Tiger Woods's pursuit of Sam Snead's alltime PGA Tour record of 82 victories hasn't received the breathless attention given the Countdown to Jack and his 18 major championships. With 78 wins, Tiger clearly has Snead in his sights, and he is likely to surpass Slammin' Sammy well before he catches Jack, if he ever catches Jack.
Spoiler alert: Tiger already owns the alltime victory mark. At least, he should. Using modern standards of what constitutes a bona fide tournament (the event must be at least 54 holes, with a minimum of 20 players), SI Golf Group found that some of Snead's 82 wins don't pass the smell test. Fourteen of them, in fact, aren't credible by today's standards. However, SI Golf Group found six wins dismissed by Tour historians that should count.
So much for suspense. Our scorecard reads: Tiger 78, Sam 74.
How can a significant record be so wrong, you ask? Well, it's no secret that historical record keeping has never been a priority at the Fortress of Solitude, a.k.a. Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Many records are riddled with inaccuracies. But don't pin this all on the Tour. The problem is that there was no formal PGA Tour when Snead was piling up many of his victories, just promoters holding tournaments to attract top players so they could sell tickets and make money.
The Tour dates to the early 1930s, but when the PGA Tour split from the PGA of America in 1968, many records and documents were lost. In the late '80s, Tour commissioner Deane Beman convened a panel of golf historians to define, once and for all, which tournaments were official.
It was a somewhat cursory effort, done so the results could be published in a coffee-table book: The History of the PGA Tour, in which Al Barkow, golf's finest Golden Age historian, told colorful tales of the Tour's humble beginnings.
The PGA Tour's history was rewritten then. Victory totals were updated and revised. Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer were among the players whose numbers were changed. Snead, whose official number was once as high as 88, was credited with 81 victories in the book. (Snead got win number 82 when the PGA Tour later recognized the British Open as an official victory.)
While in New York City for the book tour, Snead questioned how his victory total could be cut to 81. "Deane told me they found three more; then somebody got in there and knocked the props out from under me," said Snead, who died in 2002. "How can one victory be official and one be unofficial when you have the same [bleeping] players every week?"
Here's how, Sam.
The first victory came in his fifth start as a pro, in a playoff in Las Vegas.