The Top Five Golfers of the Decade

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2009

CHASKA, MN - AUGUST 15:  Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the first hole as Vijay Singh of Fiji looks on during the third round of the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club on August 15, 2009 in Chaska, Minnesota.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Enough about fire hydrants, transgressions, prenups, and US Weekly meets the PGA Tour.

Let’s talk golf.

As 2009 comes to a close, here are the Top Five golfers of the past decade.


5. Sergio Garcia

Yes, he whines.

Yes, he blamed the golf Gods when he lost to Padraig Harrington in a playoff at the 2007 British Open.

And yes, he runs around like a spoiled little child at the Ryder Cup matches.

But all of that aside, few players have had a more successful decade than Sergio Garcia.

Garcia has won seven times on the PGA Tour over the past 10 years, including a win at the 2008 Players Championship, as well as six European Tour wins.

Although he is widely regarded as the best player in the world without a major, he did have 14 top-10 finishes at the majors over the past decade, which is a feat surpassed by only a handful of players.

We also have to remember that, even though it seems like he’s been around forever, Garcia is only 29 years old.

Aside from Tiger Woods, only four players under the age of 30 (Ben Curtis, Geoff Ogilvy, Trevor Immelman, and Lucas Glover) have won major championships during the past decade.

Love him or hate him, with 13 worldwide victories, a Players Championship, 14 top-10 finishes at the majors (including eight top-five finishes) and a 14-3-3 Ryder Cup record, how could Garcia not be ranked amongst the top five players of the past decade?


4. Padraig Harrington

In professional golf, it’s all about the major championships.

Garcia would undoubtedly trade in his 13 worldwide wins in exchange for one major championship.

Major championships are just what the title suggests: golf’s championships.

No one cares if the Yankees win 120 games if they don’t go on to win the World Series.

For that reason, Padraig Harrington ranks fourth in the list of the decade’s top golfers.

Tiger Woods is the only player in the world to have won more majors than Harrington during the past decade (Mickelson is tied with Harrington at three).

Aside from his three major championships, Harrington has won 10 European Tour events and two additional PGA Tour events during the past 10 years.

Not the most impressive performance on the PGA Tour in terms of the sheer number of wins, but once again, it’s all about the majors, and Harington’s got three of them.


3. Phil Mickelson

Tiger or Phil.

Phil or Tiger.

You’re either on one side or the other.

With 24 PGA Tour wins and three major championships, Mickelson is a shoe-in for the World Golf Hall of Fame based solely on his performance over the past decade.

His 37 career PGA Tour wins might earn him an entire room at the Hall of Fame.

Had Mickelson won the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, he would have unquestionably been the second best player of the past decade.

But, as we all know, a hospitality tent, a tree, and Mickelson’s head got in the way of victory on that day, and he hasn’t been the same player since.

Mickelson did not finish within the top 10 at another major until the 2008 Masters, and the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage was the first time he found himself in contention at a major since the now infamous "Winged Foot meltdown."

Mickelson’s career stats are almost identical to Vijay Singh’s.  And being six years younger than Singh, Mickelson will almost certainly finish his career as the more accomplished player. 

However, over the pat decade, Singh has been ever so slightly better than Mickelson.


2. Vijay Singh

Only one player other than Tiger Woods has been ranked No. 1 in the world since 2000, and that’s Vijay Singh.

Only Woods has more PGA Tour wins and top-10 finishes than Singh over the past 10 years.

Granted, Singh plays a lot more often than most of the other top players in the world, which makes it easier for him to rack up the wins and top-10 finishes.

However, Singh’s top-10 percentage over the past decade is better than any other player on tour except for Woods.

He doesn’t say too much and doesn’t rake in the same sponsorship dollars as Mickelson. But statistically, Singh has had a slightly better decade than Mickelson.

Statistically speaking, there’s only one player in the world that has had a better decade than Singh.


1. Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods has won 12 majors and 56 PGA Tour events over the past decade.

Just to put that into perspective, it took Jack Nicklaus 25 years to win 73 PGA Tour events and 18 major championships.

That means that in just 10 years Woods has won 66 percent as many majors and 76 percent as many total tournaments as Jack did in 25 years.

Golf fans have, more or less, just witnessed a player put together the most dominant decade in the history of the game.

The only performance somewhat comparable to Woods’ is Bobby Jones winning 13-of-21 majors between 1923 and 1930.

When Woods won the 2001 Masters he became the first player since Jones to hold all four major championships at one time (in Jones’ era the U.S. & British Amateurs were considered majors.  Jones also won all four majors in one calendar year while Woods won the final three majors in 2000 and the first major of the 2001 season).

Now, who knows what the next 10 years will have in store for Woods?  But whatever the case, it could be a very long time before we see anyone dominate the game like Woods did during the past decade.


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