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Ranking the 10 Most Impressive Major Victories in Golf History

Mike DudurichContributor IJuly 26, 2013

Ranking the 10 Most Impressive Major Victories in Golf History

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    Golf's major championships have been around for a long, long time.

    That's how they got to be majors.

    The idea of coming up with 10 of the most impressive performances in the history of the majors is an interesting one.

    It's a subjective assignment, but one that rewards with a better knowledge of some of the great days in golf history.

    Here's my list of the top 10.

10. Nick Faldo, 1990 Open Championship, St. Andrews

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    Nick Faldo won six major championships, but none was more impressive than his fourth.

    He owned the Old Course, putting on quite an exhibition of iron play, hitting them so well that he hit just one bunker and didn’t three-putt once.

    His final score of 270, 18-under par was the lowest in Open history until 2000, when Tiger Woods went 19-under.

    He won by five shots over Payne Stewart and Mark McNulty. The 13-under par scores they posted would have won all 23 British Opens that had been held on the Old Course previously.

    The British Open, along with the Masters Faldo won earlier in the year, made him the first man to win two majors in a year since Tom Watson did it in 1982.

9. Ben Hogan, 1953 Masters

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    What Ben Hogan accomplished following his near-fatal automobile accident in 1949 went far beyond remarkable.

    And right at the top of those accomplishments was his performance in the 1953 Masters.

    He won that tournament at 14-under par with rounds of 70-69-66-69, earning him a five-stroke win.

    He won three-fourths of the Grand Slam that year, only missing out on the PGA Championship. The reason for that? The PGA Championship was held at the same time as the British Open and Hogan chose the British Open.

    Hogan not only tied the biggest margin of victory in the Masters, but his 274 total set the low mark for scoring, one that would stay for 12 more years.

    He made only four bogeys in four rounds, including three at the infamous 17th, the Road Hole.

8. Tiger Woods, 2000 British Open at St. Andrews

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    Yes, another Tiger Woods title from 2000.

    He battered the home of golf to the tune of a winning score of 19-under par.

    That was the lowest score ever at one of the four major champions. He took a six-shot lead into the final round and ended up winning by eight over Thomas Bjorn and Ernie Els.

    How well did he play that week? He posted four rounds in the 60s and did not hit one bunker in four rounds.

    The numbers go on and on.

    It was his first British Open win, fourth major title and the 21st win in a PGA Tour event.

    The win was his second in the Tiger Slam.

    In that magical year of 2000, he won the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship. He completed the slam with a win in the 2001 Masters.

7. Phil Mickelson, 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield

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    It is the most recent major championship and it has become an instant classic.

    On the pressure-packed final day, Mickelson equaled the best round of the tournament with a 66.

    He birdied four of the last six holes, eventually winning by three shots.

    As impressive as his game was from top to bottom, even more impressive was the fact that Mickelson, 43, was just a month past a very devastating defeat in the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club.

    But he responded and has now won three of the four majors and needs to add just the U.S. Open to complete the career grand slam.

    The win for Mickelson may take a bit of the sting out of the eight runner-up finishes he’s recorded during his career in major championships.

6. Bobby Jones, 1929 U.S. Open at Winged Foot

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    The name Bobby Jones is synonymous with winning, but one of his greatest triumphs came after his greatest collapse.

    Jones had a six-shot lead over Al Espinosa with six holes left in the tournament, but frittered that lead away and needed to sink a 12-foot putt to force a playoff.

    Jones was back to his dominant self in the 36-hole playoff.

    He shot 72-69 to Espinosa’s 84-80 and won by an amazing 23 shots.

5. 1977 Duel in the Sun, Turnberry

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    There are a number of reasons why the 1977 British Open ranks as one of the greats of all time.

    For starters, it was the first time the oldest championship in history had been played at Turnberry.

    It’s best remembered for the Sunday afternoon battle between Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, a battle that went to the 72nd hole before Watson was able to subdue the Golden Bear.

    But the leaderboard was littered with future World Golf Hall of Famers.

    Eight of the top nine fit into that category: Watson, Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Ben Crenshaw, Hubert Green, Raymond Floyd, Johnny Miller and Arnold Palmer.

    Over the last two rounds, Nicklaus shot 65-66 and Watson shot 65-65.

4. Rory McIlroy, 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional

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    While Congressional Country Club was soggy and defenseless, Rory McIlroy had one heck of a weekend there in June of 2011.

    He not only won his first major, the U.S. Open, by a record eight shots, but when all was said and done, he had set 11 records.

    Included in that was a new low total, 268, and lowest total under par, 16-under par.

    He became the fifth player in U.S. Open history to record all four rounds under par.

    McIlroy also got to 17-under during the final round before finishing at 16-under.

    He became only the second player in the history of the U.S. Open to get more than eight under par.

    The other was Woods, who was 12-under in 2000.

3. Jack Nicklaus, 1965 Masters

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    Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer played the first two rounds of the 1965 so well that it looked as though the patrons at Augusta National were going to get to see a wonderful battle of the Big Three.

    But Nicklaus was having none of that.

    He made five birdies on the front nine in the third round on Saturday and three more on the back to shoot 64, tying Lloyd Mangrum’s course record set in 1940.

    That blew up the big shootout with Nicklaus five ahead of Player and eight ahead of Palmer after three rounds.

    And when he put together a 69 in the final round, he broke Ben Hogan’s scoring record of 274 with a 271. Nicklaus whacked Palmer and Player by nine shots and finished 17-under par.

2. Tiger Woods, 1997 Masters

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    What Woods did at Augusta National Golf Club as a 21-year-old in 1997 almost defied description.

    His first round started with an opening-nine 40, yep, 40. Woods gave an inkling what might be coming by coming back with a 30 on the back nine.

    He went on to post rounds of 70-66-65-69 for a 270 total, one shot better than the 271 Jack Nicklaus recorded 32 years ago.

    Woods’ triumph was his first major title and he won by a dozen shots.

    It was the biggest margin of victory of the century and second only to Old Tom Morris’ win by 13 shots in the 1862 British Open.

1. Tiger Woods, 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach

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    As the world already knew, Tiger Woods did very little in his life without flair and dramatics.

    His destruction of the field in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach was the most total domination by anyone in the history of the major.

    He was 15 shots better than his nearest competitor, Ernie Els, and the margin of victory was two better than Old Tom Morris’ whipping he laid on the 1862 British Open.

    Woods needed only 24 putts in his opening-round 65.

    He established the following tournament records: largest 36-hole lead, six; lowest 36-hole total, 136 (tied with Jack Nicklaus, T.C. Chen and Lee Janzen); largest 54-hole lead, 10; lowest tournament score (tied with Nicklaus and Janzen); most strokes under par, 12 (tied with Gil Morgan) and largest margin of victory.

     

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