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Top 6 Masters Players of All-Time

Ranking the Golfers Who've Played Best in The Masters

By

Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods

Jack Nicklaus is the greatest Masters player of all-time, and Tiger Woods is No. 2.

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Who are the best players in the history of The Masters tournament, those golfers who played the best at Augusta National over the years? Here are our picks for the Top 6 Masters players.

Counting them down to No. 1 (as if there's any question who No. 1 is ...):

6. Gary Player
When Player won in 1961, he became the first non-American to win The Masters. He won twice more, in 1974 and 1978, making him one of seven golfers to win the Masters at least three times. He finished second twice more, with 15 Top 10 finishes and 22 Top 25 finishes.

5. Sam Snead
Slammin' Sam is another 3-time winner of The Masters, taking the title in 1949, 1952 and 1954. At the 1949 tournament, Snead became the first champion to wear the now-traditional Green Jacket. Snead finished second twice, in the Top 5 nine times, in the Top 10 fifteen times and in the Top 25 a whopping 26 times. His 1954 win was his best - Snead defeated Ben Hogan in an 18-hole playoff, 70 to 71.

4. Phil Mickelson
For many years, Mickelson was one of those players about whom people wondered, "why hasn't he won the Masters yet?" That first win finally did happen in 2004, and he's since won two more. As a professional, through 2012, Mickelson played 20 Masters and finished in the Top 10 in 14 of them - and in the Top 5 in 10 of them.

3. Arnold Palmer
Palmer was the first golfer to win The Masters four times. Arnie's wins came in 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964. He won wire-to-wire in 1960, and finished as runner-up two other times. Palmer posted nine Top 5 finishes, and played The Masters 50 consecutive years, from 1955 to 2004. In his 1962 victory, Palmer beat Gary Player and Dow Finsterwald in an 18-hole playoff.

2. Tiger Woods
In 1997, Woods burst into the realm of major championship winners with a record-setting victory at Augusta, running away with his first Masters victory. He's since won three more titles. Woods also has two runner-up finishes. In 17 Masters appearances as a pro through 2013, Woods had 13 Top 10s and 11 Top 5 finishes.

1. Jack Nicklaus
Who else? Nicklaus has worn the Green Jacket as Masters champion six times. His first Masters victory came in 1963 and his last in 1986. In between, he also won in 1965, 1966, 1972 and 1975. Nicklaus also shares the record for most runner-up finishes with four. The 271 he shot in winning the 1965 Masters was the record until Tiger Woods broke it in 1997. Nicklaus holds the record with 15 Top 5 finishes - four better than the next-closest guy (Woods) on the list. He holds the records for most Top 10 finishes (22) and most Top 25 finishes (29). As late as 1998, at the age of 58, Nicklaus finished sixth - the record for highest finish in a major by a golfer playing who was playing on the Champions Tour.

Three of Nicklaus' Masters wins have become iconic. Following the 1965 Masters - when Nicklaus beat runners-up Arnold Palmer and Gary Player by nine shots - Bobby Jones said that Nicklaus "played a game with which I am not familiar." In 1975, Nicklaus emerged the winner in a great three-way battle with Johnny Miller and 4-time Masters runner-up Tom Weiskopf. Miller and Weiskopf were on the tee at the par-3 No. 16, watching when Nicklaus, on the green, leapt into the air after sinking a difficult 40-foot birdie putt. The nails were in the coffins.

And, of course, there's 1986, when 46-year-old Nicklaus - who hadn't won a tournament in two years or a major in six years - staged one more back-nine charge at Augusta, coming home in 30 for a final-round 65. The Golden Bear went eagle-birdie-birdie on Nos. 15, 16 and 17, setting off what might be the loudest gallery roars in golf history.

Honorable Mention: Let's give Ben Hogan a nod. He won "only" two Masters, but he was in contention more than anyone with the exception of Nicklaus. Hogan was runner-up four times.

Jimmy Demaret and Nick Faldo are the other three-time winners of The Masters, but neither excelled much in their other appearances at the tournament.

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