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A terrific trio: Palmer, Nicklaus and Woods
ABC Sports Online

The debate determining golf's all-time greatest player is one that has stretched for years. Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagen had outstanding careers into the 1930s. From there it was Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan who carried the torch of greatness into the '50s.

But a new audience headed to the sport, and new stars emerged. It was on Wide World of Sports in July of 1961 that Arnold Palmer won the first of his back-to-back British Open titles, paving the way for golf becoming a viable televised sport.

Not disregarding the accomplishments of Jones, Sarazen, Snead, Nelson or Hogan, the television era has seen three players impact the sport in a way their predecessors could not: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Eldrick "Tiger" Woods.

The three have won a combined 31 professional major championships, and own several records between them. Arguments can be made for all three as to who the greatest of all time is. Here is a look at the careers of Palmer, Nicklaus and Woods.

Arnold Palmer
Arnold Palmer
Arnold Palmer won seven major titles and brought a new audience to the sport.
August 1954: Wins the U.S. Amateur championship. He turns professional shortly thereafter.

1955: Wins the Canadian Open, his first PGA Tour victory.

April 1958: Wins the Masters for the first time, shooting a 4-under par-284, defeating Doug Ford and Fred Hawkins by one shot.

April 1960: Wins the Masters for the second time, defeating Ken Venturi by one shot.

June 1960: Trailing by seven shots going into the final day, he drives the first green at Cherry Hills CC in Denver and birdies seven of the first nine holes to win the U.S. Open. The second place finisher is a 20-year-old amateur from Ohio named Jack Nicklaus.

April 1961: Leading on the final hole, he makes a double bogey 6, handing the Masters title to Gary Player.

July 1961: Becomes the first U.S.-born player to win the British Open, defeating Dai Rees by one shot at Royal Birkdale. His victory set a standard for Americans playing in the event.

April 1962: Shoots 68 in an 18-hole playoff to defeat Dow Finsterwald and Gary Player to win his third Masters, tying Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret for most victories in the event.

June 1962: Loses an 18-hole playoff to Nicklaus at Pittsburgh's Oakmont CC, 50 miles west of his hometown of Latrobe, Pa., Nicklaus' victory ignited a rivalry that would last for almost a decade.

July 1962: Wins his second straight Open Championship with a 12-under par-276 at Royal Troon.

September 1963: Captains a victorious U.S. Ryder Cup team.

1964: The battle between Arnie and Jack is no contest, as Palmer wins his then-record fourth Masters by six shots over Nicklaus and Dave Marr. His final major championship.

1966: With a front nine of 32, he takes a seven-shot lead into the final nine of the U.S. Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco. His back nine of 40 opened the door for Billy Casper, who ties him and forces a playoff. Casper shoots 69 in the playoff to beat Palmer by four shots. Palmer's collapse was one of the worst in major championship history, and many say that tournament was the end of his reign.

1973: Wins the Bob Hope Desert Classic, his 60th and final PGA Tour win.

Notes: Palmer captured 29 of his 60 PGA Tour victories between 1960 and 1963, and captained the 1963 Ryder Cup team to victory. He is a member of five golf halls of fame, and his impact on the game can still be noticed today. Palmer's public appeal made golf a marketable commodity on television, and is a major reason golf is one of the most highly rated televised sports.

Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus receives his sixth green jacket at the '86 Masters.
Jack Nicklaus
August 1959: The 19-year-old sophomore at Ohio State wins the U.S. Amateur, becoming the youngest player to do so.

June 1960: As an amateur, finishes second in the U.S. Open, finishing two shots behind Arnold Palmer.

August 1961: Wins his second U.S. Amateur, becoming the 12th multiple-winner in the history of the event.

June 1962: Nicklaus and Palmer duel in an 18-hole playoff at the U.S. Open at Oakmont CC in Pittsburgh. Nicklaus shoots 71 to Palmer's 74, as he wins his first professional title, stunning Palmer and his hometown Army. He'd win two more tournaments that season.

April 1963: At age 23, he wins his first Masters, defeating "Champagne" Tony Lema by one shot.

August 1963: Wins his second major of the year, the PGA Championship, by two shots over Dave Ragan at Dallas Athletic Club.

April 1965: Shatters Ben Hogan's scoring record of 274, shooting a 17-under par 271 to win his second Masters in three years. His closest competitors are Palmer and Player, who tied for second, nine shots back.

April 1966: Wins his third Masters, shooting 2-under in an 18-hole playoff to defeat Tommy Jacobs and Gay Brewer.

July 1966: Completes the career Grand Slam by winning the British Open at Muirfield.

June 1967: Outduels Arnold Palmer at the U.S. Open at Baltusrol for his second Open title.

July 1970: Wins the British Open at St. Andrews in a playoff over Doug Sanders, who missed a 4-foot putt on the 18th that would have won him the tournament outright.

August 1971: Wins the PGA Championship by two over Billy Casper at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

April 1972: Ties Palmer's record by winning his fourth Masters by three shots over three players.

June 1972: Wins his third U.S. Open by three shots over Bruce Crampton. The shot people remember from this tournament was his 1-iron hitting the stick on the par-3 17th on Sunday, signifying victory.

August 1973: Wins the PGA Championship for the third time -- a four-shot victory over Crampton.

April 1975: An epic battle over the final day between Nicklaus, Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf at the Masters is won by Nicklaus, giving him a fifth green jacket.

August 1975: For the third time in his career, Nicklaus captures two majors in one year by winning the PGA Championship.

July 1977: At the British Open at Turnberry, Nicklaus and Tom Watson engage in one of the most memorable final-round duels ever. Watson emerges victorious, defeating Nicklaus by one shot.

July 1978: After coming so close the year before, Nicklaus wins the British by two shots at St. Andrews.

June 1980: At age 40, he wins his fourth U.S. Open at Baltusrol. His score of 282 broke Ben Hogan's mark of 283, set in 1953 at Oakmont.

August 1980: Ties Walter Hagen's record with his fifth PGA Championship. For the fourth time in his career, he wins two of the year's four majors.

April 1986: Shoots a final-round 65 to overtake Greg Norman and win an unprecedented sixth Masters. It is his 18th professional major title and the last of his 70 PGA Tour victories.

April 1998: At age 58, shoots a final-round 68 to finish tied for sixth at the Masters.

Notes: From 1962 to 1978, Nicklaus won at least twice each season. Internationally, he won 11 tournaments other than his three British Opens, including a six-time winner of the Australian Open and a three-time individual winner of the World Cup. His major championship record is unparalleled: his 18 victories (excluding the two U.S. Amateur titles) and 18 second-place finishes are feats that may never be equaled. This timeline cannot do justice in illustrating his dominance from the mid-1960s through the '70s.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods completed the career Grand Slam at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland.
Tiger Woods
February 1992: Plays in his first professional tournament, the Los Angeles Open, as a 16-year-old. He shoots 72-75 and misses the cut.

August 1994: At age 18, wins the U.S. Amateur, becoming the youngest person to do so since 19-year-old Jack Nicklaus won it in 1959.

August 1995: Becomes the first repeat winner of the U.S. Amateur since Jay Sigel in 1983.

August 1996: Becomes the first person to win three consecutive U.S. Amateurs when he defeats Steve Scott. It is his sixth consecutive year with a USGA title. He won three straight U.S. Junior Amateur crowns from 1991-93.

September 1996: Wins the Las Vegas Invitational in a playoff with Davis Love III for his first PGA Tour title. He'd win again at the Walt Disney World Classic and qualify for the Tour Championship in only eight starts.

January 1997: Wins the rain-shortened Mercedes Championships in a playoff over Tom Lehman.

April 1997: After a front nine of 40 in the first round of the Masters, he storms back to shoot 70. He'd finish at 18-under, breaking the scoring record of 17-under held by Nicklaus and Ray Floyd. His 12 shot margin of victory also sets a Masters record.

1997 recap: Wins the Byron Nelson Classic and the Western Open. He is the first golfer in 26 years to be named AP's Male Athlete of the Year.

August 1999: Hangs on to win the PGA Championship by one stroke over 19-year-old Spaniard Sergio Garcia at Medinah CC in Chicago, becoming the youngest player since Seve Ballesteros to win two majors.

1999: Wins four more times to close out 1999 as the PGA Tour's leading money winner, setting a record in season earnings with $6,616,585. He is named Player of the Year by the PGA Tour, PGA of America and the Golf Writers Association of America.

January 2000: Picks up where he left off in 1999 with a win at the Mercedes Championships, defeating Ernie Els in a playoff for his fifth straight victory.

February 2000: Trailing by seven shots with seven holes remaining, finishes eagle-birdie-par-birdie to win the Pebble Beach Pro-Am and make it six in a row -- the first player since Ben Hogan in 1948 to accomplish that feat.

June 2000: Perhaps one of the greatest performances in the history of the sport, he breaks a 138-year-old record by winning the U.S. Open by 15 shots over Ernie Els at Pebble Beach. His 12-under par mark breaks the former record in relation to par, and his 272 total ties the 72-hole aggregate held by Nicklaus and Lee Janzen. The win marked his 20th on tour, becoming the youngest man to reach the 20-win plateau.

July 2000: Becomes the fifth player to win the career Grand Slam with his victory at the British Open at St. Andrews, and the youngest to do so, at age 24. His score of 19-under par is the largest score in relation to par in major championship history.

August 2000: Defeats Bob May in a three-hole playoff to win the PGA Championship, becoming the first man since Denny Shutte in 1937 to successfully defend his title. He also becomes the first man since Hogan in 1953 to win three majors in one year. Along with May, his score of 280 (18-under par) is the lowest total in PGA Championship history.

September 2000: Trailing by one, he launches a miraculous 213-yard 6-iron out of a fairway bunker over water on the 18th hole. He then makes the 15-footer for eagle to defeat Grant Waite by one shot at the Bell Canadian Open. Joins Lee Trevino (1971) as only players to win U.S., British and Canadian Opens in same year and receives the Triple Crown Trophy from Royal Canadian Golf Association.

March 2001: Breaks out of a supposed "slump" with a win at Bay Hill, successfully defending his title.

April 2001: Is it a Grand Slam or not? Regardless, he outlasts David Duval and Phil Mickelson to capture his second green jacket and win his fourth consecutive major title at the Masters. He is the first man in history to hold all four major championships simultaneously.

Notes What Tiger has done in four and half years as a professional is nothing short of confounding: 28 PGA Tour victories, six of them majors. He's the Tour's all-time leading money winner and a three-time player of the year. He set or tied 27 records in 2000 alone. He holds scoring records in every major championship, and the list goes on.

To be sure, Tiger Woods is one of the game's greatest players. However, to accurately measure his career, he must sustain this level of play over time. Palmer contended in majors until the early 1970s, and Nicklaus was a threat until he joined the Senior PGA Tour in 1990. The way things are going, though, Nicklaus' records, once thought untouchable, could be in serious danger.  HELP |  ADVERTISER INFO |  CONTACT US |  TOOLS |  SITE MAP
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