What’s a decade or so without a look back at the best things in it? There’s American Idol , for those who love people named Simon and Paula. The DaVinci Code , by Dan Brown for those who love a good mystery. And for the enchanted at heart, the Harry Potter series, whether films or books, they were blockbusters all. Let’s face it, there have been some fabulous works produced.
It’s no different in golf. We have our own Michelangelos and Shakespeares, but they create not with pen or brush or chisel. They wield shafts of steel, graphite and carbon fiber with clubs of titanium and exotic alloys. Their color of choice: green – for the golf course – and not incidentally -- for money.
In making our list, we looked primarily at numbers of major championship titles, with The Players as a supporting victory, and after that numbers of PGA Tour titles. Many of our familiar golf faces these days are actually members of other tours, but that enhances their accomplishments. This list does not itemize what have you done for me lately. It’s what have you done for us since Y2K.
Here are Golf’s Top Ten of the Early 2000s
10. Mike Weir
Mike Weir became the first Canadian to win a major championship when he captured the 2003 Masters in a playoff defeating Len Mattiace in a playoff with a bogey on the first extra hole. Weir was just the second lefty to win a major championship, the first being New Zealand’s Bob Charles. Weir has seven PGA Tour titles in all.
2000 World Golf Championships-American Express Championship. 2001 THE TOUR Championship. 2003 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, Nissan Open, Masters Tournament . 2004 Nissan Open. 2007 Fry's Electronics Open.
9. David Toms
With one major, the 2003 PGA Championship, and eight PGA Tour victories, David Toms beats out all but eight other major championship winners since 2000 in total victories. No doubt one of the reasons for his success is his putting stroke, which rolls almost like vintage Ben Crewshaw. That’s hard to beat.
In recent seasons’ Toms has had some heart problems, which so far as we know, have been corrected. If anything it could have made him tougher. After you face irregular heart beats, what’s a 10-foot putt?
2000 Michelob Championship at Kingsmill. 2001 Compaq Classic of New Orleans, PGA Championship, Michelob Championship at Kingsmill. 2003 Wachovia Championship, FedEx St. Jude Classic. 2004 FedEx St. Jude Classic. 2005 World
Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. 2006 Sony Open in Hawaii.
From 2000 to the present, the next two players are separated by, well, style.
Jim Furyk has a golf swing only he and his father can love, and Ernie Els has a swing so smooth and silky that everyone admires it. Guess what? Since 2000, both these accomplished golfers have won one major championship and have a total of 11 PGA Tour victories. Els and Furyk both have some international titles to their credit in addition, but we are focused on our part of the globe. Counting the time before year 2000, Els has two additional majors, so historically, he will be considered ahead of Furyk, if we stopped counting today. And they aren’t stopping today, believe me. As of now, they are in a dead heat post 2000. Els goes one spot higher on our list because of those other two major trophies, both US Opens, earned in the 1990s.
8. Jim Furyk
2000 Doral-Ryder Open. 2001 Mercedes Championships. 2002 Memorial Tournament. 2003 U.S. Open Championship, Buick Open. 2005 Cialis Western Open. 2006 Wachovia Championship, Canadian Open. 2007 Canadian Open presented by Franklin Templeton Investments. 2010 Transitions Championship, Verizon Heritage.
7. Ernie Els
2000 The International Presented by Qwest. 2002 Genuity Championship, British Open Championship . 2003 Mercedes Championships, Sony Open in Hawaii. 2004 Sony Open in Hawaii, the Memorial Tournament, World Golf Championships-American Express Championship. 2008 The Honda Classic. 2010 World Golf Championships-CA Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard.
6. Angel Cabrera
With a powerful build and swing to match, Angel Cabrera captured his first US victory at the US Open at one of the toughest golf courses on the planet: Oakmont. The course that plays tougher for members than during the US Open. Well at least that’s what the members say. Not being a member, hard to compare. Since they are private, and since most of us are not PGA Tour players, we will never really know if that’s fact or just plain braggadocio.
After sliding into the US Open, Cabrera followed up with a playoff victory at the Masters, making history as the lowest ranked golfer -- since the rankings started – to win the tournament. It seemed like it should have been Kenny Perry’s Masters, but really Cabrera bogeyed the last two holes on Sunday or there would not have been a playoff to discuss.
"I'm so emotional I can barely talk," Cabrera said as they slipped the green jacket on his burly shoulders.
2007 U.S. Open Championship. 2009 Masters Tournament
5. Retief Goosen
Retief Goosen is a quiet assassin. His two US Open victories both came in hot locations. At steamy, honey-pass-the-baby-powder-hot Southern Hills, he won in a playoff over Mark Brooks. Then three years later at Shinnecock Hills, which will forever be remembered as the year the USGA lost control of the greens, he won again. There were no greens left on Sunday. They were browns. Baked clay. Almost like landing a ball on tile. That’s what Retief Goosen will be remembered for in 30 years. He’s the guy who survived the USGA’s setup.
As one of the many impressive international players who spend much of the year in the US, Goosen has seven PGA Tour titles since 2000 and two of those are US Opens.
After winning his second US Open, he suffered some injuries including a fractured pelvis. No doubt due to walking on the hard putting surfaces at the Tournament. Just kidding. It was actually a jet-ski incident.
2001 U.S. Open Championship. 2002 BellSouth Classic. 2003 Chrysler Championship. 2004 U.S. Open Championship, THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola. 2005 The INTERNATIONAL. 2009 Transitions Championship.
4. Padraig Harrington
Padraig Harrington chugs along like The Little Engine That Could. He has positive thoughts, works hard, and pretty soon, don’t cha know, he’s won three majors. Though a part time PGA Tour player for several years, Harrington has five PGA Tour victories, including three major championships: Two British Opens and a PGA. His international achievements are numerous. And since so many people in the US have some kind of Irish blend in their family tree, even if he’s not a native son, it’s easy to imagine that he is at least a favorite cousin.
2005 The Honda Classic, Barclays Classic. 2007 British Open Championship. 2008 British Open Championship , PGA Championship.
3. Vijay Singh
Vijay Singh is a bit of an enigma. A human puzzle. The mystery we will never solve. The Rubik’s Cube of golf. Yet with three major championship victories, albeit one of them before 2000, Singh was a fearless force on the course for more than a decade.
He’s one of two players who have achieved the No.1 spot in golf during the Tiger Woods era. That plus, two majors since 2000 and the sheer number of victories he amassed since then put him ahead of others.
Impressively, Singh won nine Tournaments in 2004, including the PGA Championship. That tied him in season victories with Tiger Woods. It is not a PGA Tour record, though. That belongs to Byron Nelson with 18.
Since 2000 he has notched 26 victories on the PGA Tour, including a Masters and a PGA Championship.
2000 Masters Tournament. 2002 Shell Houston Open, THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola. 2003 Phoenix Open, EDS Byron Nelson Championship, John Deere Classic, FUNAI Classic at the WALT DISNEY WORLD Resort. 2004 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Shell Houston Open, HP Classic of New Orleans, Buick Open, PGA Championship , Deutsche Bank Championship, Bell Canadian Open, 84 LUMBER Classic, Chrysler Championship. 2005 Sony Open in Hawaii, Shell Houston Open, Wachovia Championship, Buick Open. 2006 Barclays Classic. 2007 Mercedes-Benz Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. 2008 World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, The Barclays, Deutsche Bank Championship.
2. Phil Mickelson
With three green jackets, a Wanamaker trophy and one Players crystal, Phil Mickelson has a firm hold on the Avis spot. He may even achieve a No. 1 ranking before the year is out. With Phil, as the Ford commercials used to say, you never know what he’s going to do next. That’s what makes him so exciting to watch. It can give you heartburn if you are a Phil fan, but you can never accuse Lefty of being dull.
Mickelson won 25 of his 38 PGA Tournament titles since 2000. All his majors came after 2004, with The Players sandwiched in between two Masters victories.
2000 Buick Invitational, BellSouth Classic, MasterCard Colonial, THE TOUR Championship. 2001 Buick Invitational, Canon Greater Hartford Open. 2002 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, Canon Greater Hartford Open. 2004 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, Masters Tournament. 2005 FBR Open, AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, BellSouth Classic, PGA Championship. 2006 BellSouth Classic, Masters Tournament. 2007 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, The Players Championship , Deutsche Bank Championship. 2008 Northern Trust Open, Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. 2009 Northern Trust Open, World Golf Championships-CA Championship, THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola. 2010 Masters Tournament
No surprise here. With 12 majors, one Players and 56 victories since 2000, Tiger Woods is numero uno since, well except for a short period of time when Vijay Singh and David Duval temporarily borrowed the honor. Highlights in those 56 titles include the impossible shot out of the schmutz on the 6th hole at Pebble Beach on the way to his US Open Championship victory, the impossible shot out of the bunker on the 18th hole at the Canadian Open, and any one of a gazillion other impossible shots that Tiger Woods amazed us by hitting.
His victories since 2000:
2000 Mercedes Championships, AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Bay Hill Invitational, Memorial Tournament, U.S. Open Championship , British Open Championship, PGA Championship , World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational, Bell Canadian Open. 2001 Bay Hill Invitational, The Players Championship , Masters Tournament , Memorial Tournament, World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational. 2002 Bay Hill Invitational presented by Cooper Tires, Masters Tournament, U.S. Open Championship, Buick Open, World Golf Championships-American Express Championship. 2003 Buick Invitational, World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, Bay Hill Invitational presented by Cooper Tires, 100th Western Open presented by Golf Digest, World Golf Championships-American Express Championship. 2004 World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. 2005 Buick Invitational, Ford Championship at Doral, Masters Tournament, British Open Championship, World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational, World Golf Championships-American Express Championship. 2006 Buick Invitational, Ford Championship at Doral, British Open Championship, Buick Open, PGA Championship , World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, Deutsche Bank Championship, World Golf Championships-American Express Championship. 2007 Buick Invitational, World Golf Championships-CA Championship, Wachovia Championship, World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, PGA Championship, BMW Championship, THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola. 2008 Buick Invitational, World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, U.S. Open Championship. 2009 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, the Memorial Tournament, AT&T National, Buick Open, World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, BMW Championship.
Honorable Mention: David Duval
David Duval may never be able to duplicate his play of the late 1990s. All but two of his 13 PGA Tour victories came prior to 2000. But when Duval won the 2001 British Open, he overtook Tiger Woods as the No.1 player in the world. Only he and Vijay Singh have achieved that status. For that reason, and because he won a major championship after 2000, he must receive an Honorable Mention.