The closer a golfer gets to 50, the harder it is to win a major…
Photo by Joe Maiorana/USA TODAY Sports
Winning one of golf’s four major championships is a difficult achievement—for any Tour pro, at any age.
But the likelihood of hoisting the Claret Jug, the Wanamaker Trophy, or securing a green jacket or U.S. Open as a golfer reaches their 40s becomes increasingly slim. And Father Time only heightens the monumental task of 72 pressure-filled holes against the best of the best as golfers move toward the half-century mark.
Over a dozen golfers have won majors after turning 40, but the number decreases to eight when looking at age 44 and beyond — an age range that has gotten a lot of shine lately as Tiger Woods turned double-fours this past December.
If he does win another major, he will join these eight seemingly ageless wonders.
Henry Vardon, pictured left (AP Photo)
Major: 1914 Open Championship
Age at the time of victory: 44 years, 41 days
Today, you might know Vardon better for his “grip”—what you’d call an overlapping one—but at the turn of the century, he was tops in the game. He won seven majors, including a record six Open Championships. He broke the logjam at five Claret Jugs 41 days after his 44th birthday.
Roberto De Vincenzo
Major: 1967 Open Championship
Age at the time of victory: 44 years, 93 days
De Vincenzo held off Jack Nicklaus for a two-stroke win at the 1967 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club. It would be his only major in a career that ended with 200-plus tournament victories. The interesting note: He could have made this list twice, had he not accidentally (now infamously) put down a par on the 17th hole—instead of a birdie!—on the final Sunday of the 1968 Masters.
Major: 1984 PGA Championship
Age at the time of victory: 44 years, 8 months, 18 days
One of the true self-made golfers, Lee Trevino’s sixth and final major would also be one for the record books. Trevino shot in the 60s all four rounds during the 1984 PGA Championship at Shoal Creek Golf & Country Club in Birmingham, Alabama, overcoming a tight leaderboard that included Lanny Wadkins and Gary Player. Trevino’s 15-under would stand as the PGA Championship’s best for over a decade.
Stephen Munday/Getty Images)
Major: 1990 U.S. Open
Age at the time of victory: 45 years, 15 days
The 90th U.S. Open, held at the No. 3 Course at Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Illinois, was a true classic and full of historical footnotes. The tournament would need 18 extra holes on Monday and would rely on the first-ever use of a sudden-death playoff. Irwin, who had won the 1979 U.S. Open, received a special exemption from the USGA to play in the tournament. And what a touch of destiny that happened to be. Irwin’s 45-foot birdie on 18 during Sunday’s round—which provided a lasting image as he ran around the green high-fiving the crowd—set off the rest of the drama, including a victory that still stands today as oldest golfer to win the U.S. Open.
(Photo by Augusta National/Getty Images)
Major: 1961 PGA Championship
Age at the time of victory: 45 years, 3 months, 6 days
Jerry Barber’s win at the 1961 PGA Championship is one of the most impressive tales of sinking pressure putts and more pressure putts—in major golf history. The 5-foot-5 Barber battled through the rain-delayed tournament at Olympia Fields Country Club in Olympia Fields, Illinois, and tied Don January on Sunday. … by sinking lengthy putts on the last three holes: a 22-foot birdie on 16, a 40-footer for par on 17 and a 60-foot birdie on 18 for the tie. He would top January during the Monday playoff to earn the Wanamaker Trophy.
Major: 1986 Masters
Age at the time of victory: 46 years, 2 months
Another iconic moment captured in a photograph, Jack’s 18-foot birdie putt on 17 during the final round of the 1986 Masters secured the legend’s record sixth green jacket. The one-stroke victory over Tom Kite and Greg Norman would also be the Golden Bear’s final major, the iconic No. 18 for his career.
Old Tom Morris
Major: 1867 Open Championship
Age at the time of victory: 46 years, 3 months
Old Tom Morris practically is golf. Considered one of the founding fathers of the sport, Old Tom designed 70-plus courses during his life—he’s considered the pioneer of the 18-hole layout—and his game wasn’t too shabby either. He won four majors during his career, including a two-shot victory during the 1867 Open Championship at Prestwick Golf Club—where he was once a janitor. That win stands as the record for the oldest golfer ever to win the historical tournament.
Major: 1968 PGA Championship
Age at the time of victory: 48 years, 4 months
It’s a record that seems nearly impossible to match or concur. At just over 48 years old, Julius Boros hit the 18-hole test at Pecan Valley Country Club in San Antonio, Texas, during the 1968 PGA Championship and turned back the clock. He beat the heat and the competition, holing out on 18 for a 1-over tournament total that would best Arnold Palmer and Bob Charles by one shot. A fun note: It would be the final major before the formation of the Tournament Players Division, which we all know today as the PGA Tour.