The hottest player in golf right now doesn’t go by the name of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, or Rory McIlroy. Nope, that appellation goes to eighth-year PGA Tour member Jimmy Walker. Walker, who just won his third tournament in his first eight starts of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season at Pebble Beach GL on Sunday, is on pace for one of the best individual seasons in PGA Tour history. The rather anonymous pro, who hadn’t won a single PGA Tour event prior to this season, has already banked $3.6 million in 2013-14 easily passing his best year to date, which came in the 2013 PGA Tour Season when he made $2.1 million in nine months. Additionally, the 35-year-old joined an elite group of golfers with his win on Sunday by becoming only the fourth player in the last 20 seasons on the PGA Tour to win three of his first eight starts. The company he joins you’re likely to recognize as Woods, Mickelson and former World No. 1 David Duval are the others.
With 31 tournaments left on the schedule, Walker is currently on pace to win 10 more events if he were to participate in them all. Even if the Texas resident’s pace slows to half his current speed he would join some real elite company as only 10 players in PGA Tour History have won eight or more tournaments in a single season. Amazingly enough, that list of the 10 players doesn’t include arguably the greatest golfer of all-time Jack Nicklaus.
T8. Johnny Miller – 8 PGA Tour Wins (1974)
A year after making a remarkable comeback to claim the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont with a final round of 63, Johnny Miller played lights out in 1974 winning eight times and earning $353,021. Miller, who was 26 years old when the year began, won the first three events of the year; the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the Phoenix Open and the Tuscon Open, and five of his first 11 starts. Despite Miller’s success in weekly PGA Tour Events, he struggled that year in the majors finishing 15th at the Masters, 35th in the U.S. Open, 10th in the Open Championship and 39th at the PGA Championship. Miller went on to win 25 PGA Tour events in his career–two of which were majors–enough to get inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1998. Nowadays, Miller can be seen on NBC golf telecasts as a polarizing golf commentator.
T8. Arnold Palmer – 8 PGA Tour Wins (1960, 1962)
“The King” as Arnold Palmer has long been referred to because of his growth of the game in the late 1950s and early 1960s had a couple of great years in 1960 and 1962 winning eight times in each of those years. In 1960 Palmer earned $75,262 in winnings and had maybe his most remembered career win, the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills. There, Palmer came back from seven strokes behind the leader and passed 14 players to win his second major that year having already won a second green jacket at Augusta in April. Two years later when he again won eight events and amassed $81,448 in winnings, Palmer won his third green jacket that spring before losing the 1962 U.S. Open to a young golfer by the name of Jack Nicklaus. The 1974 World Golf Hall of Fame inductee is still alive and well at the age of 84 and hosts a PGA Tour stop annually in March, the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
T8. Gene Sarazen – 8 PGA Tour Wins (1930)
Gene Sarazen won 31 times during his career on the PGA Tour winning 13 unique years between 1922 and 1941, none which were better than 1930 when he won eight times. It is undocumented how much Sarazen won during that year as PGA Tour didn’t begin to keep track of golf winnings until 1934, but the events he did win in 1930 consisted of the following: Miami Open, Agua Caliente Open, Florida West Coast Open, Concord Country Club Open, United States Pro Invitational, Western Open, Lannin Memorial Tournament and Middle Atlantic Open. Sarazen was the first of four golfers to win a career grand slam of the four majors (The Masters, U.S. Open, The Open Championship and PGA Championship) and was inducted into the inaugural class of the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974. He passed away in 1999 at the age of 97.
T8. Horton Smith – 8 PGA Tour Wins (1929)
A year prior to Gene Sarazen’s exceptional year in 1930, a young golfer by the name of Horton Smith notched eight wins in 1929. Amazingly, the 21-year-old not only won eight of the 22 events he competed in, but he also finished runner-up six times. Again due to a lack of documented earnings it is unknown how much Smith pulled in during 1929, but his wins came primarily on the west coast and in Florida. Smith is most famously known for winning the inaugural Masters Tournament–then called the Augusta National Invitational–in 1934, which he won again in 1936 when he was the tour’s leading money winner earning $7,682. The 1990 World Golf Hall of Fame Inductee had 28 PGA Tour wins and died at the age of 55 in 1963.
T5. Vijay Singh – 9 PGA Tour Wins (2004)
Vijay Singh, who most recently is known for his legal battle with the PGA Tour about banned substances, was one of world’s best players during the early 2000s. After winning his first money title in 2003 with four wins and $7.5 million in earnings, Singh followed that up with nine wins in 2004 and $10.9 million in earnings–the most to date for a single season. At the age of 41, Singh was playing some of his best golf, earning wins from coast to coast in the United States as well as the Bell Canadian Open. However, no win was bigger in 2004 than his second PGA Championship title to give him a third career major. Two years later in 2006 the Fiji native was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame with 27 PGA Tour wins and has added four more since to put his total at 31, his most recent coming in 2008.
T5. Tiger Woods – 9 PGA Tour Wins (2000)
Tiger Woods technically should be on this list in a tie for eighth place as well having won eight tournaments twice in one year in 1999 and 2006. But neither of those seasons quite matched the dominance he displayed in 2000. Not only did Woods win nine events in 2000, three of those were majors–the U.S. Open, the Open Championship and the PGA Championship–which, paired with his future 2001 Masters win, gave him what was dubbed the “Tiger Slam” having won all four major championships in a row. Only 24 years old at the time, Woods became the youngest player ever to achieve the career grand slam in the summer of 2000 with his win at St. Andrew’s for the Open Championship. His nine victories were done in a mere 20 events, which at one point included six straight wins in tournaments he entered; something that hadn’t been done since 1948. For his performance that year, Woods blew the previous high money total out of the water, grossing more than $2.5 million more than he made the year before and taking nearly $9.2 million to the bank.
T5. Paul Runyan – 9 PGA Tour Wins (1933)
A year before PGA Tour money earnings were kept track of, Paul Runyan put together a spectacular season of nine victories, bettering Sarazen and Smith who only a few years earlier had exceptional seasons of eight wins apiece. Runyan, who was 25 years old when the season began, earned victories in places like Florida, Virginia and California. He parlayed his exceptional play in 1933 to a second-straight bountiful year in 1934, where he won five times and was the first ever on-the-record leading PGA Tour Money winner earning $6,767. That year was also a breakout year for Runyan as he won his first of two PGA Championships in his hall-of-fame career. The Arkansas native compiled 26 PGA Tour wins and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1990, dying at the age of 95 in 2002.
4. Ben Hogan – 10 PGA Tour Wins (1948)
Ben Hogan is the only player to appear twice on this list, although Woods as well as the No. 3 and No. 1 players on this list could be mentioned twice as well, as all three players had secondary seasons where they won eight events each, putting them in a tie for eighth. Hogan, however, comes in at No. 4 and at No. 2, first for his 1948 season where he captured 10 wins and earned $32,112. “The Hawk” as he’s nicknamed won two of his career nine majors in 1948, winning his first of four U.S. Opens and his second PGA Championship. Hogan also won the first ever PGA Tour Player of the Year Award in 1948 and would add three more, winning in 1950, 1951 and 1953. Although it was the first of a couple things for Hogan, it was also the last for the then 35-year-old as he won his last Vardon Trophy (three times) and the last time he was leading money winner (five times).
3. Sam Snead – 11 PGA Tour Wins (1950)
Having racked up the most career PGA Tour wins with 82, Sam Snead had several exceptional seasons, but 1950 was arguably his best, winning 11 times. Although he didn’t win a major in 1950, Snead won several well-known events like the Western Open, Texas Open, Los Angeles Open and Bing Crosby Pro-Am. “The Slammer” as he was known, earned a nice chunk of change for his play that year pocketing $35,758 to lead the tour in earnings. Snead’s decorated career really took of in 1938 win he recorded eight wins, two years after his initial PGA Tour win the West Virginia Closed Pro. His career also includes seven majors, having won the Masters and PGA Championship three times each along with the 1946 Open Championship. Snead’s record of 82 wins will likely be passed in the foreseeable future as Tiger Woods currently sits at 79 PGA Tour career wins. The Virginia native was a part of the inaugural World Golf Hall of Fame class of 1974 and passed away in 2002 at the age of 88.
2. Ben Hogan – 13 PGA Tour Wins (1946)
Two years before he put up double-digit wins in 1948, Ben Hogan had an even better season in 1946 winning 13 times and making $10,000 more in earnings–$42,556 compared to $32,112. The Hawk had wins all over the map, winning in Arizona, Texas, Florida and Canada to name a few. The most important win, however, came at the PGA Championship, Hogan’s first career major. His outstanding play also led him to his first ever Ryder Cup appearance in 1947, in which he served as a playing captain for the American winning team. One of the most celebrated golfers in the game, Hogan racked up 55 PGA Tour victories in his career and nine professional majors becoming the second player to obtain a career grand slam. The native Texan was inducted in the inaugural World Golf Hall of Fame class in 1974 and died in 1997 at the age of 84.
1. Byron Nelson – 18 PGA Tours Wins (1945)
One of the most unbreakable records in sports includes Byron Nelson’s 18 PGA Tour wins in 1945. An even more unbreakable record that he set during that year included an 11-consecutive PGA Tour win streak that began with the Miami International Four-Ball and ended with the Canadian Open. Nelson’s 18 wins in 30 starts of 1945 earned him an unprecedented $63,335 in earnings, an amount that wouldn’t be surpassed for nine more years when more money was at stake. “Lord Byron” as he’s often referred to was coming off his best season to date coming into 1945 having triumphed in eight tournaments in 1944. Nelson also won the fifth and final major of his career in 1945, the PGA Championship, though he likely could have won more. Nelson retired from full-time PGA Tour golf after racking up six more victories in 1946 at the relatively young age of 34-years-old. From 1935-1946 the native Texan tallied 46 PGA Tour victories and only added one more after that winning the 1951 Bing Crosby Pro-Am. In 1974 Nelson was rightfully honored as part of the World Golf Hall of Fame’s inaugural class and lived until 2006, passing away at the age of 94.
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