Tom Watson, Byron Nelson and Gene Sarazen are a few that should be honored April 10, my favorites come from the modern era of the game. I’m about to rank my top 10 golfers in the past 35 years. This soon-to-be 40-year-old man will use the time frame of 1986 to now to rank the best of the links.
10. Jack Nicklaus
OK, the Golden Bear would rank No. 1 on most best of all time list. But with my time restriction, Nicklaus just makes the cut. His greatness came in the 1970s beating peers like Palmer, Player, Watson and Trevino. Mr. Nicklaus was phenomenal with 37 top-two finished in majors.
Well out of his prime by the mid 1980s, Nicklaus proved his greatness one magical weekend at Augusta in 1986. Nicklaus mustered enough great shots and timely putts to outlast Ballesteros, Kite and Greg Norman. That Masters title was Nicklaus’ 18th major of his career.
9. Nick Price
Coming from overseas, Nicholas Raymond Leige Price was a Zimbabwean professional golfer who has won three major championships in his career. The early 1990s, the PGA Tour was his playground. Price was right with PGA Championship victories in 1992 and 1994. And he won the crown jewel for all foreign golfers, The Open Championship in 1994. In the mid-1990s, Price reached number one in the Official World Golf Ranking. He was the Tour Player of the Year in 1993 and 1994. His greatness throughout the 19990s earned him a World Golf Hall of Fame sport in 2003.
8. Nick Faldo
From one Nick to another Nick. The eight spot goes to Sir Nick Faldo. This English golfer dominated the world golf scene throughout the 1990s. Faldo’s crowning moments in the majors came in 1990s beating his biggest rival Greg Norman for The Open Championship. Then in 1996, Faldo took the Masters after Norman’s epic collapse. Faldo won six majors winning three Masters and Open Championships each.
7. Rory McIlroy
The golfer to take the torch from Tiger Woods in recent years and ushered in the current crop of top golfers was Rory McIlroy. McIlroy has shown moments of that Tiger Woods dominance and winning gracefully like Nicklaus.
Rory is a four-time major champion and is only a Green Jacket away from holding a career Grand Slam. The Northern Irishman has plenty of time to win that Masters. But for now his legacy is secure with his great 2014. He won two majors that year with The Open Championship and PGA Championship. HIs other two titles came at the 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 PGA Championship.
6. Vijay Singh
The most famous Fijian athlete of all time is Vijay Singh. He makes this list because he was the first major rival to Tiger Woods in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Singh won 34 times on the PGA Tour, including two PGA Championships 1998 and 2004 and a Masters win in 2000. He was elected into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2006.
5. Fred Couples
We reach the midway point with Mr. Boom Boom himself, Frederick Steven Couples. In the early 1990s, Fred Couples was the face of the sport. He earned that spot by being the World No. 1, winning 64 professional tournaments. Couples was a golfer able to create highlights with his long drives, timely putts and charisma.
He won the Masters in 1992 and took home two Players Championships (the fifth major) in 1984 and 1996.
4. Ernie Els
The Big Easy will be a part of foursome at any golf course in the world. The South African golfer took America by storm in the 1990s. Then by the 2000s he was firmly one of the best golfers in the world. He won four majors with a pair of U.S. Open titles in 1994 and 97. Then the put it all together to win the 2002 and 2012 Open Championships. His smooth, easy swing almost nabbed him the Masters title in 2000 and 2004, finishing second.
3. Greg Norman
If he didn’t have a couple of breakdowns on some of golf biggest stage, Norman might be No. 2 on this list. From his style (love his clothing line) to his Hollywood looks, Norman was a worldwide golf star. Let’s remember Norman for his 20 career PGA Tour wins and 331 weeks atop the World Golf Rankings. His two majors came at the British Open in 1986 and 1993. But if Norman had that clutch gene, he might have realistically won four to six more majors.
2. Phil Mickelson
He’s the Robin to Tiger Woods’ Batman. He is the Tom Watson of this recent era of golf. I’m talking about MR. Phil Mickelson. Also facing large expectations entering the Tour, Mickelson has lived up to the hype. Phil was the last amateur to win on the PGA Tour with the 1991 Northern Telecom Open. Things have been good for Phil since turning pro winning 44 PGA events for ninth all time. He has five majors with three Green Jackets. He also has a British Open and PGA Championship on his resume’. All he needs now is that elusive U.S. Open title. The main person who stood in his way all those years comes in at No. 1 on my list.
1. Tiger Woods
To save us time…
• 82 PGA Tour wins, tied for most all-time with Sam Snead
• 15 major championships, second all-time to Jack Nicklaus
• Only player ever to win four consecutive majors
• Lowest scoring average in PGA Tour history
• Scoring average of 67.79 in 2000 the lowest single-season average in Tour history
• PGA Tour Player of the Year a record 10 times
THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to email@example.com.