Golf is a game rich in history and thus, rich in amazing and cornerstone moments. Throughout the history of professional golf, there have been many different types of moments, some of which include changes in technology that revolutionized the game, amazing shots, historic victories, and even moments that changed the social and cultural landscape of the sport. Those are the kinds of moments featured in this list. From Tiger’s first major win at the 1997 Masters, to Jack Nicklaus’ amazing third round at that very same event decades earlier, there are many amazing stories that filled the gap between the two legends and changed the way the game was played forever. Honorable mention goes out to the fan who wore a Union Jack patterned toque and started squawking like an animal at the 2010 U.S. Open trophy presentation. Okay, not really. But seriously, here are the ten most amazing moments in PGA Tour history.
10. Vijay Singh’s Water Hole In One
Have you ever skipped a rock across a pond? How about a golf ball? That’s exactly what Singh did at the 2009 Masters tournament. Okay, so it was a practice round and not the real tournament, but it’s still amazing. The ball skips off of the water at least three times and lands on the green. Then, just when you would think the ball would stop rolling, it keeps going right into the hole. The crowd goes nuts. For a long time, along with Phil Mickelson, Singh was the biggest threat to Tiger Woods on the PGA Tour. These days he hasn’t been playing as well, but is still considered one of the top golfers in the game. With shots like this one, who can argue the man’s talent?
9. Phil Mickelson’s First Major Win
Mickelson’s 42 career wins on the PGA Tour puts him 9th on the all-time list. That’s an amazing track record of consistency if you ask anyone. It’s even more amazing then, that it took Mickelson until 2004 to win his first ever major tournament. That’s the year he finally won the Masters. He won that tournament by sinking a birdie on 18 to beat Ernie Els by one stroke. His back nine of the final round was considered by many to be one of the more exciting finishes in the history of the Masters. More importantly for Mickelson, it got the monkey of his back. Today, Mickelson has five major championships under his belt, including two more Masters titles, and has rid himself of the label of not being able to seal the deal.
8. The Birth Of The Senior PGA
The 1979 Legends of Golf tournament featured four men battling through six exciting playoff holes. The tournament took place at the Onion Creek Country Club and featured the likes of Julius Boros, Robert De Vicenzo, Tommy Bolt, and Art Wall. These four Legends took turns delivering shots that were so exciting, the NBC Nightly News actually cut away from its broadcast to show the tournament on television. The event proved that golfers over the age of 50 could still play the game at a high level. The Senior PGA Tour (now known as the Champions Tour) was born back in 1980. There have been at least 26 events on tour since 2010, proving that older golfers still have the hunger to compete at a high level.
7. The Golf Channel Hits the Airwaves
ESPN was founded back in 1978 as the first ever television channel dedicated to broadcasting nothing but sports. Back then, the network’s founders were true pioneers, as many in the business thought that an all-sports channel would never last over the long haul. Boy, were they wrong. Fast-forward to January 17th, 1995 – the day the Golf Channel was born. The channel features all of the tournament action, long drive, chip n’ putt contests, and golf history programs a golf fanatic would ever want to watch and is still going strong in 2013. That just goes to show that a sport not technically part of the four major North American leagues can still carve out its own loyal following on television.
6. The Urethane Covered Golf Ball
The Titleist Pro V1 golf ball was first used by players in 2000 at the Invensys Classic in Las Vegas. At that tournament alone, 47 players immediately switched to the ball, including the winner of the tournament Billy Andrade. Before that tournament, most PGA golfers had been using similar balls made by Nike or Top-Flight Strata. By March of the next year, over 90% of the tour was on to the idea of using a solid core ball. And by the end of 2002, every player on the PGA Tour was using it. The evolution of any sport takes time, but during that fateful tournament in 2000, golf skipped a few steps, moving to the new ball in quite a hurry.
5. The Golden Bear’s Best Round
Jack Nicklaus had what he himself considered to be the best round he’s ever played during the third round at the 1965 Masters tournament. Nicklaus finished the first two rounds tied with Gary Player and Arnold Palmer, but round three is where he really started to separate himself. On that day, he hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation and three of his drives off of the tee when for a minimum of 320 yards. That’s absolutely incredible! He was so accurate that day, that the longest putt he nailed was from 25 feet. His accuracy from long range meant no bogeys for Jack and he finished the round shooting an incredible 64. At just 25 years old, Nicklaus had played the round of his life, en route to a green jacket.
4. The Ryder Cup in 1985
Up until September 15th, 1985, Europe hadn’t won the Ryder Cup in almost 30 years. That is, until Sam Torrance sank the winning put on that fateful day, giving the Europeans a 16 ½-11½ win over the Americans, a result that wasn’t even close. Since that time, the European team has gone on quite the ridiculous run at the event. They have beaten the American team ten times out of the last 15 events. The numbers get even more impressive considering that seven of those eight wins have come in just the last 11 Ryder Cups. That’s a 73 percent winning percentage, which would make any team in pro sports a force to be reckoned with, including the European Ryder Cup team.
3. Tiger’s First Masters Win
For years and years before Tiger’s arrival on golf’s biggest stage, Bobby Jones was considered the greatest golfer of color ever. But back in 1997, when a 21-year-old Tiger Woods won the Masters by a whopping 12 shots over the next closest competitor, a star and future golf legend was born. Woods is the king pin of golf at Nike, much the same way Michael Jordan’s brand is for the sport of basketball. He’s just about single handedly introduced an entirely new audience to the game of a golf, a multi-cultural audience, that probably never paid much attention to a predominantly white man’s game before. A fringe sport on most major networks before hand, the PGA Tour is always in the mainstream news when Woods is in the hunt for a tournament win.
2. Charlie Sifford Helps Break the Color Barrier
In 1957, Charlie Sifford won the Long Beach Open, becoming the first black golfer to win a tournament against a predominantly white field of players. The victory came around a time when the likes of Jackie Robinson and Joe Louis took firm stances against the color barrier and Caucasian-only policies. By 1960, Attorney General Stanley Mosk was putting pressure on the PGA to lift the color barrier, stating that if his demands weren’t meant, the PGA would not be able to compete in various places across the country. The PGA caved in a year later, and it all started with Sifford’s success.
1. The Tiger Slam
A grand slam is what happens when you win all four major golf tournaments, including the Masters, British Open, Player’s Championship, and U.S. Open in the same calendar year. Tiger didn’t exactly pull that off. But in 2000 and 2001, he did hold each of the four majors titles at once. He accomplished the feat in April of 2011, when he held off David Duval and Phil Mickelson to win yet another green jacket at the Masters. Along with winning the previous seasons’ Players Championship and the British and US Opens, Tiger was the current champion of all four of golf’s majors. Though not an official grand slam technically, Woods’ accomplishment officially crowned him as one of the best golfers of all time and easily the best of the current era.