Top-10: Greatest Masters Champions

A tradition unlike any other returns Thursday as the 81st Master’s Tournament tees off at Augusta National Golf Club.

For four days, golf fans across the nation will tune in as 94 of the top golfers in the world will face off  in one of the game’s most grueling tests.

Over the years, winners of the green jacket encompass a wide group of people. Champions range in age from early 20s to the late 40s. They hail from 11 countries spanning six continents. Some only put on the green jacket once, while other find a way to repeat their success.

And while each winner goes down in history as a Masters Champion, only a select few get remembered in golf lore as true legends.

Here are the top-10 greatest Masters winners of all time:

 

10. Nick Faldo
WINS: 3 Masters, 6 Majors, 9 PGA

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Credit: Stephen Munday/Allsport

Sir Nick Faldo remains one of only three players to ever win the Masters in back-to-back years, the other two went one, two on this list. While the 9 PGA victories may not seem like a lot, Faldo also amassed 30 wins on the European tour, which is 5th-most all time. Before Danny Willett’s victory in 2016, Faldo was the last Englishman to win at Augusta.

 

9. Gene Sarazen
WINS: 1 Masters, 7 Majors, 39 PGA

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(Photo by E. Bacon/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

It was the final major Gene Sarazen won in his career, and it helped him become one of only five golfers to win all four major tournaments. It wasn’t an easy win. Sarazen shot a double-eagle two on the par-5 15th to close a three stroke gap during the final round, and ultimately win in a playoff the next day.

 

8. Tom Watson
WINS: 2 Masters, 8 Majors, 39 PGA

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(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Tom Watson was dominant when it came to the Open Championship, which he won 5 times, the most ever by an American and tied for 2nd most all time. But Watson also won the Masters twice in 1977 and 1981. A 2nd place finish in the 1978 PGA championship was the closest he got to a career grand slam, but that doesn’t diminish the dominant stretch Watson had from 1975 to 1983.

 

7. Byron Nelson
WINS: 2 Masters, 5 Majors, 52 PGA

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(Photo by Augusta National/Getty Images)

Byron Nelson was one of many who started off his major championship career with a Masters win. After winning the 1937, he would go on to win the 1939 US Open and the 1940 PGA Championship before winning his second Masters in 1942. Nelson could’ve won more, but legendary golfers Ben Hogan and Sam Snead often got in his way.

 

6. Gary Player
WINS: 3 Masters, 9 Majors, 24 PGA

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(Photo by Andy Redington/Getty Images)

Gary Player remains the only non-american golfer to win the career Grand Slam, with victories in all four majors. 13 years past between his first and second Masters wins, after Player won his first tournament at Augusta at the age of 25 in 1961. In 1978, the Black Knight won his final major, overcoming a 7-shot deficit in the final round of the Masters.

 

5. Ben Hogan
WINS: 2 Masters, 9 Majors, 64 PGA

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(Photo by Augusta National/Getty Images)

Arguably the best ball striker of all time, Ben Hogan put together a career that should’ve been derailed before its peak. In 1949, Hogan and his wife were in a head-on collision that almost killed the golfer. Yet he didn’t let the injuries stop him. Hogan would go on to win six more majors, two of them Masters. In 1953, regarded as one of the greatest single season of all time, along with the win at the Masters, Hogan won the US Open and Open Championship, and five of the six tournaments played in.

 

4. Sam Snead
WINS: 3 Masters, 7 Majors, 82 PGA 

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(Photo by Don Morley/Getty Images)

The all-time leader in PGA wins, Sam Snead was a golfer ahead of his time. Though he never won the Major Grand Slam, Snead won the Masters more time than his two mid century rivals, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson. “Slammin’ Sammy” beat Hogan by one stroke in a playoff for the 1954 Masters title, his final major victory.

 

3. Arnold Palmer
WINS: 4 Masters, 7 Majors, 62 PGA 

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(Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)

Regarded as the star responsible for putting sports television on the map, Arnold Palmer had about as much success at Augusta as anyone could. His four Masters wins are 2nd most all time, though he never completed the Grand Slam with a win at the PGA Championship. The King won the Masters every other year from 1958 to 1964.

 

2. Tiger Woods
WINS: 4 Masters, 14 Majors, 79 PGA 

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Photo credit: Stephen Munday/Allsport

Despite his fall from grace over the last five years, Tiger Woods will go down as arguably the greatest golfer of all time. His 1997 Masters, the first of four, made him the youngest player to ever win the tournament at 21, as well as the first non-white player to win at Augusta. With back-to-back wins several years later in 2001 and 2002, Woods’ established himself as a golf icon at the turn of the century and set himself on a path to immortality.

 

1. Jack Nicklaus
WINS: 6 Masters, 18 Majors, 73 PGA 

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(Photo by Augusta National/Getty Images)

Holding a tournament record six wins at Augusta, Jack Nicklaus is truly the master of the Masters. From the start of his career, in 1962, to 1972, the Golden Bear averaged a one major win per year. He won the Masters four times over that span, and was the oldest player to win the tournament at 46 in 1986. 30 years later, Nicklaus still leads the start of the tournament with a ceremonial tee shot, giving golfers and fans alike the opportunity to still see the legend at work.

 

Honorable mentions:

-Phil Mickelson
WINS: 3 Masters, 5 Majors, 32 PGA

-Horton Smith
WINS: 2 Masters, 2 Majors, 32 PGA

-Jimmy Demaret
WINS: 3 Masters, 3 Majors, 31 PGA

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