At the time of writing, the British golfer who has won the most major championships is Sir Nicholas Alexander ‘Nick’ Faldo, who recorded his sixth and final victory in the Masters Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia in April, 1996. Indeed, in the history of golf, just two players from outside the US – South African Gary Player, who won nine majors in total, and Jerseyman Harry Vardon, who won seven – have won more major championships than Faldo.
Faldo had already finished in the top ten in the Open Championship five times before winning the Claret Jug for the first time at Muirfield, in East Lothian, Scotland in July, 1987. On that occasion, he shot 68, 69, 71, 71, including 18 consecutive pars in his final round, to win by a single stroke from American Paul Azinger.
Nearly two years later, in April, 1989, Faldo won the Masters Tournament for the first time, in a sudden-death playoff with American Scott Hoch, after shooting a final-round 65. The following year, he won his second Green Jacket, defeating another American, Raymond Floyd, again in a sudden-death playoff. Three months later, in July, 1990, Faldo won his second Open Championship at the so-called ‘home of golf’, The Old Course at St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland. The late Payne Stewart, who finished tied for second, five strokes behind Faldo, said later, ‘Nick wasn’t going to make any mistakes. I played a good game, but not good enough. He simply played too well.’
In July, 1992, Faldo scored an emotional third victory in the Open Championship, back at Muirfield, where he surrendered the lead – which he had held, by four shots, after 54 holes – to American John Cook on the back nine on Sunday, but rallied to win by a single stroke. Perhaps his most famous, or infamous, major championship victory came back at Augusta in April, 1996. Australian Greg Norman led by six strokes heading into the final round but, following a calamitous 78, during which he found water at the twelfth and sixteenth, was emphaically beaten by Faldo, who birdied the final hole for a closing 67.
In April, 2019, Tiger Woods completed what was hailed as the ‘comeback of the decade’ when winning the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Club for the fifth time and his fifteenth major championship in all. Woods, 43, had not won the Masters since 2005 or a major championship, of any description, since the US Open in 2008.
Indeed, in recent years, Woods has been plagued by back problems, which eventually resulted in spinal fusion surgery in April, 2017. However, two years later his recovery appeared complete, as he came from two strokes behind 54-hole leader Francesco Molinari – the first time he had done so in a major championship – to win by a single shot. Molinari found Rae’s Creek with his tee shot on the famous twelfth hole and compounded the error by finding water again on the fifteenth; he eventually dropped away to finish joint-fifth after a final round of 74.
Woods, meanwhile, was on the way to a two-under-par 70, which took his 72-hole total to -13 and a one-shot victory over compatriots Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka. In fact, Woods had the luxury of being able to make a bogey on the final hole, which he did, after apparently fluffing his second shot, but a safe two-putt from 14 or 15 feet sealed a momentous victory. His first major championship win for 11 years leaves Woods just one behing Jack Nicklaus’ record of six Masters Tournament victories.
The ‘Miracle at Medinah’ was the term coined by the European media to describe an unlikely victory for the European team, captained by José María Olazábal, in the Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club, Illinois in September, 2012. Heading into the 12 singles matches on the final day, Europe trailed 10-6, therefore requiring 8 points to retain the Ryder Cup and 8½ points to win it outright. Only once before had such a deficit been overturned, by the US team in the so-called ‘Battle of Brookline’ – subsequently described by European captain Sam Torrance as ‘the most disgraceful and disgusting day in the history of professional golf’ – in 1999.
Prophetically, commentator Peter Alliss said, ‘A European victory can still happen, but they have to get away to a good start.’ That they did, winning the first four singles matches, courtesy of Luke Donald, Paul Lawrie, Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter to tie the scores 10-10. The scores were tied again at 13-13, but Steve Stricker three-putted the penultimate hole to give Martin Kaymer a one-hole lead; the German held his nerve, rolling home a crucial five-foot putt on the final hole to put Europe in an unassailable position at 14-13. In the final match, Tiger Woods unceremoniously bogeyed the eighteenth and conceded the hole to Italian Francesco Molinari, halving the match and handing Europe victory at 14½–13½.