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The 18 Best Players Ever

Career victories: 44 Majors: 11
Peak years: 1914-29

It's my list, so I'll give Haig extra credit for coming up with the most famous line ever to come out of the sport: "Don't hurry. Don't worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way." He wasn't the star Jones was, even if he was a bigger character. Hagen was the first American pro to win the U.S. Open (1914) and the first to make a million playing golf, provided Jones didn't make that much on the side. He legitimized the idea of Professional Golfer in this country. And he won eleven majors, which gets dropped from the conversation way too often.

The Haig drank and smoked and laughed a lot and liked girls even more. If he were around today he'd be more colorful a figure than Tiger.

Career victories: 42 Majors: 8
Peak years: 1996-present

The Michael Jordan of golf—not just the biggest star in his sport, but the biggest sports star in the world. That never happened before in golf, not with Jones, not with Hogan, not even with Palmer, though Arnold came close. Woods has won eight professional majors, including four in a row. Three U.S. Amateurs. Enough prize money to buy Europe. The only place he hasn't left his mark is the Ryder Cup, but that will happen, too. So all the trends are there.

He's still got to finish the job.

Career victories: 84 Majors: 7
Peak years: 1937-55

When you consider talent and longevity and the number of tournament victories over the course of a career, you can make a nice case that Snead was the best golfer ever. But then there's that one big hole in his résumé: Snead never won a U.S. Open, just as Arnold and Watson never won a PGA and Trevino never won the Masters.

Snead won his first tournament, the West Virginia Closed Pro, in 1936. And he was still winning at the Greater Greensboro Open in 1965, at the age of fifty-two. He took on Hogan in Hogan's prime and more than held his own. He could still put the club on the ball when he was pushing ninety. Snead worked harder at the game than people thought, and no one ever had a sweeter swing.


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