We have all heard of the ‘Big Three’, which consisted of Nicklaus, Palmer and Player.
However, you probably have not heard much about another player during that same era who, at a time, was actually winning more tournaments than Nicklaus, Palmer and Player.
When thinking about the greatest golfers of all-time, Billy Casper is a name that rarely comes to mind.
Casper’s prime playing years were during the late 50s to late 60s, an era most remember for golf’s `Big Three’ which consisted of Nicklaus, Palmer, and Player.
Throughout Casper’s career, he often felt largely overlooked due to the media’s unrelenting build up golf’s `Big Three.’
It turns out that Casper’s concerns were well-founded, as today, he is all but forgotten when thinking of the greatest players of an era many considered to be golf’s `Golden Age.’
Over the span of 20 years, Casper had 51 PGA Tour wins and won three major championships.
That is an average of 2.55 wins per year throughout Casper’s career.
To put that stat into perspective, Nicklaus averaged 2.9 wins per year throughout his career.
Even more impressive, Casper’s prime playing years lasted from 1958-1970, a span that saw Casper win 44 PGA Tour events, which is an incredible average of 3.38 wins per year.
Although Casper does not nearly measure up to the `Big Three’ in terms of major career wins, for a time during the 60’s he was actually winning more PGA Tour events than Palmer, Player, and Nicklaus.
This brings us to an issue that does get nearly enough attention when evaluating a player’s career.
Do you think we put too much weight on the majors when determining the success of a player’s career?
Do we give the number of total career wins enough attention when determining the greatness of a player’s career?
When examining the success of a player’s career, 99.9 percent of the time, the first question asked is, “How many majors has he won?”
The question of how many total career wins a player has accumulated is typically just an afterthought, if it is even weighed in on at all.
However, what stat offers more of an insight into a player’s level of constantly great play than how many total tournaments he has won throughout his career?
Lets compare this issue to other sports.
What is more impressive, the all-time World Series home run leader or a player who has hit 500 career home runs?
Who is more impressive, the NBA finals all-time leading scorer of the NBA’s all-time leading scorer?
Sure, winning the big events and excelling under the most intense pressure should without question carry a lot of weight when examining the success of a player’s career, but, it should not be the end-all.
Comparing Casper’s total career wins to other players who typical appear on any list of the game’s greatest players, Casper holds up better than one would imagine.
Casper’s 51 career wins ranks seventh all-time and is better than Walter Hagan (44 wins), Gene Sarazen (39 wins), Tom Watson (39 wins), and Gary Player (25 wins).
Now, the argument against Casper is that he has only won three majors, which is a very legitimate argument.
However, what is more impressive, a player with 51 career wins and three majors or a player with 25 career wins and nine majors?
That is one of the most difficult questions to answer in all of sports.
Majors are, without question, the toughest tournaments to win as they are played on the most treacherous courses and are attended by virtually every top player in the world, thus making any major win a lot more impressive than the average run-of-the-mill tour win.
But winning any PGA Tour event is no walk in the park either.
Billy Casper’s career has been all but forgotten for two main reasons; he was not branded by the media as on of the `Big Three’ and his lack of career major wins.
The tremendous amount of weight we put onto just four events, the majors, has resulted in players such as Casper falling through the cracks.
Despite being ranked seventh in all-time PGA Tour wins and averaging an incredible 3.38 wins per year during his prime, Casper’s accomplishments have been all but lost in golf’s history.