The 1980s saw several players extend their excellent play of the ’70s, going on to become true stars of golf. And a jolt of talent awakened in Europe, making the Ryder Cup much more meaningful and producing international stars who would claim multiple majors in the decade.
With so much worldwide talent, it becomes even tougher to narrow it down to 10 best players of the decade, especially as some stars – Ben Crenshaw, for example – compiled worthy records that straddled the decade line. Our take focuses on victories, on both the PGA Tour and European Tour, and major titles only for the decade, so with that in mind, keep clicking to see our choices for the top 10 players of the 1980s.
10. Nick Faldo
PGA Tour victories in 1980s: three (of nine total)
Major titles in 1980s: two (of six total)
The Englishman was one of several international stars who didn’t play much on the PGA Tour, instead choosing to compete on and strengthen the European Tour. After first finding the winner’s circle in 1977, Faldo won 17 of his 30 European Tour titles in the 1980s. He worked with instructor David Leadbetter to revamp his swing in the mid-1980s, and he was known for wearing down other contenders with his frequently conservative and uncannily steady play. A driven and often silent presence on the course, he was never the friendliest or most popular player, which didn’t seem to bother him in the least.
His first PGA Tour victory came at the 1984 Sea Pines Heritage, and his other two Tour victories of the ’80s were major titles. In the ’87 British Open at Muirfield, Faldo closed with 18 pars in the final round to earn a one-shot victory over Rodger Davis and Paul Azinger, who struggled with bogeys down the stretch as Faldo maintained an even keel. Two years later, Faldo earned his first Masters title in a playoff against Scott Hoch: Faldo won with a birdie on the second playoff hole (No. 11) after Hoch three-putted the first playoff hole (No. 10) for a matching bogey that famously included a missed 2-footer.
Faldo also was a key to Europe’s newfound competitiveness in the Ryder Cup in the ’80s, earning 25 points total in the matches and, along with Seve Ballesteros, frustrating U.S. squads. Faldo was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1997, and he would go on to a career in television.