Tiger Woods and the 25 Most Beloved Players in Golf History
Golf is the one sport that anyone can play at any age. Yes, you can argue for other sports, but only golf provides the common man an opportunity any time. You are never too old or young. That is why golfers seem to be so easy to like.
Players such as Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus gained popularity through their winning, but unlike Nicklaus, Woods has obviously lost some popularity. However, he still maintains a large following, and it is undeniable he has a spot in history.
So who are among the most beloved golfers of all time?
No. 25: Rocco Mediate
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Maybe not one of the most loved players, but it is undeniable that Rocco gained fans in the US Open at Torrey Pines.
He handled defeat with grace. You can't forget them showing the reaction to Tiger's putt on 18 in the final round. All he could say was "I knew it." Rocco never wanted to root against Tiger, and pushed things to the limit in that playoff.
I think there was a level of disappointment that after such a great playoff between the two, that they couldn't both just win.
No. 24: Sergio Garcia
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Maybe this is personal bias, but I think Sergio has entered into this conversation.
His career is entering the stage of, "What would have happened?" What would have happened if Sergio could have closed at Medinah, the Open in 2008 or the PGA in 2009? Where would he be?
However, we know where he is now. He is struggling to return. His most recent attempt was a solid two-round performance at Dubai. However, two rounds is not the length of the tournament. It is four.
Sergio and Tiger made a bad group on Sunday, however, I think you have to take it at face value for both. They both were able to post good numbers, and contend in the last day.
Hopefully, Sergio is ready to ascend in golf once again. He is a great personality for the game, and is a great golfer.
No. 23: Dustin Johnson
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Another guy who may be just a new name recently, Dustin Johnson has gained the attention of many people.
Unfortunately, most of it has to deal with his inability to finish. I can't tell if he is pitied or beloved, but I am going to go with beloved. His calm way of dealing with his collapses became legendary.
Dustin Johnson could truly move up this list if he were to come back this year and win a major. As of now, he is towards the back end of the list.
No. 22: Matt Kuchar
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For now, the back end of this list belongs to the up and coming golfers who are coming into the discussion. That would include Matt Kuchar.
He was, in my opinion, the Player of the Year in 2010. His monster year included 20 top 25s in 23 cuts made. As well, 11 top 10s were included in the top 25s.
His level of consistency correlates to his cool demeanor on the course. He is correctly described as having a grin on his face no matter what. Matt Kuchar's career appears to be on the rise, and he certainly has the personality to have the support of fans.
No. 21: John Daly
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Many may hate him, however, John Daly's personality is something that won the fans of golf over.
His struggles with alcoholism and his weight are constant issues that Daly has to deal with. However, he appears to be fighting hard to make a comeback. This is what makes Daly so liked.
Besides, his go-for-it attitude on the golf course has always made fans want to follow him and see what he will do next. Hopefully, Daly's comeback will be capped with a professional win soon.
No. 20: Nick Price
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A native of Zimbabwe, Price quickly established himself on tour. He amassed 48 professional wins, including 18 on the PGA Tour.
In 1994, he won back-to-back majors when he took home the Open Championship and the PGA Championship.
Price is still active on the Champions Tour, where he has won three times so far.
Nick Price is regarded as one of the most personable golfers to ever play, and he certainly did his best to stick to that role.
No. 19: Johnny Miller
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An American golf great he is. With 25 wins on tour and two majors, Miller was always a player to be watching.
Coming from obscurity, Miller won his first major in 1973. He had only two wins from four years on tour, and while he placed well in majors before it, he was by no means a favorite.
After this, Miller won one other major, the 1976 British Open, and finished up his wins.
What hurts Miller in this ranking is the comments he has made in his broadcasting career. He is a very opinionated person, and some of his comments have inflamed the golf world. Despite all of this, Johnny Miller is still a great person in the history of golf.
No. 18: Nancy Lopez
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An excellent women's golfer for her time, Nancy Lopez amassed numerous awards, such as the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average, LPGA Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year and Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year.
Being one of the best female golfers to ever play, Lopez's lack of majors prevented her from entering the talks when Annika came around. However, she certainly was not forgotten for this list.
No. 17: Francis Ouimet
The movie The Greatest Game Ever Played brought to light the story of Francis Ouimet's improbable victory over Harry Vardon.
An amateur, Ouimet seemed married to his job, especially given the fact he was not supposed to ever play again.
However, his struggles with his family, and his triumphant win are what make him such a great person in the game of golf.
No. 16: Bernhard Langer
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Another player who is still on the Champions Tour, Langer made his career mainly through the European Tour.
However, as of recently on the Champions Tour, Langer has become even more noted as a professional, winning the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
Langer's quiet personality always seems to go along with being well-liked.
No. 15: Babe Zaharias
A gold medal track and field athlete, Babe Zaharias also won every tournament available to women in her time, and won a total of 82 tournaments, professional and amateur.
Her biggest claim to fame is her return from her 1953 colon cancer, when in 1954 she won the US Women's Open. However, the cancer returned, and her last tournament in 1955, the Peach Blossom Open, was also her last victory.
She always was willing to have some banter with fans, and although sometimes crude, it was always good-natured.
It is her persistent attitude and unwillingness to give up that makes Babe Zaharias a golf legend.
No. 14: Tom Watson
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Tom Watson is one of the few American golfers to have a great amount of success in the Open Championship.
He is a relatively calm person on the Champions Tour right now, but you have seen him make a few big attempts to land himself atop the leaderboard as of the past few years. What makes Watson so great is his timelessness.
And no one will forget the chip in at Pebble Beach. Tom Watson truly is one of the more respected players in the game.
No. 13: Gary Player
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Gary Player has won 165 tournaments internationally, including nine majors, and that has him among one of golf's greatest players.
His timeless nature, playing over 60 years, has made him one of the most well-known players. Player, being South African, wasn't exactly the story of the rich, and his family worked extremely hard to give him the opportunity.
Player did not squander it, and he still honors the work his parents made. One of the biggest shames is that Player was never allowed to compete in the Ryder Cup. He never seemed to have any issues with the people of golf, and has kept active in the sport.
No. 12: Tiger Woods
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I guess Tiger's rank was bound to drop due to his actions.
However, everything he did previously is undeniable. For the years preceding the fallout, Tiger was the most popular golfer to play. He put people on the golf course, and brought a new audience into the game. Without Tiger Woods, the PGA Tour would not have the payout that it does.
However, Tiger proved many people wrong in the past year, and lost numerous sponsors and supporters. Although I am still a huge Tiger fan, the fans he lost make him sit on the outside the top 10.
No. 11: Seve Ballesteros
The number one winningest player in European Tour history (50), was one of the most fiery personalities golf has seen.
Known for being a five-time major winner, and former World No. 1, Seve's personality was what made him a legend. In the Ryder Cup, he was the spark plug within the team. He could always light a fire under the team through his play.
Seve's great attitude for golf and great personality always made him one of golf's greats, and that is why he was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame.
No. 10: Sir Nick Faldo
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Being knighted is generally a good indication of being well=liked. Especially if you are just a golfer.
Sir Nick Faldo, with 40 professional wins (nine on the PGA Tour), collected six majors throughout his career.
After early issues with finishing, under the instruction of David Leadbetter, Faldo became one of golf's most prolific players. His ability to stay composed in a major championship became his best quality.
He also holds the record for most points won by a Ryder Cup player all time, whether American or European.
Faldo is just an overall great guy, and is one of the prevailing personalities in golf.
No. 9: Annika Sorenstam
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At the top of the ranking for women is Annika.
She is one of the best known players ever to take to the LPGA. With 93 professional wins, 72 on the LPGA, Annika is one of the most iconic players to take to the stage of women's golf.
She was always a very well-mannered person, and represented golf extremely well. And as well, she always had a good attitude around the media.
As well, she and Tiger often made it a point to send text message jabs at each other to encourage them to win.
Her retirement from golf definitely detracted from the LPGA, but her retirement was respected by all as she put her all into the game for 16 years.
No. 8: Lee Trevino
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A great golfer, with an even better attitude, Lee Trevino serves constantly as an inspiration to the Mexican-American community.
As for his popularity, Trevino had this to say: "I played the tour in 1967 and told jokes and nobody laughed. Then I won the Open the next year, told the same jokes, and everybody laughed like hell."
That was Lee Trevino. Very much an original swing, very much an original person. There are no personalities who can match Lee Trevino. He always projected himself as fearless, and approached the game with a great attitude.
Lee Trevino is an unforgettable golfer, even for someone who was only able to watch reruns of him.
No. 7: Phil Mickelson
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Right now, besides the most beloved golfer playing, Phil Mickelson is the second-most beloved player.
He can be a little strange at times, but his willingness to sign autographs, alongside his smile, has always won fans over.
As well, his wife's publicized battle with cancer has truly shown Mickelson in the light which he always was, only magnified. The family man spirit.
Phil Mickelson is one of the only men who would consider skipping tournaments just because his kids had free. After all, he sees them whenever he is home, which is considerably more now that he has admitted he is focused on his short game, and not working on his swing beyond maintenance.
What Phil is focused on his family, and being the best father he can be, while still golfing. That's what makes him such a great guy.
No. 6: Bobby Jones
Probably the best ranked player whose attitude was most scrutinized. Bobby Jones played golf at a time where Americans still had not earned the golf elite's respect.
In 1921, Jones traveled over to St. Andrews, a course that Jones didn't early had a good relationship with. Jones was disqualified when on the 11th hole of the third round, he failed to complete the hole, ripping up the scorecard, but finishing the rest of the round and the fourth round. At that point Jones voiced his distaste for the course. The response from St. Andrews was rather unkind, them saying "Master Bobby is just a boy, and an ordinary boy at that."
However, Jones came around to the course, even requesting that the trophy from his 1927 Open Championship be left at the club. As well, his sportsmanship was a proven entity. In the 1925 US Open playoff, Jones called himself on a penalty for moving the ball, when nobody else saw it move. Jones refused to give on the ruling, and lost the tournament by one stroke (the penalty cost him two).
Jones' greatest feat came in 1930, when he won the Grand Slam. His greatest shock was his retirement from golf. Bobby Jones had a very harsh personality, but his pure intentions shined through in most circumstances.
No. 5: Payne Stewart
One of golf's greatest tragedies was the day Payne Stewart died in a plane crash.
Known mostly for his knickers, Stewart was an electric personality on the course. He could always bring a smile to faces when he sank a putt.
There truly aren't many greater pictures in golf as the one of Stewart making that putt in the 1999 US Open. It is an iconic image to see.
His intense pride for American golf showed true at all of the Ryder Cups he played at. No doubt he would have been a pick for the captaincy had he had the chance to make it that far. And no doubt he would have contended in tournaments for years to come in his career.
There are so many positives to say about Payne Stewart, and he truly is one of golf's most iconic figures.
No. 4: Chi Chi Rodriguez
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The first ever Puerto Rican to get elected into the World Golf Hall of Fame, Chi Chi Rodriguez isn't quite as well known for his golf as much as that smile he always seemed to have.
Don't take away from the 38 total professional wins that he had, it truly is unbelievable that he achieved that. However, that wasn't what puts Rodriguez this high on the list.
His sense of humor was key. One of the jokes in his arsenal was, "How long does John Daly drive a golf ball? When I was a kid, I didn't go that far on vacation." Another example would be "Playing golf is not hot work. Cutting sugar cane for a dollar a day—that's hot work. Hotter than my first wrist watch."
It's that electric personality that puts Rodriguez at fourth on this list.
No. 3: Arnold Palmer
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That classic golf swing we all loved to see, but never wanted to try.
Arnold Palmer is one of the most public retired golfers. He hosts a tournament, which draws the best golfers in the world, and he always seems to be at a handful of events, including the Masters Par 3 Challenge.
It is hard to imagine golf without Arnold Palmer. He was just like the guy on the next slide: a true class act, and a great loser. Remember, nobody wins more than they lose in golf, so you really have to learn that well.
No. 2: Jack Nicklaus
It's hard not to like the all-time major wins leader. Jack Nicklaus had that attitude about him. The cool confidence that everyone loved to see.
It also helps that he won 18 majors. That seems to make a person a lot easier to like. Jack truly was a class act on the course. You never saw a sore loser, even when he came in second an unprecedented 16 times in majors. Keep that in mind. A swing here and there, and nobody is talking about touching that record.
The Golden Bear is still the best golfer of all time, but he comes in second to one man on this list.
No. 1: Fred Couples
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I don't think anyone will argue against Freddy as being the most beloved golfer ever to play.
His easy-going attitude, the stride he always has and the shoes he wears when he's golfing scream average guy. I'm sure he isn't, but he is probably still one of the most popular golfers of all time. He appeals to the old and young.
There aren't many golfers whose followings at a tournament rival, in size, the likes of Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson. However, at the age of 51, Couples still manages to do that.
Hats off to you Fred, you always will be our favorite.