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5 Best Golfers in PGA Championship History

Ranking the players who've done best at this major


Walter Hagen

Walter Hagen won the PGA Championship five times in the tournament's match-play era.

Central Press/Getty Images

Who are the best players in the history of the PGA Championship, those golfers who played the best over the years in this major championship? Here are our picks for the Top 5 PGA Championship players.

Counting them down to No. 1:

5. Gene Sarazen
Sarazen is a career Grand Slam winner. "The Squire" burst onto the golf scene in 1922, winning both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship at age 20. He followed up with another PGA victory in 1923, and his third and final PGA win came in 1933. Sarazen also made it to the championship match in 1930, losing 1-down to Tommy Armour.

4. Sam Snead
Along with Sarazen, Snead is a 3-time winner of the PGA Championship. Snead joined the PGA in 1937, won his first PGA Championship in 1942, and didn't play his last PGA until 1981 at the age of 69.

Snead suffered two losses in the match-play finals (1938, 1940) of the PGA Championship before that first victory in 1942. His other two wins (1949, 1951) also came in the match play era, but Snead was very competitive in the stroke-play era, as well. In fact, from 1958 on Snead posted eight Top 10 finishes.

Three of those came in consecutive years in the early 1970s, when Snead was in his 60s. In 1972 (age 60), he finished fourth; in 1973 (age 61), ninth; in 1974 (age 62), third.

3. Walter Hagen
Many people consider Hagen the greatest PGA Championship player. After all, he won five times (a shared record), including four in a row (a record all his own). But we have no doubt that Hagen, as great as he was, belongs at No. 3 on this list rather than No. 1. Hagen never faced his greatest rival, Bobby Jones, in the PGA because Jones never turned pro.

Still, five wins are five wins. And four in a row? Amazing.

Hagen's first PGA Championship win came in 1921 when he defeated Jim Barnes in the match-play final. Gene Sarazen won the next two PGAs, but then in 1924 Hagen beat Barnes again for the title. "The Haig" went on to win the next three PGA Championships to make it four in a row.

2. Tiger Woods
In the stroke play era of the PGA Championship (which we consider a more difficult, challenging and competitive era) only two golfers have won this tournament at least four times. Woods is one of them. Woods' victories happened in 1999, 2000, 2006 and 2007. Through 2013, Woods had finished second two other times, and had two other Top 10 finishes. See Tiger Woods' PGA Championship wins for more.

1. Jack Nicklaus
Along with Hagen, Nicklaus is the only golfer to win the PGA Championship five times. Nicklaus won in 1963, 1971, 1973, 1975 and 1980; he was also runner-up in 1964, 1965, 1974 and 1983 (four times being the record). When he won in 1980, Nicklaus set a record for largest margin of victory (seven strokes).

But Nicklaus' greatness in this event is best illustrated by considering a few other records he holds:

• Most Top 3 finishes, 12 (seven more than the runner-up in this category)
• Most Top 5 finishes, 14 (eight more than second place)
• Most Top 10 finishes, 15 (five more than second place)
• Most Top 25 finishes, 23 (five more than second place)

Jack Nicklaus is the greatest PGA Championship player ever.

See Also:
Best players never to win the PGA Championship
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