No one has ever won a major championship past the age of 48, and it's been 46 years since Julius Boros set that water mark at the 1968 PGA Championship.
With close calls in recent member by a number of 50-somethings, it seems almost inevitable that Boros' record is going to fall soon to an AARP member. However, until that happens, we're left without a clear-cut, best-ever effort by a 50-plus golfer. So, let's debate: Which was the best?
First, let's establish some parameters. Boros was obviously the oldest to win the Wanamaker at 48. Jack Nicklaus became the oldest Masters winner in 1986 at age 46. Old Tom Morris was a few days older than Nicklaus when he won the 1867 Open Championship, though the modern record belongs to a 44-year-old Roberto de Vicenzo 100 years later. Hale Irwin's 1990 U.S. Open win at Medinah at 45 makes him its oldest champion.
The national championship is the hardest to win past the age of 50, then it's kind of a toss up for the other positions. While Augusta National has been lengthened significantly in the last 17 years, 50-plus Masters participants are typically former winners, making them a modest threat to win. The firmness of most Open Championship venues brings more older players into potential contention. The PGA Championship, as long as it is now, may be second-toughest for a 50-plus player to win.
Now, to the rankings!
10. Sam Snead, 1979 PGA Championship -- At the age of 67, Snead made the cut by two shots at Oakland Hills of all places. He shot bookend 73s on the par-70 setup and a par of 71s in the middle. He never contended and finished T-42, 16 shots behind David Graham, but come on. He was 67!
9. Raymond Floyd, 1993 U.S. Open -- Floyd was never really a threat to Lee Janzen winning at Baltusrol, but his final-round 68 put him under par for the week and into an impressive tie for seventh place at the age of 50, just three months before turning 51.
8. Miguel Angel Jimenez, 2014 Masters -- At the age of 50, Jimenez notched his best-ever Masters finish, a T-4 effort. However, Jimenez was never a factor in the final round.
7. Sam Snead, 1963 Masters -- Jack Nicklaus won the first of his six Masters titles in 1963, but had to stare down pretty much every great golfer alive to do it. He won his first green jacket by a shot and two over a 50-year-old Snead, just a month from his 51st birthday. The T-3 finish was the first sign of his timelessness.
6. Jack Nicklaus, 1998 Masters -- On the year where Jack Nicklaus got his plaque at Augusta National, he gave the Patrons one last thrill. Tied for 10th with Tiger Woods and five behind Fred Couples after 54 holes, Nicklaus closed with 4-under 68 to finish T-6 and four shots behind winner Mark O'Meara, who birdied the final two holes to secure his first major title. Jack was 58 years old.
5. Sam Snead, 1972 PGA Championship -- Snead was 60 at this point. 60. And he shot a second-round 74 to knock him off-kilter and out of contention to win. However, on a difficult final day at Oakland Hills (again), Snead's 69 was the best round of the day and the only round in the 60s by a player who finished in the top 10. The T-4 finish at 4 over par left him three behind winner Gary Player.
4. Tommy Bolt, 1971 PGA Championship -- The 1971 PGA Championship was a strange one. It was played in February at PGA National in Florida. It was basically the Honda Classic, but in major form. Bolt, who would turn 55 the next month, closed with consecutive 69s to finish in solo third, three shots behind winner Jack Nicklaus.
3. Greg Norman, 2008 Open Championship -- Norman basically played the '08 Open at Birkdale on a whim. He and Chris Evert, wife at the time, had nothing better to do. So Norman goes out and and improves his position every round, holding the solo lead after 54 holes. At 53 years old, he would hold the distinction of oldest to hold a 54-hole lead in a major for exactly one year. Norman shot 77 in the final round to finish T-3 as Padraig Harrington defended the Claret Jug.
2. Sam Snead, 1974 PGA Championship -- At the age of 62, Snead shot an opening-round 69 at Tanglewood Club in North Carolina to trail the leaders by one. That's ridiculous. After a middle pair of 71s, Snead closed with 2-under 68 to finish 1 under par, tied for third place and three strokes behind winner Lee Trevino. Jack Nicklaus was second.
1. Tom Watson, 2009 Open Championship -- One yard less. Weeks after Watson, who was 59 at the time, lost the four-hole playoff at Turnberry to Stewart Cink, Watson told me he waffled between a 9-iron and an 8-iron for that approach that went long into 18. He said had he hit the shot just a yard less, he would have easily two-putt for the win. One freaking yard.
- Tom Kite, 2001 U.S. Open -- This is the best back-door top-10 major finish by a 50-plus player. In the final round at Southern Hills, Kite shot 64 to get into a tie for fifth.
- Beth Daniel, 2006 Women's British Open -- Beth Daniel wasn't in the discussion to win the '06 British at Lytham, but that's because she trailed Juli Inkster by seven shots after Day 1. Daniel, however, did finish T-6, five behind Sherri Steinhauer and two out of the two-way tie for second place. The only reason this isn't in the top 10 is Daniel was four months from turning 50.
THAT WAS FUN, RIGHT?!
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