Happy Birthday, Rickie!December 13, 2018

For Rickie Fowler, plenty of proof of golf breakthroughs after 30

Rickie Fowler
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Rickie Fowler’s four career wins on the PGA Tour, including a Players, plus two more victories on the European Tour, make for a solid resume. It’s further enhanced by the fact that in 2014 he joined a select group to have finished in the top five of all four majors in the same year—the only others to accomplish this are Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth.

Yet when Fowler’s golf is mentioned, what often follows is talk about what he has still yet to accomplish. Fair or not, that’s what happens when you’re one of golf’s most marketed and visible players. And when your contemporaries—Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka, to name a few—have noticeably outperformed you.

There is some good news for Fowler, though, as he turns 30 years old on Thursday: Golf has plenty of players, past and present, whose best years came in their 30s. Here are 18 tour pros from which Fowler can draw inspiration.

Oh, and happy birthday, Rickie!


Augusta National

Phil Mickelson
Lefty is perhaps the modern-day poster boy for hitting your stride in his 30s. It’s easy to forget that he didn’t win his first of five majors until he was 33 at the 2004 Masters. Sure, he picked up 16 titles on tour in his 20s, including one while still an amateur, but he nabbed 23 of his 43 PGA Tour wins, including his other four majors, in his 30s.


Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Justin Rose
The Englishman fared a lot worse than Fowler did early on, missing 21 straight cuts his first year as a pro. He recovered just fine, winning twice in the U.S. and four more times on the European Tour in his 20s. But it wasn't until Rose’s 30s that his career really took off with seven wins on the PGA Tour, including the U.S. Open at Merion, four more on the European Tour, a gold medal in the Olympics and a spot atop the Official World Golf Ranking. And he still has another season-and-a-half before he turns 40.


Jim Rogash

Bubba Watson
The long-hitting Watson didn’t even make it to the PGA Tour until he was 27, so naturally most of his success came in his 30s. Watson’s first victory came at 31 at the 2010 Travelers Championship, and he has since added 11 more wins to his résumé, including two Masters titles in 2012 and 2014 as well as a World Golf Championship before turning 40 in November.


Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Zach Johnson
Like Watson, ZJ was a late bloomer. After five years of grinding on mini tours—where he won 14 times!—Johnson finally made it to the big tour at age 27. And, like Watson, he found most of his success in his 30s with 11 victories, including two majors.


Al Messerschmidt

Relief Goosen
Of the Goose’s 19 victories between the PGA Tour and European Tour, 16 of them came in his 30s. That includes a pair of U.S. Opens.


Harry How/Getty Images

Vijay Singh
Though mostly known for his record 22 PGA Tour victories after the age of 40 (not to mention reaching No. 1 in the world), the Fijian was awfully good in his 30s, too, racking up a dozen wins, including two of his three career majors.


David Cannon/Getty Images

Payne Stewart
Just 42 when Stewart’s life was tragically cut short by a plane crash, his game was at his best in his 30s, when he notched eight of his 11 career victories, including two of three majors.


Augusta National/Getty Images

Nick Faldo
Sir Nick had plenty of success early in his career, winning a dozen titles on the European Tour in his 20s. But his first major didn’t come until the day after he turned 30 at the 1987 Open Championship at Muirfield. Five more major victories followed over the next nine years, as did a dozen other trophies, and Faldo spent a total of 97 weeks atop the Official World Golf Ranking.


Augusta National

Tom Kite
Of Kite’s 19 career victories on the PGA Tour, only two of them came before hitting 30. Eleven more followed over the next decade, including a Players in 1989, before the World Golf Hall of Famer added that elusive major at age 42, winning the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.


Augusta National

Larry Nelson
With Nelson not taking up golf until age 21 after serving in Vietnam, it only makes sense that he didn’t find success until his 30s. His first career victory came at age 31, and he tacked on seven more, including three majors, before turning 40. For good measure, he added 19 more titles on the Champions Tour and landed in the World Golf Hall of Fame.


Hulton Archive

Hale Irwin
Though Irwin won a U.S. Open at age 29, he had just two other victories to go with it at the time. In his 30s, he added 13 more titles, including another U.S. Open before finishing his PGA Tour career with 20 wins. His encore on the Champions Tour was even better: A record 45 victories on the 50-and-older circuit.


Augusta National/Getty Images

Ray Floyd
Another Hall of Famer on the list, Floyd claimed 13 of his 22 career wins on the PGA Tour during his 30s. That included two majors, the 1976 Masters and the 1982 PGA Championship, which were bookended by the 1969 PGA at 26 and 1986 U.S. Open at 43.


R&A Championships

Lee Trevino
Thanks to a stint in the Marines and another as a club pro, the Merry Mex was a late arrival on the big stage so his appearance on this list comes with a bit of an asterisk. Nonetheless, he was a machine in his 30s, winning 21 of his 29 PGA Tour titles, including four of his six majors, in that window.


Augusta National

Arnold Palmer
The King took home a dozen titles in his 20s, including a major at the 1958 Masters. But it wasn’t until his 30s that he became truly royal, winning 42 more tour titles, and six more majors.


Augusta National

Ben Hogan
The Hawk was well on his way with 15 professional victories before he hit age 30. But in his 30s he was far better with 43 of his 64 career titles, including six of his nine majors, coming during that span. Never mind returning from a near-fatal car accident.


Augusta National

Lloyd Mangrum
Mr. Icicle was more like Mr. Red Hot in his 30s, winning 30 of his 36 titles on the PGA Tour, including his first and only career major at the 1946 U.S. Open. He probably would have won more had his career not been interrupted by World War II. Instead, he settled for two Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars and two Bronze Stars. Following the war and still in his late 30s, he topped the money list in 1951 and won the Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average in both 1951 and 1953.


Augusta National

Jimmy Demaret
Already an eight-time winner and major champion in his 20s, Demaret saw even more success come later with 21 of his 31 PGA Tour victories taking place in his 30s. Among them: Two of his three career Masters titles.


Bettmann

Tommy Armour
The Silver Scot captured all three of his major championships—the 1927 U.S. Open, 1930 PGA Championship and the 1931 Open Championship—in his 30s. He added 18 more titles during that period before finishing with 25 career PGA Tour victories.

Introducing Golf Digest All Access, a new way to improve


WATCH: GOLF DIGEST VIDEOS