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The 18 Best Players Ever

Career victories: 31 Majors: 3
Peak years: 1940-57

Fans of a certain age remember him as Gene Sarazen's cohost on Wonderful World of Golf. But Demaret was more than a TV character. Even spending his prime going up against Hogan and Snead and Nelson, he won thirty-one times on Tour, including three Masters. He made three Ryder Cup teams and was the sport's best ambassador until Arnold came along, which means that Demaret, who turned pro in 1938, had a good, long run. He was funny—he could even make Hogan smile—and his shot making never got the credit it deserved because people couldn't get past his colorful clothes and colorful quotes. Still, there was a long period when Demaret was the only real character the sport had. His all-time best line?"Golf and sex are the only things you can enjoy without being good at them."

Career victories: 88 Majors: 5
Peak years: 1979-91

The Spanish Arnie. I don't know what happened to Ballesteros over the last ten years; all I know is that at his best he was one of the three or four most exciting players in history. He won three British Opens. He won two green jackets. He was one of the great Ryder Cup players of all time before becoming one of the great Ryder Cup captains—leading his '97 European team to victory against our guys at Valderrama, where Sevvy bombed around in a golf cart like the Spanish Richard Petty.

I miss his talent, his personality, his flair. Everybody does. At least we were lucky enough to see it once.

Career victories: 37 Majors: 3
Peak years: 1992-present

The only person with more talent for this game is Tiger Woods. Els has won U.S. Opens at Oakmont and at Congressional. He won the last British Open despite that ugly double down the stretch, saving himself over the last couple of hours with two of the most magnificent sand shots you will ever see. Until that week at Muirfield, Tiger hadn't just been beating Els. He'd been beating him bad—especially in majors—and it made Els mad. I think this guy is just starting the second act of his career. The three majors he has so far should be only half of what he'll end up with.


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