As we await the return of professional golf, whet your appetite with a few interesting facts and numbers about the world’s greatest players and most iconic events.
Although currently ranked 11th on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), Tiger Woods holds the record for the most weeks – 683 – spent at No 1, 281 of them over consecutive weeks, … and few would bet against him reaching the top again at some time in the future.
Meanwhile, the player who has spent the shortest time at the top of the OWGR is American Tom Lehman, who spent only one week as No 1 back in April 1997.
The most successful female player of all time, when measured by career prizemoney won, is Swede Annika Sorenstam who had amassed US$22,573,192 by the time she retired in 2008.
But, when measured by LPGA career victories, Sorenstam is only ranked third with 72 titles to her name, behind Americans Mickey Wright with 82 wins and all-time leader Kathy Whitworth – now 80 years old – who won 88 times.
Jack the Lad
When Jack Nicklaus clinched his 18th and final Major title by winning the 1986 Masters at age 46, the popular belief was that he became the oldest player in history to win one of the four men’s Grand Slam events.
Although he was – and remains – the oldest man to wear the fabled Green Jacket, Nicklaus, now 80 years old, is only the third oldest player to win a men’s Major title.
That record is held by his compatriot Julius Boros, who won the PGA Championship in 1968 at the ripe old age of 48 years, 4 months and 99 days, followed by Scottish legend Old Tom Morris who won the 1867 Open Championship aged 46 years and 99 days.
Welsh golfer Ian Woosnam had a hugely successful career, winning 52 times all over the world including his famous victory at the 1991 Masters, not to mention his Ryder Cup career, representing Europe on eight occasions, on the winning side on four occasions before captaining the team to victory over the USA at the K Club in Ireland in 2006.
But ‘Woosie’, as he is universally known, was also involved in one of the most embarrassing and costly faux pas in the history of professional golf as he fell foul of the labyrinthine Rules of Golf at arguably the most important occasion of his playing career.
The former World No 1 had just moved into a tie for the lead in the second round of the 2001 Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes, when his caddie Miles Byrne pointed out to his boss that, by mistake, he had put an extra club – a second driver – into Woosie’s bag, exceeding the permissible maximum of 14 clubs by one.
Confession time for an angry Woosnam and referee John Paramor handed the Welsh wizard a two-stoke penalty. The rest is history; Woosnam threw the offending driver deep into the rough, reprimanded Byrne, dropped two strokes over the next three holes but recovered for a battling three-under 68.
But the damage was done, Woosnam eventually finishing in a tie for third, four strokes behind the winner, American David Duval. The saga of the extra club cost the irate Welshman a cool £218,333.
A few weeks later, Woosnam fired the hapless Byrne, this time for sleeping in and almost missing a tee time which would have cost him another two-stroke penalty.
The substitute Claret Jug
To this day, one of the most iconic and highly-prized trophies in world golf – and arguably across all of sport – is the Claret Jug, synonymous with success, prestige, history and heritage.
But it is not widely known that the famous trophy, the official name of which is in fact ‘The Golf Champion Trophy’, did not come into existence until 1872 as a replacement for the original Open Championship winner’s memento – ‘The Challenge Belt’, made of Moroccan leather and embellished with a silver buckle and emblems, which was won outright by Young Tom Morris in 1870 following three successive Open victories.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club St Andrews agreed to contribute a “sum not exceeding £15 from the funds of the club” towards the £35 for its replacement, and the silver Claret Jug was fashioned by Scottish silversmiths to the Queen, Mackay Cunningham & Company. It was completed in 1872 but not awarded until the following year, a Silver Medal presented in its place to the Open champion once again, Young Tom Morris.
The original Claret Jug has been on permanent display at the clubhouse of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club since 1928, alongside its predecessor, the original Challenge Belt which was donated by the Morris family in 1908. The current Claret Jug was first awarded to Walter Hagen for winning the Open Championship in 1928.
By Mike Wilson