Greatest golfers' greatest years

Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT) April 5, 2012
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Arnold Palmer, right, celebrates with Augusta National president Billy Payne after launching the 2012 Masters with a ceremonial tee shot 50 years after his "Annus Mirabilis." Palmer was joined by fellow golf legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player in making the honorary drives down the fairway. Getty Images
Palmer was the most recognizable sportsman of his generation and he would be followed by legions of fans who were known as "Arnie's Army." His greatest year was 1962, when he won the Masters and the British Open, as well as topping both the PGA Tour money and scoring lists. Getty Images
Nobody has won more major tournaments than Nicklaus, with Tiger Woods the only player threatening to match the Golden Bear's record of 18 major titles. His greatest year was 1972, when he won both the Masters and U.S. Opens, before narrowly losing to Lee Trevino in the British Open. Getty Images
Golf has been defined by several key players in the past 100 years or so, starting with Harry Vardon -- often referred to as "Mr. Golf." In 1900 the sport's first genuine legend added the U.S. Open title to the three British Opens he had already won. His total of six British Opens is a record that stands to this day. Getty Images
Only Nicklaus and Woods have won more majors than Walter Hagen. His tally of 11 includes two in 1924, and the New Yorker is widely acknowledged as being the first player to earn $1 million. He was also a key figure as professional golfers became accepted in the amateur era. Getty Images
Bobby Jones was a remarkable character. A lawyer by trade, he was the leading amateur of his generation and would regularly beat the top professionals. In 1930 he won both the British Open and U.S. Open, as well as their amateur equivalents, for a grand slam that was never repeated. He retired aged just 28, but later founded Augusta National. Getty Images
Byron Nelson's golden era was during World War II but in its final year the Texan went on a winning run that has never been repeated. In 1945, he won 18 out of 35 tournaments, including an incredible 11 in a row. Only Woods can better Nelson's record of 113 consecutive cuts made.
Nobody has won all four majors in the same year, but Ben Hogan went close. In 1953, Hogan won the Masters, British Open and U.S. Open but could not compete in the U.S.PGA, which was a matchplay event at the time, because it clashed with the UK major. In 1949, he had nearly died in a car accident. Getty Images
Nobody plays modern links golf like Tom Watson. Five-times a British Open champion, Watson nearly joined Vardon on six wins in 2009 when, at the age of 59, he missed out in a heartbreaking playoff. In 1982 he was at his height, winning both the British and U.S. Opens. Getty Images
Nick Faldo won five majors in five years between 1987 and 1992, as well as finishing second in two others. His greatest year was 1990, with victories in both the Masters and British Open -- the latter by a dominant six strokes -- as well as being named player of the year on both the European and PGA Tours. Getty Images
To many, Woods is the greatest player the world has seen. He had already won two of his 14 majors prior to 2000 but the new millennium saw him play golf from another planet. Aged 25, the American won three of the four majors and then the 2001 Masters to become the first man to hold all four titles at once. Getty Images