2012 PGA Championship: 5 Best Players Ever to Win the PGA Title

James WilliamsAnalyst IIIAugust 8, 2012

Where does Tiger rank among the all time PGA Champions
Where does Tiger rank among the all time PGA ChampionsSam Greenwood/Getty Images

For some reason the PGA Championship is the least respected of the four majors on the tour. It does not have the style and lore of the Masters. The Open Championship has the history and is played in the U.K., the home of golf. And then there is the U.S. Open which boasts a wide open field.

The PGA Championship has had plenty of drama and it has been played on some of the country's most legendary courses. It has also been a great showcase for some of golf's greatest stars both past and present.

So who are the five best players to ever win the PGA Championship?

Let's look at some men who made this tournament worthy of being on the same level as the three aforementioned majors.

5. Sam Snead will start off our list. The pride of West Virginia, "Slamming Sammy" was a three-time winner of the PGA Championship. He was the title holder in 1942, 1949 and again in 1951—and he was the runner-up twice in 1938 and 1940. Starting in 1958 he 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. Finishing three time in the Top Ten of a Major after the age of 60 is a record that is not likely to be broken.  

4. Gene Sarazen was also a person who seemed to be able play his best golf at the PGA Championship. In 1922, he won 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. All of those wins came when the tournament was a match play format.

3. Tiger Woods has proven to be someone who deserves consideration for being one of the best PGA champions of all time. Woods is a four-time winner 1999, 2000, 2006 and 2007. Through 2010, Woods had finished second two other times, and had two other top 10 finishes.  He comes into this year's tournament as the favorite.

2. Walter Hagen is considered by many golf experts as the greatest PGA Championship player. After all, he won five times (a shared record), including four in a row (a record all its own). But we have no doubt that Hagen, as great as he was, was haunted because he never faced his greatest rival, Bobby Jones, in the PGA because Jones never turned pro.

1. Jack Nicklaus along with Hagen, 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).