Commentary

The 10 greatest seasons in golf history

ESPN.com golf editor Jason Sobel lists the 10 greatest seasons in the sport's history.

Originally Published: January 7, 2008
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

1. Byron Nelson, 1945
The numbers are still staggering, more than 60 years later. Byron Nelson won a record 18 PGA Tour events in 1945, including 11 in a row, all while beating up on Hall of Fame opponents like Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret. Contrarians are quick to point out that he won only one major that year, but that's only because there was one played. Nelson won the PGA Championship, then a match play format, beating Gene Sarazen, Mike Turnesa, Denny Shute, Claude Harmon and Sam Byrd along the way.

2. Tiger Woods, 2000
Tiger Woods' 2000 season is the benchmark by which all other golf campaigns in the modern era, including those of Woods himself, are now compared. He set or tied 27 PGA Tour records while winning nine of 20 starts, but here's the scariest proposition: It could have been so much better. Woods finished fifth at the Masters (the only major he didn't win that year) despite carding a triple-bogey and double-bogey in the opening round and was runner-up at the prestigious Players Championship, Tour Championship and WGC-Match Play Championship.

3. Bobby Jones, 1930
No player has won the modern Grand Slam, but Bobby Jones did clinch the antiquated version of all four major titles in one season, winning the U.S. and British opens and U.S. and British amateurs in 1930. A career amateur, Jones retired from competitive golf at the end of that season, saying at the time that winning championships "is something like a cage. First you are expected to get into it and then you are expected to stay there. But of course, nobody can stay there."

4. Ben Hogan, 1953
Score one for achievement over consistency with this selection. Sure, Ben Hogan's 1946 season included 13 victories, but it is the '53 campaign for which he is best remembered. Just four years removed from a life-threatening car accident, Hogan competed in only seven events and won five of them, including three majors. Why didn't he win the fourth? Because at the time, the PGA Championship overlapped with the British Open.

5. Annika Sorenstam, 2002
Annika Sorenstam was never better than in 2002, when she carded 11 LPGA titles, three second-place finishes and three thirds, finishing in the top 10 in 20 of 23 starts. (She also won both international tourneys she competed in, as well.) During the season, Ms. 59 set or tied 20 LPGA records and won her fourth major championship, successfully defending her Kraft Nabisco title.

6. Ryan Moore, 2004
Before 2004, only three men had won the U.S. Amateur and NCAA individual championship in the same year -- a trio of guys named Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. Ryan Moore not only joined them four years ago, he one-upped 'em, also winning the U.S. Amateur PubLinks, Western Amateur, Sahalee Players Championship and four other titles.

7. Mickey Wright, 1963
We can debate which of Mickey Wright's seasons really belongs on this list. Is it the 1961 campaign, during which she won 10 titles and three majors? Or '63, when she posted 13 wins and two majors (including the Western Open, then considered a major)? I'll take the latter, if only because it was her third of four consecutive years with double-digit victory totals.

8. Jack Nicklaus, 1972
You didn't think we'd get through this list without an entry from Jack Nicklaus, did you? While the Golden Bear has many seasons that could be nominated (he won multiple major titles in five different years), he gets the nod for his 1972 campaign, during which he won the initial two legs of the Grand Slam and five other events.

9. Arnold Palmer, 1960
Wherever Jack's name is found, Arnold Palmer's won't be too far behind. In fact, Arnie's 1960 season is eerily similar to that of Nicklaus in '72. Palmer won eight times that year, claiming the Masters by one stroke over Ken Venturi and the U.S. Open by two over Nicklaus.

10. Lorena Ochoa, 2001-02
Lorena Ochoa's eight-win LPGA season in 2007 helped her rise to No. 1 in the world, but it may have paled in comparison to her amateur exploits in 2001-02. In 10 college tournaments at the University of Arizona, she won eight, including seven in a row, and finished second in the other two. After turning pro in May, she played in 10 Futures Tour events, winning three to top the money list and earn her LPGA Tour card.

Jason Sobel is the ESPN.com golf editor.

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.