The Winningest PGA Tour Golfers of Every Decade: 1920s-2010s

Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Tiger Woods
(From Left): Six-time Masters Champion Jack Nicklaus, 56, and four-time Masters Champion Arnold Palmer, 66, walk the 6th hole at the Augusta National Golf Club with two-time U.S. Amateur Champion Eldrick "Tiger" Woods, 20, on April 10, 1996 during the final practice round ahead of the 1996 Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Jeff Haynes / AFP via Getty Images)

Long before it incorporated into a behemoth money-making machine (stylized in all uppercase letters), the “PGA TOUR” was just that: “PGA” pros who “toured” the country playing for money.

For its first forty years, from 1929 to 1968, the tour operated under the umbrella of the PGA of America.

By the late 60s, though, with an increase of revenue due to expanded television coverage, a dispute between the PGA “tournament players” and the PGA “club pros” (over the allocation of money) came to a head.

The friction resulted in a new “tour” entity formed in August 1968, independent of the PGA of America, which eventually became the “Tournament Players Division” of the PGA, and finally the PGA Tour.

As part of the separation agreement, the PGA Tour received ownership of the tournaments, and marketing rights of its players, along with all historical data, going back to 1916. The PGA of America, meanwhile, maintained ownership of two events: the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup matches.

With that as the table setter, here’s a look at the winningest players of the “tour” over the last ten (10) decades, beginning with the first full 10-year stretch: the 1920s.

PGA Tour Decade: 1920s

Walter Hagen
Walter Hagen playing in a golf tournament in Saint-Cloud, France in 1928. (Photo by Keystone-France – Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

No surprise here: Walter Hagen compiled 31 of his 45 career wins in the “Roaring 20s.” Nine of those victories were majors – 5 PGAs, 4 British Opens. (The dapperly-dressed golfer had already won a pair of U.S. Opens in 1914 and 1919. The Masters was not founded until 1934.)

Hagen was followed by the underrated Leo Diegel, who won 22 times, including back-to-back PGAs at the end of the decade (1928-29) – which ended Hagen’s four-year winning streak.

The decade’s most celebrated golfer, though, was amateur Bobby Jones, who won five of his seven credited pro majors, along with what was then considered the “Grand Slam” in 1930 – all four major championships in the same calendar year (U.S. and British Opens and U.S. and British Amateurs).

PGA Tour Wins: 1920s

Rank-Player (Decade Wins/Career Wins)
1. Walter Hagen (31/45)
2. Leo Diegel (22/28)
3. Johnny Farrell (18/22)
3. Bill Melhorn (18/19)
5. Macdonald Smith (16/25)

Major Wins: 1920s

Rank-Player (Decade Major Wins/Career Major Wins)
1. Walter Hagen (9/11)
2. Gene Sarazen (3/7)
3. Jim Barnes (2/4)
4. Leo Diegel (2/2)
5. Multiple 1-major winners

PGA Tour Decade: 1930s

Gene Sarazen
Gene Sarazen takes a shot, surrounded by spectators in 1935. (Photo by Central Press via Getty Images)

With Walter Hagen now in his late 30s, and Bobby Jones having retired, the decade of the 1930s – historically speaking – belonged to Gene Sarazen, who became the first golfer to win what would become the career grand slam (U.S. Open, British Open, PGA, and Masters).

In the final round of the 1935 Masters Tournament, Sarazen famously hit “the shot heard ’round the world” on the par-5 15th hole at Jones’ then two-year old Augusta National Golf Club.

Trailing Craig Wood by three shots, with just four to play, Sarazen holed out from 232 yards using a “spoon” club – the loft of the modern-day 4-wood, scoring a double eagle (-3) to tie Wood at 6 under. He then parred Nos. 16, 17, and 18 to preserve the tie.

“It was the greatest thrill I’ve ever known in golf, or ever expect to get again,” Sarazen told famed sports writer Grantland Rice after his final round.

The following day, the pair played a 36-hole playoff, with Sarazen winning by five shots.

While less known than Sarazen, Paul Runyan claimed the most PGA titles in this decade, racking up 29 victories, including 16 in a two-season span (1934-35). He also won a pair of PGA Championships (1934 and 1939) during this time period.

PGA Tour Wins: 1930s

Rank-Player (Decade Wins/Career Wins)
1. Paul Runyan (29/30)
2. Harry Cooper (24/30)
3. Gene Sarazen (22/38)
3. Henry Picard (22/26)
5. Horton Smith (18/30)

Major Wins: 1930s

Rank-Player (Decade Major Wins/Career Major Wins)
1. Gene Sarazen (4/7)
2. Denny Shute (3/3)
2. Ralph Guldahl (3/3)
4. Byron Nelson (2/5)
4. Tommy Armour (2/3)
4. Henry Cotton (2/3)
4. Paul Runyan (2/2)
4. Henry Picard (2/2)
4. Olin Dutra (2/2)

PGA Tour Decade: 1940s

Ben Hogan
Sportswriters close in on Ben Hogan at the Oakland Hills CC, near Birmingham, Michigan, after the bantam battler from Texas retained his U.S. Open Golf Championship crown by shooting a 3-under-par 67 in the final round. Hogan, who was challenged for the title by some of the best golfers in the world, remained champ with a total of 287. (Photo by Bettmann via Getty Images)

Despite missing two full seasons (1943-44) while serving in the U.S. Army, Ben Hogan won 52 times during the decade of the 1940s, including 30 victories in the three full seasons (1946-48) following his discharge from the military.

Hogan’s two main rivals during this time were fellow Texan Byron Nelson, who racked up 41 wins in the decade, and Sam Snead – the folksy long-ball hitter whose career was defined by longevity and lots of trophies.

Snead won four of his seven majors in the 40s, while Hogan and Nelson captured three apiece.

PGA Tour Wins: 1940s

Rank-Player (Decade Wins/Career Wins)
1. Ben Hogan (52/64)
2. Byron Nelson (41/52)
3. Sam Snead (32/82)
4. Jimmy Demaret (20/26)
5. Lloyd Mangrum (19/36)

Major Wins: 1940s

Rank-Player (Decade Major Wins/Career Major Wins)
1. Sam Snead (4/7)
2. Ben Hogan (3/9)
2. Byron Nelson (3/5)
4. Jimmy Demaret (2/3)
4. Craig Wood (2/2)

PGA Tour Decade: 1950s

Sammy Snead tees off on the No. 1 hole in a match against Jim Demaret in the semi-finals of the PGA Championship at Seaview CC on May 29, 1942. (Photo by Bettman via Getty Images)

Following a serious car accident in 1949, Ben Hogan‘s playing career was limited to major championships, and a handful of elite events.

For example, in 1951, Hogan entered just five events, but won three of them: the Masters, U.S. Open, and World Championship of Golf. (He finished second and fourth in his other two starts.)

Hogan’s 1953 season was even more impressive, and is considered one of the greatest in history: the then 40-year-old won five of the six tournaments he entered, including all three major championships (Masters, U.S. Open, and British Open). To this day, Hogan remains the only player to have won all three in the same calendar year.

It was Sam Snead, though, who hoisted the most trophies in the 1950s. “The Slammer” chased 32 wins in the 40s with 29 titles in the 50s, including three more majors.

Snead and Jack Nicklaus are the only PGA Tour members to have won more than 25 times in two different decades.

The unheralded Cary Middlecoff won 28 times in the 50s, including back-to-back majors in 1955 and 1956, while the Lloyd Mangrum appeared once again on the decade-ending list, adding 17 to the 19 he’d recorded in the 40s.

Finally, Australian legend Peter Thompson won four of his five British Opens in the 1950s. Although, they were captured in an era (mid 1950s) when very few of the leading U.S. tour pros played in the event. At that time, The Open’s prize money was such that it did not cover the expenses to travel “across the pond.” For instance, Thompson earned just $750 for his 1955 Open Championship title, while Cary Middlecoff was awarded $5,000 for winning the 1955 Masters. (Thomson, though, cemented his legacy with a fifth Open title in 1965 against a strong field which included the likes of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player.)

PGA Tour Wins: 1950s

Rank-Player (Decade Wins/Career Wins)
1. Sam Snead (29/82)
2. Cary Middlecoff (28/39)
3. Lloyd Mangrum (17/36)
4. Jack Burke Jr. (14/16)
4. Doug Ford (14/19)
4. Gene Littler (14/29)

Major Wins: 1950s

Rank-Player (Decade Major Wins/Career Major Wins)
1. Ben Hogan (6/9)
2. Peter Thomson (4/5)
3. Sam Snead (3/7)
3. Bobby Locke (3/4)
5. Cary Middlecoff (2/3)
5. Doug Ford (2/2)
5. Jack Burke Jr. (2/2)

PGA Tour Decade: 1960s

Arnold Palmer Heritage Golf Classic
Arnold Palmer poses with the trophy after winning the Heritage Golf Classic on Nov. 30. 1969 in in Hilton Head, SC. (Courtesy RBC Heritage)

Arnold Palmer took golf to another level in the 60s. With the advent of TV, the charismatic star transcended golf and became a pitchman for corporate America. “The King” won 43 times in the 60s, including 29 tour titles over a four-season span (1960-1963), five of which were majors (2 Masters, 2 British Opens, 1 U.S. Open).

Palmer’s participation (and wins) at The Open Championship in the early 60s is widely credited with restoring the status of the British Major among U.S. players.

A young Jack Nicklaus became Palmer’s main rival during this period. Nicklaus would win 30 of his 73 titles in the 60s, and go on to become the greatest golfer of all time, while Palmer would become its most beloved.

Billy Casper, one of the most underrated golfers in PGA Tour history, would win 33 times in the 60s against icons such as Palmer, Nicklaus, and Gary Player.

Tony Lema won a dozen times too, including the 1964 British Open. He seemed destined to win so many more, but two months after winning his 12th PGA Tour title (in less than four years), Lema died in a plane crash at the age of 32.

PGA Tour Wins: 1960s

Rank-Player (Decade Wins/Career Wins)
1. Arnold Palmer (43/62)
2. Billy Casper (33/51)
3. Jack Nicklaus (30/73)
4. Doug Sanders (15/20)
5. Tony Lema (12/12)

Major Wins: 1960s

Rank-Player (Decade Major Wins/Career Major Wins)
1. Jack Nicklaus (7/18)
2. Arnold Palmer (6/7)
3. Gary Player (4/9)
4. Julius Boros (2/3)
5. Multiple 1-major winners

PGA Tour Decade: 1970s

After winning the PGA Championship, Jack Nicklaus, his wife, Barbara and sons Steve, left, and Jack Jr. pose with the trophy at the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, Aug. 10, 1975. (AP Photo)

Jack Nicklaus followed up his 30-win decade of the 60s with 38 more titles in the 70s including eight (8) majors. The Golden Bear was particularly dominate for the first six seasons – between 1970 and 1975, when he won seven majors, while finishing inside the top-10 in 22 of 24 major starts, including 14 top-3s.

With Palmer now in his 40s, Nicklaus’ main rivals included Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, and Tom Watson.

Trevino won 21 times during the decade, highlighted by 14 titles in a four-season span (1971-1974), including four majors (1971 U.S. Open and British Open, 1972 British Open, 1974 PGA).

Part of Trevino’s epic run included a 20-day span in the summer of 1971 when he defeated Nicklaus in an 18-hole playoff to win the 1971 U.S. Open. Two weeks later, he captured the Canadian Open, and the following week claimed The British Open, becoming the first player to win those three Open titles in the same year. These three Opens were one time called the Triple Crown.

For a three-year period, in the middle of the decade, Johnny Miller also threatened Nicklaus’ reign. The California native won 18 times in the 70s, with 15 of those wins coming in a three-season blitz (1974 – 1976). Following his second major at the 1976 British Open, Miller came down with a putting affliction known as the “yips.” He was never the same.

Watson would be Nicklaus’ third rival of the decade. The Kansas City native racked up 15 wins during the final three seasons of the 70s, including three majors.

PGA Tour Wins: 1970s

Rank-Player (Decade Wins/Career Wins)
1. Jack Nicklaus (38/73)
2. Lee Trevino (21/29)
3. Johnny Miller (18/25)
3. Tom Watson (18/39)
5. Hubert Green (16/19)

Major Wins: 1970s

Rank-Player (Decade Major Wins/Career Major Wins)
1. Jack Nicklaus (8/18)
3. Gary Player (4/9)
2. Lee Trevino (4/6)
4. Tom Watson (3/8)
5. Hale Irwin (2/3)
5. Johnny Miller (2/2)
5. Dave Stockton (2/2)

PGA Tour Decade: 1980s

Tom Watson Royal Birkdale
Tom Watson during the final round of the British Open Golf Championship at Royal Birkdale in Southport, England on July 17, 1983. (Photo by Leo Mason / Popperfoto via Getty Images)

The 80s brought along bigger purses, and the ability to earn a hefty income without actually winning. The game became more global as well, with some of its biggest stars – such as Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, Seve Ballesteros, and Bernhard Langer – competing part-time on the PGA Tour. It marked the first time a decade’s win leader failed to earn 20 titles.

Tom Watson cashed 19 first-place checks, including five majors, while Curtis Strange won 16 times, highlighted by back-to-back U.S. Opens. After that it was a mixed bag of parity… but a lot of money.

Spain’s Ballesteros won seven times on the PGA Tour, but four of those were majors, including a matching pair of Green Jackets and Claret Jugs. Faldo won three times – two of which were major titles.

Similarly, Jack Nicklaus, now in his 40s, won only five more times, but three were majors, highlighted by his iconic victory at the 1986 Masters.

PGA Tour Wins: 1980s

Rank-Player (Decade Wins/Career Wins)
1. Tom Watson (19/39)
2. Curtis Strange (16/17)
3. Tom Kite (11/19)
3. Calvin Peete (11/12)
3. Lanny Wadkins (11/21)

Major Wins: 1980s

Rank-Player (Decade Major Wins/Career Major Wins)
1. Tom Watson (5/8)
2. Seve Ballesteros (4/5)
3. Jack Nicklaus (3/18)
4. Nick Faldo (2/6)
4. Raymond Floyd (2/4)
4. Larry Nelson (2/3)
4. Curtis Strange (2/2)
4. Sandy Lyle (2/2)

PGA Tour Decade: 1990s

Nick Price wins the Wanamaker Trophy at the 1992 PGA Championship
Nick Price poses with the trophy after winning the PGA Championship on May 16, 1992 at Bellerive CC in Town and Country, Missouri. (Photo by PGA TOUR Archive via Getty Images)

The 90s were more of the same with lots of cash but no dominant force… until the arrival of a young man named Tiger.

Englishman Nick Faldo, who played primarily on the European Tour, continued his dominance on the big stage, with four more major titles, three between 1990 and 1992.

On the tour, Zimbabwean Nick Price won 16 times, with 12 of those coming in a three-season span (1992-94), including three majors.

The end of the decade was dominated by a young Tiger Woods, who won 15 times, bookended by a blowout victory at the 1997 Masters and an eight-win 1999 campaign, which included a second major (PGA).

Co-starring, alongside the two Nicks (Faldo/Price) and Woods, were Hall of Famers such as Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III, Mark O’Meara, and Greg Norman, who each earned a dozen or more victories, including a major (or two).

Finally, David Duval, who just missed the list with 11 titles, at one point seemed like Woods’ most natural rival. His three-season run, from 1997 to 1999, included 11 wins, a world No. 1 ranking, and season-ending finishes of 2nd-1st-2nd on the PGA Tour Money List. He won again in each of the next two seasons, including the 2001 British Open. At just 29, he was a major champion with 13 PGA Tour titles, and considered a surefire Hall of Famer. Yet, the following season, Duval completely lost his form, and by 2004 he was essentially finished.

PGA Tour Wins: 1990s

Rank-Player (Decade Wins/Career Wins)
1. Nick Price (16/18)
2. Tiger Woods (15/82)
3. Phil Mickelson (13/45)
4. Davis Love (12/21)
4. Mark O’Meara (12/16)
4. Greg Norman (12/20)

Major Wins: 1990s

Rank-Player (Decade Major Wins/Career Major Wins)
1. Nick Faldo (4/6)
2. Nick Price (3/3)
3. Tiger Woods (2/15)
3. Ernie Els (2/4)
3. Payne Stewart (2/3)
3. John Daly (2/2)
3. Jose Maria Olazabal (2/2)
3. Lee Janzen (2/2)
3. Mark O’Meara (2/2)

PGA Tour Decade: 2000s

Tiger Woods Wins 2008 U.S. Open Torrey Pines
Tiger Woods reacts to his birdie putt on the 18th green to force a playoff with Rocco Mediate during the final round of the 108th U.S. Open at the Torrey Pines South Course on June 15, 2008 in San Diego, Calif. (Photo by Jeff Gross via Getty Images)

After two decades of parity, the 2000s saw a return to the days of a dominating superstar, ala Hogan, Palmer, and Nicklaus.

Tiger Woods won a mind-blowing 59 times in the decade with six seasons of five or more victories. During this span, he also won 12 more majors, including a record four straight, stretching over two seasons: 2000 (U.S. Open, British Open, PGA) and 2001 (Masters), which is known as the “Tiger Slam.” (The reigning champion of all four majors at the same time.)

Woods’ rivals during the 2000s were mainly Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson, who each won over 20 titles and multiple majors.

Ernie Els, who split time between the tours in Europe and the U.S., won nine times, as did Jim Furyk and David Toms.

Irishman Padraig Harrington won five PGA tour titles in the decade, including three majors in a two-season span (2007 and 2008 British Open, 2008 PGA).

PGA Tour Wins: 2000s

Rank-Player (Decade Wins/Career Wins)
1. Tiger Woods (59/82)
2. Vijay Singh (26/34)
3. Phil Mickelson (24/45)
4. Ernie Els (9/19)
4. Jim Furyk (9/17)
4. David Toms (9/13)

Major Wins: 2000s

Rank-Player (Decade Major Wins/Career Major Wins)
1. Tiger Woods (12/15)
2. Phil Mickelson (3/6)
2. Padraig Harrington (3/3)
2. Vijay Singh (2/3)
2. Retief Goosen (2/2)
2. Angel Cabrera (2/2)
2. Retief Goosen (2/2)

PGA Tour Decade: 2010s

Jordan Spieth Wins 2015 U.S. Open
Jordan Spieth celebrates a birdie putt on the 16th green during the final round of the 115th U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay on June 21, 2015 in University Place, WA. Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Controversy and injury ended what many expected to be a second decade of dominance for Tiger Woods. Just 35 years-old when the 2010 decade started, Woods was a shell of his former self.

Instead the decade was headlined by a batch of younger stars who grew up idolizing the golf icon.

Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson each won 18 times during the decade with Bubba Watson and Jason Day picking up 12 wins each. Eight (8) of Day’s wins came in a 10-month blitzkrieg (July 2015 – May 2016) that saw the Aussie dominate in Woods-like fashion.

Jordan Spieth won 11 times between 2013 and 2017, while Justin Thomas matched his good friend with 11 titles between the 2016 and 2019 seasons. Woods also hoisted 11 trophies, punctuated by a long-awaited 15th major at the 2019 Masters.

In terms of majors, it was McIlroy, Spieth and Brooks Koepka, with each dominating one-third of the decade. McIlroy owned the early part, with four majors between 2011 and 2014, including consecutive titles in the summer of 2014 (The Open and PGA), while Spieth reigned in the middle portion, highlighted by an historic 2015 campaign. Koepka became something of a major specialist, claiming four titles at the end of the decade, featuring back-to-back U.S. Opens (2017 and 2018) and PGAs (2018 and 2019).

PGA Tour Wins: 2010s

Rank-Player (Decade Wins/Career Wins)
1. Rory McIlroy (18/20)
2. Dustin Johnson (18/24)
3. Bubba Watson (12/12)
3. Jason Day (12/12)
5. Justin Thomas (11/14)
5. Jordan Spieth (11/12)
5. Tiger Woods (11/82)

Major Wins: 2010s

Rank-Player (Decade Major Wins/Career Major Wins)
1. Rory McIlroy (4/4)
1. Brooks Koepka (4/4)
3. Jordan Spieth (3/3)
4. Phil Mickelson (2/6)
4. Bubba Watson (2/2)
4. Martin Kaymer (2/2)


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