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Best Golfers


The best golfers are those who not only exude skill and ability but also the patience to take each round one hole at a time. An example would be the legendary Ben Hogan.

Hogan, 16 months removed from a horrific auto accident that ravaged his body, was on the verge of winning the 1950 U.S. Open. He led by three strokes with seven holes to play. However, his still-damaged legs throbbed in pain, and after his tee shot at the 12th hole, he nearly fell.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods is the only player to have matched Ben Hogan's record
of winning three professional majors in one season.
See more pictures of the best golfers.

Hogan hobbled toward Harry Radix, a friend nearby. "Let me hang onto you, Harry," Ben said. "My God, I don't think I can finish."

Hogan limped through the next six holes, and by the 18th tee he had fallen back into a tie. Somehow, he needed to muster a heroic approach shot to keep his hopes alive ... and he did just that.

Stroking a 1-iron, Hogan launched a majestic shot that settled safely on the green. In agony, he two-putted for a tie. The next day, he prevailed in an 18-hole playoff.

It was the stuff legends are made of. It is also one of the many captivating stories you'll find in these pages, an article that honors the 70 greatest golfers who ever picked up a club.

Babe Zaharias
Babe Zaharias blazed the trail
for women in the male-dominated
game of golf.

Through the links in this article and on the next page you'll find stories focused mostly on PGA Tour greats, but the whole spectrum of golfdom is covered: LPGA stars, foreign golfers, course designers, and oft-forgotten pioneers. The roots of golf dig so wide and deep that even Scotland's Old Tom Morris, who whacked a featherie ball in the 1840s, earned a place in these pages.

These biographies are all-encompassing, chronicling the golfers' lives from their early years through the lengths of their careers. Yet the profiles go well beyond the facts. The biographies explore the golfers' personalities, recount their fascinating personal stories, and relive their greatest golfing heroics.

The personalities of the 70 legends run the gamut, from the terse and demure to the chatty and jolly. Prior to tournament golf, Babe Zaharias performed on vaudeville, tap-dancing and playing the harmonica. Walter Hagen, though, was golf's ultimate showman.

So brazen was "Sir Walter" that he sometimes sent his caddie 150 yards ahead to pull the flagstick. Then there was Bobby Locke. The stately South African so annoyed American players in the 1940s that they called him "Muffin Face."

The jowly Locke dressed in knickers, a white cap, and white shoes and strolled deliberately down the golf course as he pontificated about his next stroke. When a reporter would ask him a question that was instructional in nature, Locke boldly requested $100 for his response.

Somewhere in the lives of these golfers lie compelling personal stories -- sometimes comic, sometimes tragic. Lee Trevino grew up in a house with no electricity or running water, yet he was able to scrape together needed money through his golf skills and wild imagination. Trevino hustled golfers with a Dr Pepper bottle, hitting shots with the fat end and pool-cueing putts with the thin end.

Young Tom Morris remains golf's saddest story. Old Tom's son won four British Opens by age 21, but he died three years later. Morris never recovered from the shocking death of his wife and baby, who both died during childbirth.

When it comes to heroic golf shots, few could match the wallop of Gene Sarazen at the 1935 Masters. Down three strokes to Craig Wood with four holes to play, Sarazen erased the entire deficit with one swing of a 4-wood, as his second shot on the par-5, 485-yard 15th rocketed to the green and then glided softly into the cup. Sarazen won in a playoff the next day.

As for famous hot streaks, Byron Nelson blazed the trail with his 11 straight victories in 1945. His streak included the spectacular -- he won the Iron Lung Open with a Tour-record 263 total -- as well as the dramatic -- he birdied five of the last six holes to win the Philadelphia Inquirer Invitational by one stroke.

If you want to learn about Seve Ballesteros's miracle shot from the parking lot, or Sammy Snead's sourpuss uncle, then spend some time with this article. Every star has a story to tell. A field of elite golfers appeared in the 1940 Goodall Round-Robin.

Almost everyone has heard about Tiger Woods' impressive amateur career, but what do you know about golfing great Francis Ouimet? Continue onto the next page for a complete list of links to the best golfers in the history of the game.