The Best Golfers Outside of America and Europe

By Ryan Watson

Professional golf has been dominated primarily by golfers from Europe and America. This makes sense to a certain degree, as the game was invented in Europe and then quickly spread to America. America and Europe are also home to most of the best courses in the world. However, the gap between the US, Europe, and the rest of the world has been shortening, especially over the past 60 years. With that in mind, we look today at some of the greatest golfers from outside the US not currently playing on the PGA Tour (sorry Adam Scott, Jason Day, K.J. Choi and Hideki Matsuyama, your time will come). This list encompasses both lesser known national heroes and global superstars.

Chi-Chi Rodriguez

Country/Territory: Puerto Rico
Professional Wins: 37
PGA Tour Wins: 8

World Golf Hall of Famer Juan Antonio “Chi-Chi” Rodriguez is the greatest golfer Puerto Rico has ever produced. Rodriguez was a popular and charismatic figure on the PGA Tour, winning his first event at the 1963 Denver Open. Rodriguez had grown up poor and began working as a small boy as a caddy at a nearby golf course, eventually teaching himself the game and becoming a prodigy. While never winning a major championship, he managed 3 top-10 finishes with his best ever being a T6 at the 1981 U.S. Open. He later would become one of the PGA Tour Champions most decorated players, winning 22 times.

Mike Weir

Country: Canada
Professional Wins: 15
PGA Tour Wins: 8
European Tour Wins: 2

Mike Weir became the only Canadian to win a major when he triumphed at the 2003 Masters. Weir was originally an avid hockey player, but chose to focus on golf when his size limited his ability on the ice. Weir was one of the only lefties on the PGA Tour and won his first tournament at the 1999 Air Canada Championship on home soil. Weir’s 2003 was his best, including his Masters win and a T3 at the U.S. Open, catapulting him to 3rd in the Official Golf World Rankings. Weir is currently playing on the Korn Ferry Tour, though since he is now 50 a move to the PGA Tour Champions is sure to come shortly.

Thongchai Jaidee

Country: Thailand
Professional Wins: 20
European Tour Wins:8

Thai golfer Thongchai Jaidee may not be well known to American fans, with most of his best performances happening on the European and Asian Tours. Jaidee’s road to professional golf was a long one, and he didn’t even begin playing the sport until he was 16, and ndidn't turn professional until 30 and only after serving in his country’s special forces. Jaidee is the all-time Asian Tour money leader and has 8 wins on the European Tour, finishing as high as 9th on the European Tour’s Order of Merit.

Roberto de Vicenzo

Country: Argentina
Professional Wins: 230
PGA Tour Wins: 8
European Tour Wins: 9
Major Championship: 1

Roberto de Vicenenzo is Argentina’s and indeed South America’s greatest golfer to date. He amassed over 132 Argentine Tour wins and 60 South American Tour wins from 1942-1985 and can claim more professional wins than any other golfer in history. Vicenzo won his first European Tour event in 1948 and began playing on the PGA Tour in the 50s. He is best known for winning the 1967 Open Championship. His performances in other majors were also exemplary, with his 2nd place finish at the 1968 Masters becoming part of golf lore. He in fact should have ended the tournament tied for first to force a playoff, but instead an error by his playing partner in recording his score meant he had to settle for second.

Masashi “Jumbo” Ozaki

Country: Japan
Professional Wins: 114

Masashi Ozaki, nicknamed “Jumbo” for his large size, is the Japan Tour’s most successful player with 94 wins. Ozaki was originally a professional baseball player, but chose to quit baseball and focus on golf at the age of 23. Ozaki would come into his own in 1973, winning 5 times on the Japan Tour. Ozaki became something of an anomaly when he decided to stay in Japan and play primarily on his local tour rather than jumping to the PGA or European Tour. Despite this, he still spent nearly 200 weeks in the top-10 of the official world rankings, even going as high as 5th much to the derision of some non-Japanese fans. However, Ozaki proved his worth by finishing in the top-10 at the Masters, U.S. Open, and Open Championship, though a major championship would ultimately elude him.

Nick Price

Country: Zimbabwe
Professional Wins: 48
PGA Tour Wins: 18
European Tour Wins: 7
Major Championships: 3

Hall of Famer Nick Price was born in present-day Zimbabwe to British parents. He began playing golf at an early age and was playing on the South African tour by 1977. By the early 1980s, Price was competing on the PGA and European Tours, winning his first event in 1983. In the 1990s, Price would win the 1992 PGA Championship before claiming the 1994 Open Championship and 1994 PGA Championship to become the world’s highest ranked golfer. Price won his last PGA Tour event in 2002 and remains one of the sport’s best ball strikers.

Greg Norman

Country: Australia
Professional Wins: 89
PGA Tour Wins: 20
European Tour Wins: 14
Major Championships: 2

The Great White Shark himself, Greg Norman, is undoubtedly one of the greatest golfers of all time. Norman was born in Australia and learned to golf from his mother as a teenager, becoming a scratch golfer within a year and a half of playing. Within 6 years of playing Norman was a professional, and by 1977 he was on the European Tour winning his first event. More success led to Norman jumping to the PGA Tour in 1983 and won 2 events and finished runner up at the U.S. Open in 1984. Finishing runners up at majors would become a theme, with Norman losing playoffs at every major in his career, though he did seal his legacy with 2 Open Championship wins.

Ernie Els

Country: South Africa
Professional Wins: 71
PGA Tour Wins: 19
European Tour Wins: 28
Major Championships: 4

South African Ernie Els is a World Golf Hall of Famer and winner of most of the awards golf has to offer. Els was born in South Africa and learned to play golf from his father, though he surpassed his dad in ability at the tender age of 14. He began playing on the South African Tour in 1989 at the age of 20, and won his first major in 1994 at the U.S. Open and began playing on the European Tour. In 1997 he won a second U.S Open, and began playing and winning events on the PGA and European Tour. Els would continue to win into the early 2000s, picking up 2 Open Championships, a pair of runners up at the Masters, and a pair of third place finishes at the PGA Championship, and enjoying an extended run as golf’s highest ranked player.

Vijay Singh

Country: Fiji
Professional Wins: 64
PGA Tour Wins: 34
European Tour Wins: 13
Major Championships: 3

Vijay Singh hails from the tiny Pacific island nation of Fiji, where he grew up near a golf course. His father was an avid golfer and Singh used to practise with improvised sticks and balls before he was able to get his own equipment. Singh eventually played his way onto the European Tour in 1989, where he won the Volvo Open Championship. Singh jumped to the PGA Tour in 1993 and won the first event he entered. Singh blossomed late in his career and it wasn’t until 1998 that he claimed his first major, the PGA Championship, a tournament he would win again in 2004. He won the Masters in 2000 and has finished in the top 3 in the U.S. Open and T2 at the Open Championship. Singh is known for his training regime and won an astounding 22 PGA Tournaments after turning 40, and as recently as 2019 was in the final group of the Honda Classic at the age of 56.

Gary Player

Country: South Africa
Professional Wins: 163
PGA Tour Wins: 24
Major Championships: 9

Gary Player is widely considered one of the greatest golfers in the history of the sport and is undeniably the most successful golfer outside of America and Europe with his 9 major titles. Player is only one of 5 golfers who have a career grand slam, and the only non-American to win each major. Player was born in Johannesburg and was a natural on the course, turning professional at the age of 17. He played a busy schedule, competing regularly on the PGA, European, and South African Tours and maintained a high level for decades. As proof, consider that Player is the only modern golfer to win 3 Open Championships in 3 different decades. A true giant of the game, Player was a controversial figure for much of his playing career as a supporter of racial apartheid in his native country, though by the late 1980s he had completely changed his views and disavowed the racist laws. Player would later invite black golfers to South Africa and host the Nelson Mandela Invitational tournament from 2000 onward.

About the Author

Ryan Watson is a freelance sportswriter and history professor. He has been an avid fan of golf since his father signed him up for golf camp as a young child. Ryan enjoys following the professional game and learning about new equipment and gadgets.