In the 1970s and 1980s, Watson was one of the leading players in the world, winning eight major championships and heading the PGA Tour money list five times. He was the number one player in the world according to McCormack’s World Golf Rankings from 1978 until 1982; in both 1983 and 1984, he was ranked second behind Seve Ballesteros. He also spent 32 weeks in the top 10 of the successor Sony Rankings in their debut in 1986.
Watson is now also notable for defying age: at nearly 60 years of age, and 26 years after his last major championship victory, he led much of the 2009 Open Championship, but eventually lost in a four-hole playoff. With a chance to win the tournament with par on the 72nd hole, he missed an eight-foot putt, before losing the playoff to Stewart Cink.
Several of Watson’s major victories came at the expense of Jack Nicklaus, the man he replaced as number one, most notably the 1977 Open Championship and the 1982 U.S. Open. Though his rivalry with Nicklaus was intense, their friendly competitiveness served to increase golf’s popularity during the time.
In Watson’s illustrious career, his eight major championships included five Open Championships, two Masters titles, and one U.S. Open title. The only major that has eluded him is the PGA Championship, which would put him in an elite group of golfing “career grand slam” winners that includes Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen, and Tiger Woods. In all, Watson ranks 6th on the list of total major championship victories, behind only Hogan, Nicklaus, Player, Woods, and Walter Hagen.
Watson is also regarded as one of the greatest links players of all time, a claim backed up by his five Open Championship victories; as well as his 2nd-place finish in the 2009 Open Championship, and his three Senior British Open Championship titles in his mid-50s (2003, 2005, and 2007).
Watson played on four Ryder Cup teams and captained the American side to victory in the 1993 Ryder Cup at The Belfry in England. On December 13, 2012, Watson was announced as the captain for the 2014 Ryder Cup in Scotland.