Singh's season one of the best of all time
By any definition, Vijay Singh had a season for the ages.
Singh is the first to break golf's $10-million barrier in one season. At age 41, Singh is the oldest player to win consecutive money titles. Singh won nine times and ended Tiger Woods' five-year reign as the top-ranked player of the world. With just one more victory, Singh would have become the first player in 54 years to reach double digits in a season.
So where does Singh's handiwork rank in PGA Tour history? Before proceeding further, keep this in mind: Evaluating all-time greatness is an exercise in splitting hairs. If it were simply a matter of winning in bulk, Sam Snead would be the undisputed greatest player of all-time with his 82 career victories — nine more than Jack Nicklaus, 18 more than Ben Hogan, 20 more than Arnold Palmer.
All victories are not created equal. Major championships have a major bearing on determining the degree of greatness.
With that in mind, let's proceed to the greatest single-season performances in tour history:
1. Woods, 2000
At age 24, the Sultan of Swoosh won nine times, was the second professional in history to reel in three majors in a season and set or tied 27 tour records. Woods won the U.S. Open by 15 strokes, the British Open by eight and finished birdie-birdie to make it into a playoff on the way to capturing the PGA Championship. The victory margin at the U.S. Open is the largest in major-championship history, breaking a record that had stood since 1864. His unadjusted scoring average of 68.17 was the lowest in tour history. Woods had nearly a stroke-and-a-half better adjusted scoring average (67.79) than the next-closest player (Phil Mickelson, 69.25).
2. Byron Nelson, 1945
Nelson won 18 times, including 11 in a row. He won the only major, the PGA Championship, that World War II allowed. As sublime as his season was, though, there is the issue of competition — or lack thereof. The war depleted the fields to the point that in 1945 Jug McSpaden set the tour record for top-10 finishes (31). Still, give Lord Byron his due: His unadjusted scoring average of 68.33 was the standard until Woods turned the tour upside down in 2000.
3. Hogan, 1953
At age 40, Hogan made the most of his seven starts by winning all three majors he played. Hogan led the tour with five victories despite his limited schedule but missed a chance at a Grand Slam because the British Open and PGA dates conflicted. Of course, that cuts both ways: The other top American players opted to play in the PGA, so he had his way against a watered-down field at Carnoustie. He won his three majors by a combined 15 strokes.
4. Hogan, 1948
Hogan won 10 times, including six in a row at one point. He routed Mike Turnesa, 7 and 6, in the final of the PGA and held off Houston's Jimmy Demaret by two strokes at the U.S. Open.
5. Palmer, 1960
Palmer won eight times, including the Masters and U.S. Open, and became the first golfer to make the cover of Time magazine. He fell one stroke short of Kel Nagle at the British Open and polished off the season with a seventh-place finish at the PGA.
6. Palmer, 1962
The King came through with eight more victories, including two majors. Palmer won the Masters in a playoff with Gary Player and Dow Finsterwald, lost a U.S. Open playoff to Nicklaus and cruised to a six-stroke victory over Nagle at the British Open.
7. Jack Nicklaus, 1972
Seems strange, doesn't it, that the consensus greatest player of all time wouldn't have a single season crack the top five? Nicklaus won multiple majors in five different seasons (1963, 1966, 1972, 1975, 1980). The Golden Bear standard season, though, was 1972, when Nicklaus won by three at Augusta and three again at the U.S. Open. Nicklaus wound up with seven victories, falling one stroke short of Lee Trevino in the British Open.
8. Lee Trevino, 1971
The Merry Mex established himself as one of the defining players of his era, capturing his second U.S. Open in four years and tacking on a British Open victory. He won six times in all.
9. Hogan, 1946
His 13 victories — the second-highest season total in tour history — included a PGA Championship. Hogan trounced Demaret (10 and 9) in the semifinals and Porky Oliver (6 and 4) in the finals.
10. Singh, 2004
By winning a three-man PGA playoff at Whistling Straits, Singh trumped Snead's 11-victory, no-major 1950 season. Because Singh won six of his final nine starts, it's easy to forget he wasn't a factor in the first three majors. Phil Mickelson won the Masters, finished second at the U.S. Open (by two), fell one stroke short of a British Open playoff and missed the PGA playoff by two strokes. A shot here, a break there, and Mickelson would have been the one basking in one of golf's landmark seasons.
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