The change also means Greg Norman, a two-time British Open champion, can choose to play the PGA Tour as long he likes.
Snead, who won at St. Andrews in 1946, now is credited with 82 career victories, nine more than Jack Nicklaus, whose victory total increases to 73 with his three Open titles.
While the British Open is golf's oldest championship dating to 1860, the PGA Tour did not recognize it as official until 1995. The best American players rarely played in the Open until Arnold Palmer began going regularly in 1960.
The PGA Tour policy board approved the change at a meeting last week in Toronto.
'The issue has been under casual review for over a year,'' tour spokesman Bob Combs said. 'The board just felt it was the appropriate step to take.''
Combs said while the victories are retroactive, British Open earnings prior to 1995 will remain unofficial because it would cause too much confusion in setting eligibility for the Senior PGA Tour, which is largely based on career earnings.
The change in records will not be effective until the 2003 season.
Along with Snead and Nicklaus, the next two players on the tour's career victory list also added to their totals. Ben Hogan (1953 British Open) now has 63 official victories, while Arnold Palmer (1961-62) moves up to 62.
Norman won 18 times on the PGA Tour, but his British Open victories in 1986 and 1993 did not count. With 20 career victories, that makes him eligible for lifetime membership.
Norman, 47, gave up his membership for 2002 because he failed to play at least 12 events the year before.
He would have been eligible through 2004 because of his '94 victory in The Players Championship, but the policy change means he can play on tour at least until he is old enough for the Senior PGA Tour.