My Five: Best Players in Florida
March 01, 2011
Jack Nicklaus (11 victories)Only two major championships have ever been held in Florida, and Nicklaus won one of them, the 1971 PGA, which was played in February at PGA National. It was his first official victory in the state he'd made his main residence in 1965, but more came quickly, including three Players Championships by 1978. His most memorable Florida feat remains the 1978 Jackie Gleason-Inverrary Classic, when he birdied the last five holes -- two of them with chip-ins -- to defeat Grier Jones by a stroke. Said his final round playing partner, Lee Trevino, "It was like Reggie Jackson hitting three straight homers in the World Series."
Tiger Woods (12 victories)Woods has won six times at Bay Hill, including once by 11 strokes in 2003, and in 2008 and 2009 by a single stroke with dramatic 20 foot birdie putts on the 72nd hole. His three wins at Doral included a 2005 showdown with Phil Mickelson, when he made up three strokes in their final pairing and regained the title of World No. 1 from Vijay Singh. Woods also won his first U.S. Junior Amateur at Bay Hill and first U.S. Amateur at the TPC Stadium course. As a pro, Woods has often struggled on the Pete Dye track, winning only once, in 2001, while finishing second to Hal "Be the right shot today" Sutton in 2000.
Greg Norman (4 victories)We're talking quality, not quantity. The Shark's four-stroke victory at the 1994 Players Championship was probably the best golf he ever played, as he shot an amazing 24-under par that included a course-record 63. For the week, Norman hit 49 of 56 fairways and made only one bogey. Said Fuzzy Zoeller, "Son, that's the best I've ever played and had absolutely no chance of winning." Norman's 1990 win at Doral was nearly as epic. He holed a 30-foot par putt on the 72nd hole to close with a course-record 62 that made up a seven-shot deficit, then chipped in for eagle on the first extra hole to win a four-way playoff.
Raymond Floyd (6 victories)Floyd's 1992 victory at Doral was poignant. Three weeks before, the Miami home where he had hosted an annual party for the players burned down. With his family devastated, Floyd dug deep at age 49 to win for the first time since 1986. With his 22nd and final PGA Tour victory, Floyd joined Sam Snead as the only player to win in four different decades. It was his third victory at Doral, his first coming in 1980 when he defeated Jack Nicklaus by chipping in during a playoff. Two weeks later, he would win his only Players Championship in another playoff. Floyd was only 20 when he got his first career victory at the 1963 St. Petersburg Open, still the youngest winner of a PGA Tour event since the 1920s.
Sam Snead (14 victories)Snead won more official events in Florida than any other player. He owned the old Miami Open, winning it six times between 1937 and 1955. He also won three times at St. Petersburg and twice at the Jacksonville Open, also now defunct tournaments. His last regular tour victory in the Sunshine State took place at the 1960 DeSoto Open. After turning 50, he took the PGA Seniors Championship, held at various Florida courses, six times. In his later years, Snead played much of his winter golf at Pine Tree GC in Boynton Beach, fleecing "pigeons" with his Golden Retriever "Meister" riding shotgun in the golf cart.