The 9 greatest achievements in golf

Tiger Woods
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Tiger Woods' "Tiger Slam" is one of the game's greatest achievements, but it isn't No. 1.
By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
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Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Sunday, November 26, 2017 | 2:25 p.m.

I've been tasked with the impossible: Ranking golf's 9 greatest achievements, in order. How do you even do that?

Who is this schmuck to decide which is better than the other when just about any one of us would dine on a haggis-only diet everyday for the rest of our lives to have accomplished just one of them?

With the realization that ranking these achievements in an order all of us could agree on, is nearly as difficult as reaching just one of the feats that follow. As I run to take cover, here goes nothing...

9. Jim Furyk's 12-under 58. OK. If I'm being honest, it felt dirty putting the number "9" in front of this entry. One, because Furyk is the only player in PGA Tour history to accomplish such a feat. Two, before shooting that number at TPC River Highlands (a par 70) in the final round of the 2016 Travelers Championship, he was the last player on Tour to shoot a 59. He did that on On September 13, 2013, at Conway Farms (12 under since the course was a par 71) in the second round of the BMW Championship. So why is this just No. 9 even though it's something that had never happened before on the PGA Tour? I guess the only logical explanation is because it's so new.

8. Jack Nicklaus' 19 runner-up finishes in the majors. Some may argue that this isn't necessarily an "achievement" since it didn't result in victory. I'd argue that there's an exception to every rule and this is one of them because of the man we're talking about. Nicklaus -- the winningest major champion of all time (more on that later) -- also has more runner-up finishes than any player in the game's history. That's almost unfathomable. As ridiculous as this sounds -- and no less than 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III pointed out recently -- Nicklaus could be considered the most snake-bitten golfer of all time based on that stat. The next-most runner-up finishes in majors? That would be 11 by Phil Mickelson. Back to Nicklaus -- 18 major championship wins and 19 times a runner up. Think about that.

MORE: The 22 times Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods played in the same major

7. Sam Snead's 82 PGA Tour victories. That's just astounding. Only two other players in the game's history have more than 70 PGA Tour wins (Jack Nicklaus, 73; Tiger Woods, 79). Here are some other incredible Snead fun facts:

- Oldest to win a PGA Tour event, the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open, at 52 years, 10 months and 8 days.

- By winning the 1960 De Soto Open Invitational, Snead became the first player to win PGA Tour titles in four different decades (since matched by Raymond Floyd).

- Oldest player to make the cut at a major: age 67 years, 2 months, 7 days at the 1979 PGA Championship.

- First PGA Tour player to shoot his age with a 67 in the second round of the 1979 Quad Cities Open.

- Oldest player to make a cut on the PGA Tour: age 67 years, 2 months, 21 days at the 1979 Manufacturers Hanover Westchester Classic.

- Only player to post a top-10 finish in at least one major championship in five different decades.

6. Francis Ouimet wins the 1913 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. This wasn't just an amazing singular accomplishment. It was also the reason for a golf boom in the United States. When Ouimet won the national championship as a 20-year-old amateur (on his home course, no less), he became the "father of amateur golf" in the United States by taking down the likes of famous, accomplished professionals Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. When you think of American golf legends, you think of names like Jones, Nelson, Hogan, Nicklaus, Palmer, Woods. Keep in mind, Ouimet was the first "hero" in American golf.

5. Byron Nelson's 1945 season. In all, Nelson won 52 times in his illustrious PGA Tour career, including four majors. Remarkably, 18 of those victories came in the 1945 season, including 11 in a row. He entered 30 tournaments that year and won 18 of them. Are you serious? In seven of those 30 starts, Nelson was the runner up. Nelson's scoring average in 1945 was 68.34, bettered by only one player in the game's history -- Tiger Woods. Woods had a scoring average of 68.17 in his historic 2000 season.

4. Ben Hogan's 1953 "Triple Crown" season. Just four years removed from a horrific car accident that nearly claimed his life, Hogan put together one of the finest season's in the game's history. He entered just six events total and won five of them, including three major championships (the "Triple Crown") -- the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship. Hogan never had a chance to complete the "Grand Slam" that year because the Open Championship (July 1-7) at Carnoustie overlapped the PGA Championship (July 6-10). It was the only time that a golfer had won three major professional championships in a year until Tiger Woods won the final three majors in 2000 (and the first in 2001).

3. The Tiger Slam. Otherwise known as the "non-calendar year Grand Slam." Woods accomplished this feat by winning the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, 2000 Open Championship at St. Andrews, 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla and then the 2001 Masters. Since his four consecutive major victories did not come in the same season, he couldn't claim a "grand slam." While not deemed a "grand slam" holding all four trophies at the same time in the four biggest tournaments in professional golf was remarkable. Four majors in a row.

Whether you want to call it a "Grand Slam" or a "Tiger Slam" you can't deny that it's simply unbelievable.

MORE: 17 of Tiger Woods' most eye-popping achievements

2. Bobby Jones and the "Impregnable Quadrilateral." Before the majors were what we know them to be today (Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship), they consisted of these four tournaments: The Amateur Championship (also known as the British Amateur), the Open Championship, the U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur.

In 1930, legendary amateur golfer Bobby Jones won all four tournaments -- The Amateur Championship at the Old Course at St. Andrews; The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England; the U.S. Open at Interlachen Country Club in Minnesota; and the U.S. Amateur at Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania.

O.B. Keeler, a legendary writer and friend of Jones, coined the feat the "Impregnable Quadrilateral" -- a phrase we know today as "The Grand Slam." Jones was the first -- and remains the only -- player to win all four major championships in a single season.

It's one thing to win all four majors in a season. It's another thing to "know" you're going to do it. Early in 1930, before the first tournament of the Slam, Jones placed a bet on himself to win all four with British bookmakers at 50-to-1 odds. After he did it, Jones collected over $60,000 in winnings.

1. Jack Nicklaus' 18 major championship victories. While you can easily make arguments for or against the order of the achievements listed above, is there any denying that this is the undisputed No. 1? Here's the breakdown:

Masters: 6
- 1963, 1965, 1966, 1972, 1975, 1986

U.S. Open: 4
- 1962, 1967, 1972, 1980

Open Championship: 3
- 1966, 1970, 1978

PGA Championship: 5
- 1963, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1980

That's a career Grand Slam triple. The next closest in major wins to Nicklaus is Tiger Woods with 14. You know how some sports have those seemingly untouchable records -- Barry Sanders' 14 consecutive 100-yard rushing games; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 38,387 career points; Wayne Gretzky's 2,857 career points; Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hit streak; Cal Ripken Jr.'s 2,632 consecutive games played? In golf, the Golden Bear's 18 major wins is the pinnacle.  

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.