The Best Majors Champion: The Eighties

We continue our analysis of who, in fact, is the Best Majors Champion in golf. I should add a caveat here that I should have done previously – I’m breaking these out into rational periods of time – that is, decades like the seventies, eighties, etc. Of course, few golfers restrict their career to a nicely pre-set ten year period. Plenty of golfers could easily be placed into one of several decades, and I’m just going by judgment here. Regardless, any such analysis here is dictating whether a golfer is, on his own, compared to everyone else ACROSS the history of professional golf (within the confines of this thought exercise), so if you think that a given golfer “belongs” to the 1970s and I have him in the 80s, I will preemptively agree with you and move on.

So, we’re at the 1980s. This is my time, the period where I was in high school, and my so-called formative years. If I could go back and change a few things from this period, certainly among them would be to question my assumption that golf was “lame,” and to start playing the game then. Had my later obsession caught fire as a teenager, I’m quite sure I’d be a much better golfer today.

And let’s be clear – the 80s were weird. Hot girls looked like this:

I’m not gonna lie, it’s ingrained enough in me that I STILL find that kind of sexy. But you didn’t need to know that. But also, at the same time in history, THIS is what pro golf looked like:

Yes, some of the legends from the 1970s rolled on into the 80s, like Tom Watson and Seve Ballesteros, and the 1986 Masters was won by a guy we’ve intentionally not discussed as of yet. But guys like Craig Stadler, Larry Roberts, David Graham, Bill Rogers and Sandy Lyle were at the top of professional golf during this decade, and that’s not aged well. Which is probably why golf wasn’t really my thing back then.

But that’s not the point of this article, and it’s not exactly true, either. Because even then, I watched golf. I vaguely remember seeing [redacted] win the 1986 Masters, and after that it was the occasional “there’s nothing else on” kind of sports to watch. By the time I got to college, it was perfect Hangover TV, and so some of the golfers in this article are among the first that I remember actively watching play on a somewhat regular basis.

So who are the Eighties golfers we can consider as to whether they are the Best Major Champions? Remembering that some great names are either previously discussed in the Seventies, and a few others make more sense to be in the upcoming discussion of the Nineties, the group is below:

GolferAvg Finish# of MajorsWinsTop-10%Top-25%
Fred Couples29.3980131.3%50.0%
Nick Faldo30.0884630.9%53.6%
Bernard Langer38.879220.3%37.9%
Greg Norman27.1480236.3%58.8%
Andy North45.945329.4%26.4%
Nick Price32.6782325.6%50.0%
Curtis Strange38.8572216.7%40.3%
Hal Sutton45.2361113.1%26.2%

Looking at the above, I think the general consensus here is to call the fight. None of these guys distinguish themselves, and some are outright laughable contenders for “Best Majors Champion.” Like, Andy North, I’m glad you won two U.S. Opens, but you only had three other top-10’s in any other major … and not one in the Masters or the PGA? My guy, you’re out.

Like many fans of the game, I’m a huge fan of Fred Couples. To the point that I’m habitually shocked he only has a single major – but what’s even more shocking is realizing that he really excelled at The Masters and The Open, but not the other two majors. Who knew?

The two “best” champions here are Nick Faldo and Greg Norman. Neither of them can hold a candle to the also-rans we’ve previously covered, but let’s discuss them both briefly. Faldo has six major championships (3 Masters, 3 Opens), but really seems to have been either on or very, very off. Also, my man Faldo had worse sweaters than Bill Cosby or Lou Carnesecca.

As for Norman, my guess is that if you asked casual golf fans how many majors The Shark has won, they’d say … zero. That’s because Norman is more well known for his choking (one of which led to one of Faldo’s majors – with the understanding that Faldo shot 67 to earn it, fully), than he is for the two Open Championships he won. With eight runner-up performances in majors, he could have been a much tougher pick here, and he has a better top-25% than anyone else on the list, but it’s just not up to snuff historically. Along with leg warmers, shoulder pads and hairsprayed manes like this, I think we can safely say that the eighties did not yield the Best Major Champion.

Let’s just move on, okay?

Previous Installments:

The Best Majors Champion: A Primer

The Modern Crop

The American Triumvirate

The Best Masters Champion

The Swinging Seventies

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