Tiger Woods now has 50 wins. And he definitely has studied the golf history books. His career continues to carve out an almost eerie resemblance to the man he is chasing for the major-title record ' Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus timeline matches that of Tiger more closely than of the other four men who won at least 50 victories.
Tiger won No. 50, the Buick Open in this, his 10th year as a professional at age 30. Nicklaus won his 50th in 1973 when he collected another major, the PGA Championship. It was Jacks 12th year as a pro.
Nicklaus was 33 that year. Number 50 was also hugely significant for Nicklaus in that it gave him the lead in majors won. His 14 major titles bested Bobby Jones record of 13 amateur and professional majors. Jones won four U.S. Opens, three British Opens, five U.S. Amateurs and one British Amateur playing until 1930. The Masters, which Jones inaugurated in 1934, was not in existence when he was still a fulltime player.
Tiger, by the way, also surpassed Jones in the amateur-professional majors won category this year. When he won the British Open in July, it was Woods 14th amateur-professional major. It was also Tigers 11th professional major, which ties him with Walter Hagen for second place behind Nicklaus 18.
Jacks personal life was far different from Tigers ' Jack had just fathered his fifth and final child when he won No. 50. Woods has only been married less than two years. Nicklaus son Gary was born July 24th in 73, making him a little more than two weeks old when Jack won the PGA for No. 50.
One other oddity connecting the two ' Nicklaus father Charley died in 1970 when Jack was 30. Tigers father Earl died this year ' when Tiger was 30.
Three other men who won at least 50 ' Arnold Palmer, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead ' mirror the number of years as a pro that it took Nicklaus to win 50.
Palmer was 37 and in his 12th year when he won No. 50, the 1967 Tucson Open. Palmer was in the Coast Guard for a time before he turned pro, then was a paint salesman. He became a pro at age 25 and eventually would win 62 times on the regular tour.
Snead, the all-time win leader with 82, was in his 13th year when he won the 50th. It came during a 10-win season in 1950 when the 36-year-old Snead won the Los Angeles Open. Snead was the leading money-winner that year when he won $35,758. Heres an oddity: Snead would make a hole-in-one with every club in the bag ' except the putter, of course - during his career.
Nelson won No. 50 in the 13th year of his career, the year after his great 1945 season when he won 11 straight and 18 over-all. The 50th came at the Columbus (Ohio) Invitational in 46 when he was 34, which also happened to be his final year as an active player. Nelson had won enough money to purchase what was his lifelong dream, a farm in North Texas.
He would win 52 titles in all, the final time when he came out of retirement to capture the Bing Crosby Invitational in 1951.
Ben Hogan won 64 times with No. 50 coming in 1949, also at the Crosby. It was at age 36 in the 18th year of his stop-and-start career.
Two weeks after he won the 50th, on Feb. 2, Hogan had the tragic auto accident which almost ended his life. He won the week following his No. 50th, this one at Long Beach. He lost to Jimmy Demaret in a playoff at Phoenix the following week and was returning to his Fort Worth home. Hogan and wife Valerie spent the night in the West Texas town of Van Horn and had just gotten under way early the next morning when they collided head-on with a Greyhound bus that had crossed the center line 19 miles out of town. Hogan never would fully recover, though he would win 14 more times.
Billy Casper won 51 times, No. 50 being the 1973 tournament in Hartford ' known then as the Sammy Davis Jr. Greater Hartford Open. Casper was by then 41 years old and in his 20th year as a professional.
Tiger Woods? Hes still a work in progress. Will he surpass Sneads 82? Will he beat Jacks 18 majors, 20 over-all? No one, of course, knows at the juncture. But this much is certain ' he reached No. 50 two years sooner than anyone else. And who knows where the wonderful journey will finally end?
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