Will Tiger Woods join an illustrious list of major winners in their 40s?
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 02/01/18 3:05pm
Tiger Woods turned 42 on December 30, but will he emulate Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan by winning majors in his 40s? Here, we look back on some of the best major victories achieved by players the wrong side of 40...
The Golden Bear won three of his record 18 major titles after turning 40, the last of which being his memorable performance on the final day of the 1986 Masters.
Many thought Nicklaus would end his career with 15 majors after he failed to win a single tournament in 1979, his first winless year as a professional, and the barren run continued through to the middle of June the following year.
But he defied the doubters when he cruised to a three-shot win in the US Open at Baltusrol, and he blew away the field at the PGA Championship two months later with a seven-stroke victory which remained a record until Rory McIlroy surpassed it by a shot in 2012.
Nicklaus failed to add to his major tally over the next five years, and little was expected of him as he pitched up at Augusta National to take on the likes of Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman at the age of 46.
Despite being four shots off the pace heading into the final round, Nicklaus produced arguably the best nine holes of golf in his career as he stormed home in 30 to set the clubhouse target at nine under, and he was soon slipping on the Green Jacket for the sixth time as Ballesteros and Norman made critical mistakes down the stretch.
Only an unfortunate scheduling clash denied Hogan a crack at what would have made him the first golfer to win all four modern majors in a calendar year during a golden 1953.
Four years on from suffering horrific injuries in a near-fatal car accident, Hogan enjoyed his most successful season at the age of 40 when he cruised to a five-shot win at the Masters before crushing great rival Sam Snead by six strokes at the US Open.
Hogan won his ninth major a few weeks later and completed a career Grand Slam when he etched his name onto the Claret Jug in his first and only appearance in The Open with another convincing four-shot victory at Carnoustie.
But he was unable to win four majors in a single year as the PGA Championship had concluded the day before the first round of The Open, although his "triple-crown" was an achievement which has been matched only by Tiger Woods since.
Hogan's win at Carnoustie proved to be his last major, but he came close to reaching double-figures as he finished runner-up twice at both the Masters and the US Open over the next three years.
Golf's most successful left-hander had a poor record at The Open by his lofty standards as he recorded only two top-10 finishes over his first 19 appearances, leaving him wondering if he could ever combat links golf.
But those doubts were banished in 2013 at Muirfield, when Mickelson added The Open to his three Masters and one PGA Championship titles in unlikely circumstances at the age of 43.
Mickelson was five strokes off the pace heading into the final round, but he trimmed that deficit to one with birdies at the fifth and ninth in a composed front nine as overnight leader Lee Westwood began to falter.
A bogey at 10 left him trailing by three as Adam Scott made four birdies in five holes to gain control but, after the Aussie then bogeyed four in a row, Mickelson produced a stunning finish with four birdies over the final six holes over one of the toughest finishing stretches in the world.
Mickelson's 66, described by caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay as "the best round of his career" left him as the only man under par for the tournament on three under, three clear of Henrik Stenson, who would also enjoy Open glory in his 40s at Royal Troon three years later following an epic final-day duel with ... Mickelson!
Few could have expected Clarke to land an elusive major title at Royal St George's in 2011, his 20th appearance at The Open, but the popular Northern Irishman scored a remarkable win on the Kent coast just a month before his 43rd birthday.
Rounds of 68, 68 and 69 in a variety of weather had earned Clarke a one-shot lead, although American powerhouses Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson were all well within striking distance after 54 holes.
But, 14 years after suffering final-day disappointment at Royal Troon, Clarke refused to buckle and maintained a two-shot advantage over the chasing pack with a superb eagle at the seventh.
Clarke's run of nine consecutive pars actually increased his lead as his nearest challengers made more bogeys than birdies on the back nine, and the veteran had the luxury of being able to finish bogey-bogey as he completed a three-shot win.
And he also delivered one of the more memorable Open quotes the following morning in front of the world's press, when he admitted: "I had quite a few pints and quite a few glasses of red wine and it all continued until about 30 minutes ago. It's been a very good night!"
O'Meara was a stalwart of the PGA Tour for many years, winning 14 titles - and two others on the European Tour - without seriously threatening to win a major between 1980 and 1997.
He was becoming known more as a mentor to Tiger Woods than a prospective major champion, but he changed that perception when he stole the headlines from his young friend in 1998.
O'Meara, who turned 41 at the start of that year, had posted only one top-10 finish in 14 visits to Augusta National, but this time he left as a major champion having birdied the final two holes on Sunday to pip Fred Couples and David Duval to the title.
And, after failing to win any of his first 58 majors, he made it two victories in three at The Open as he closed with a 68 at Royal Birkdale to force a four-hole play-off with Brian Watts, in which O'Meara ran out a two-shot winner.
The oldest player to achieve major glory was Julius Boros, who was aged 48 when he held off Bob Charles during the 1968 US PGA Championship to win his third and final major title.
Tom Morris Snr dominated the early stages of the Open Championship, winning the tournament four times during a seven-year stretch during the 1860s, with the last of those coming as a 46-year-old at Prestwick.
Hale Irwin was 45 when he claimed a surprise third US Open win at Medinah in 1990, the same age Jerry Barber was when he won his only major title at the 1961 PGA Championship.
Ben Crenshaw turned 43 shortly before he won a second Green Jacket at Augusta just days after serving as a pallbearer at the funeral of his coach and mentor, Harvey Penick.
Raymond Floyd was three months shy of his 44th birthday when he won the US Open in 1986, just three months after Nicklaus had won the Masters at 46.
Lee Trevino had gone 10 years without a major victory until winning his sixth at the 1984 PGA Championship at the age of 44.
Gary Player won the last of his nine major titles at the 1978 Masters aged 42, the same age as Ernie Els was when he took advantage of Adam Scott's late collapse to win The Open in 2012.
Vijay Singh won 22 PGA Tour titles after turning 40, including his third major at the 2004 PGA Championship.