Age keeps players off the football field and forces basketball greats to retire. Then, there’s golf. Pro golfers are still going strong in their 40s. Some win in their 50s, even facing competitors young enough to be their children. Golf even has the Champions Tour for pros over 50 years old. It still draws fans and celebrates great performances.
Even the top PGA Tour events see winners who are older by sporting terms. Tiger Woods won his 15th major at age 43. Phil Mickelson was 43 when he won back-to-back majors. In fact, the following pros are the oldest golfers to win a major in PGA history.
1. Julius Boros, 1968 PGA Championship
At 48 years, 4 months, and 18 days old, Julius Boros already had three majors under his belt when he won the 1968 PGA Championship. He won the U.S. Open at age 43 and was thus the oldest major winner before he broke his own record. Boros is a great example of a player who came into his own after age 40, having won half of his 18 PGA Tour titles after hitting the big 4-0.
The 1968 PGA Championship is possibly more notable for who didn’t win. Legend Arnold Palmer lost by a shot after hitting an impressive two-iron from the woods to the green on the final hole. Arnie never hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy, despite winning seven other majors.
2. Old Tom Morris, 1867 British Open
Old Tom Morris and his son, Young Tom Morris, dominated the Scottish links at the end of the 19th century. Despite playing more than a century ago, Old Tom is still renowned for his course design — he had a hand in laying out Carnoustie, Prestwick, Muirfield, and the Jubilee Course at St Andrews — and contributions to greenkeeping and course maintenance. The 1867 Open was the 46-year-old’s fourth major in an era when it was the only major.
3. Jack Nicklaus, 1986 Masters
You’ve probably seen the iconic photo of the great Jack Nicklaus at the ’86 Masters after sinking a long putt on the 17th for the lead. Considered too old to win another major, the Golden Bear roared back to life 10 holes away from the finish, after a slump where he hadn’t won anything in more than 2 years and had missed three recent cuts.
At 46 years, two months, and 23 days old, Mr. Nicklaus held off a slew of younger players, including Spanish great Seve Ballesteros and top player Greg Norman, for his 18th major championship.
4. Jerry Barber, 1961 PGA Championship
Known for his putting prowess, Jerry Barber had seven PGA Tour wins, including his PGA Championship title win at 45 Years, three months and six days old. It was his only major, but the well-known player dominated in the 1950s and early ’60s. He played his way to two Ryder Cup teams in addition to the major victory.
Barber actually holds another age-related distinction. He is the oldest player to compete in a PGA Tour event. At age 77, he teed it up at the 1994 Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines.
5. Hale Irwin, 1990 U.S. Open
A former football standout at the University of Colorado, Hale Irwin is known for winning on all six continents that host professional golf. No one was especially surprised when he won his third U.S. Open title in 1990 at the age of 45 years and 15 days old. Irwin went on to have an outstanding Champions Tour career, winning 45 tournaments and setting a record for most victories of all time on the tour.
With improvements to nutrition, workouts, and equipment, it’s possible we’ll see golfers win later and later in life. This may give golfers like Woods, who’s still chasing Nicklaus’s 18 majors, some hope.