Most Underrated Golfers of All Time
What's your definition of underrated when it comes to golf?
Is it players who weren't appreciated enough by the fans? Someone who could never get over the hump to win a major? Can you still be underrated if you're still famous and very, very rich?
Here's the thing — it can be all of that, and it can be none of that. It's totally subjective. Mostly it's just a feeling we get when we watch them play. Something we thought only we saw in them ... and wished everyone else did as well.
Some of these players might never get their full due. Some might be kicked off this list if we check back in a few years. Here's a look at the most underrated golfers of all time.
15. Daniel Berger
Born: April 7, 1993 (Plantation, Florida)
Turned pro: 2013
Estimated career earnings: $25.5 million
Career highlights: PGA Tour Rookie of the Year (2015), NCAA Golf Championships runner-up (2013), Ryder Cup champion (2021), Presidents Cup champion (2021)
Bottom line: The youngest golfer to make this list, Daniel Berger is the son of former tennis pro Jay Berger and was a two-time All-American at Florida State before going pro after his sophomore season in 2013.
Berger was named PGA Tour Rookie of the Year in 2015 and has top-10 finishes at three majors, including a pair of top-10 finishes at the U.S. Open in 2018 and 2021. Because Berger is so young, it's not hard to see him passing the $50 million mark in career earnings over the next decade — regardless of whether or not he wins a major.
Note: All estimated career earnings are through April 1, 2023, and do not include earnings from endorsements.
14. Harris English
Born: July 23, 1989 (Valdosta, Georgia)
Turned pro: 2011
Estimated career earnings: $30 million
Career highlights: Ryder Cup champion (2021)
Bottom line: Here's the crazy thing about pro golf — the casual fan has probably never heard of Harris English even though he's topped $30 million in career earnings.
For knowledgeable golf fans, English has been a steady presence on the PGA Tour over the last decade, most notably winning an eight-hole playoff at The Travelers Championship in 2021.
The former University of Georgia star played for the winning Ryder Cup team in 2021 and has been at his best in a major at the U.S. Open, where he had back-to-back top-five finishes in 2020 (fourth) and 2021 (third).
13. Sam Torrance
Born: Aug. 24, 1953 (Largs, Scotland)
Turned pro: 1970
Estimated career earnings: $6.8 million
Career highlights: European Tour Rookie of the Year (1975), four-time Ryder Cup champion (1985, 1987, 1989, 1995), Dunhill Cup champion (1995)
Bottom line: Scottish golf star Sam Torrance turned pro when he was just 17 years old and owns the career record for European Tour appearances with 706.
Torrance's 21 wins on the European Tour without a major are second only to Colin Montgomerie. Torrance's only top-10 finishes at majors have been at the British Open, where he finished fifth in 1981 and tied for ninth in 1984.
Married to British TV and film star Suzanne Daniels since 1986, Torrance is perhaps most well known for his play in the Ryder Cup, where he sank the winning putt for Europe in 1985 and was part of the 1987 team that won in the U.S. for the first time in Ryder Cup history.
12. Jeff Maggert
Born: Feb. 20, 1964 (Columbia, Missouri)
Turned pro: 1986
Estimated career earnings: $19.9 million
Career highlights: Ben Hogan Tour Player of the Year (1990), Presidents Cup champion (1994), Ryder Cup champion (1999)
Bottom line: Jeff Maggert turned pro in 1986 after an All-American career at Texas A&M and got his first taste of success overseas, winning events on the Asian Tour and Australasian Tour in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Maggert has been very, very good in majors over his career, with eight top-10 finishes. None of those performances were as memorable — or heartbreaking — as his fifth-place finish at the 2003 Masters, where he held the lead after 54 holes but had triple and quintuple bogeys in his final round.
11. Jay Haas
Born: Dec. 2, 1953 (St. Louis, Missouri)
Turned pro: 1976
Estimated career earnings: $16.2 million
Career highlights: Champions Tour Rookie of the Year (2005), Jack Nicklaus Trophy (2006, 2007), Arnold Palmer Award (2006), Ryder Cup champion (1993), Presidents Cup champion (1994), Haskins Award (1975), NCAA championship medalist (1975), two-time NCAA team champion (1974, 1975)
Bottom line: Jay Haas was part of back-to-back national championship teams at Wake Forest in 1974 and 1975 alongside fellow future pros Curtis Strange and Bob Byman, with Haas taking medalist honors at the NCAA Championships in 1975.
Haas scrapped for almost three decades as a pro, never making more than $800,000 in a single year before hitting paydirt in the early 2000s, cashing out to the tune of a combined $5.3 million across 2003 and 2004.
Haas has a whopping 15 top-10 finishes at majors spread out over four decades, highlighted by tying for third at The Masters in 1995 and tying for third at the PGA Championship in 1999.
10. Bruce Crampton
Born: Sept. 28, 1935 (Sydney, Australia)
Turned pro: 1953
Estimated career earnings: $4.6 million
Career highlights: Masters Tournament runner-up (1972), PGA Championship runner-up (1973, 1975), U.S. Open runner-up (1972), Vardon Trophy (1973, 1975)
Bottom line: Bruce Crampton kind of defines what we mean when we talk about an underrated golfer, as he finished as a runner-up at majors four times from 1972 to 1975 and lost to the same golfer, Jack Nicklaus, all four times. He's basically the Buffalo Bills of professional golf.
While Crampton's career came frustratingly close to greatness so many times, he managed to make a fortune playing on both the PGA Tour, overseas and on the Champions Tour. He was also the first Australian golfer to pass $1 million in career earnings.
9. Doug Sanders
Born: July 24, 1933 (Cedartown, Georgia)
Died: April 12, 2020, 86 years old (Houston, Texas)
Turned pro: 1956
Estimated career earnings: $5 million
Career highlights: PGA Championship runner-up (1959), U.S. Open runner-up (1961), British Open runner-up (1966, 1970)
Bottom line: Doug Sanders pulled off a rare feat in 1966 by finishing in the top 10 at all four majors despite winning none of them. It was something the wisecracking Sanders milked for decades worth of conversation starters and jokes.
For all of his success, Sanders' career essentially came down to being defined by one shot — a missed putt from about 30 inches to win the 1970 British Open, which he went on to lose to Jack Nicklaus in a playoff.
Sanders, who died in 2020 at 86 years old, was one of the truly unique personalities in golf history. Labeled as "The Bad-Form Champion of Golf" on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1962, Sanders was also reportedly the inspiration for the main character in Dan Jenkins' 1974 novel "Dead Solid Perfect" about a freewheeling pro golfer. The book was turned into an HBO movie starring Randy Quaid and Jack Warden.
8. Harry Cooper
Born: Aug. 4, 1904 (Leatherhead, England)
Died: Oct. 17, 2000, 96 years old (White Plains, New York)
Turned pro: 1923
Estimated career earnings: $14,139 (1937)
Career highlights: Masters Tournament runner-up (1936, 1938), U.S. Open runner-up (1927, 1928), Vardon Trophy (1937)
Bottom line: Harry Cooper was the son of two professional golfers, Syd and Alice Cooper, with his father serving as the apprentice to four-time British Open champion Old Tom Morris before the family moved to Texas in 1917.
Cooper's 30 career PGA Tour titles are still the record for most wins without a major, but he finished as a runner-up four times — twice at The Masters and twice at the U.S. Open. Despite having been born in England, Cooper never played in the British Open and never competed for Europe in the Ryder Cup.
Cooper was known for his fast pace of play — he would routinely finish rounds of 18 holes in under three hours. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1992 and died in 2000 at 96 years old.
7. Bernard Gallacher
Born: Feb. 9, 1949 (Bathgate, Scotland)
Turned pro: 1967
Estimated career earnings: $14.5 million
Career highlights: European Tour Rookie of the Year (1968)
Bottom line: Bernard Gallacher is our deep-cut addition to the list — he was the youngest European player in Ryder Cup history at 20 years old in 1968 and played on eight Ryder Cup teams, never winning once despite playing some of his best golf.
Gallacher cemented his place on this list by winning 22 times on the European Tour and European Senior Tour but never making a dent at any of the four majors, with a career-high finish at the 1973 British Open ... when he tied for 18th.
6. Rickie Fowler
Born: Dec. 13, 1988 (Murrieta, California)
Turned pro: 2009
Estimated career earnings: $50.8 million
Career highlights: Masters Tournament runner-up (2018), U.S. Open runner-up (2014), British Open runner-up (2014), PGA Tour Rookie of the Year (2010), Ben Hogan Award (2008), Ryder Cup champion (2016), Presidents Cup champion (2015, 2017, 2019)
Bottom line: If you can just focus on what he's done on the course and not how famous he's become, Rickie Fowler fits in just fine amongst this crew of golfers.
Fowler, who has a staggering $50.5 million in career golf earnings just past his 34th birthday, has four top-three finishes at majors in the last decade, including runner-up finishes at the Masters in 2018 and U.S. Open and British Open runner-up finishes in 2014. Fowler has struggled in recent years and barely retained his tour card in 2022, but should he ever win a major, it would be one of the biggest sports stories in the world.
5. Ian Poulter
Born: Jan. 10, 1976 (Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England)
Turned pro: 1995
Estimated career earnings: $33.2 million
Career highlights: British Open runner-up (2008), European Tour Rookie of the Year (2000), Ryder Cup champion (2004, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2018)
Bottom line: Any conversation about Ian Poulter probably starts with his dominance as a member of Europe's Ryder Cup teams, where he's come out on top five times in the last 20 years. Poulter's success in the Ryder Cup hasn't translated to success in majors, where he has eight top-10 finishes, including a runner-up finish at the 2008 British Open.
He's also a bit of a fashionista — he has his own fashion house, IJP Design, and BBC commentator and golf legend Seve Ballesteros once commented, "that's as close as (Poulter) will ever get to it," when Poulter wore pants featuring the Claret Jug at the British Open. He also once wore a jersey of his favorite soccer club, Arsenal, during a European Tour event … which led the European Tour to ban golfers from wearing soccer jerseys during tournament play.
4. Paul Casey
Born: July 21, 1977 (Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England)
Turned pro: 2000
Estimated career earnings: $41.5 million
Career highlights: PGA Championship runner-up (2020), European Tour Rookie of the Year (2001), European Tour Golfer of the Year (2006), Ryder Cup champion (2004, 2005, 2018)
Bottom line: Paul Casey hopped the pond from his native England to the U.S. to become a college golf star at Arizona State in the late 1990s, winning three consecutive Pac-12 championships from 1998 to 2000. He also broke Stanford golfer Tiger Woods' Pac-12 championship scoring record in 2000.
Like a lot of golfers on this list, Casey has grabbed headlines with his play in a team setting by helping lead Europe to three Ryder Cup championships, where he's the only golfer in Ryder Cup history to win a foursome with a hole-in-one.
Casey rose as high as No. 3 in the World Golf Rankings in 2009 and has 12 top-10 finishes at majors, including a runner-up finish at the 2020 PGA Championship. Casey's dreams of ever winning a major likely came to an end when he joined the LIV Golf tour in July 2022, although the $5 million he's earned in less than two years with LIV probably softens the blow.
3. Charles Howell III
Born: June 20, 1979 (Augusta, Georgia)
Turned pro: 2000
Estimated career earnings: $44.2 million
Career highlights: PGA Tour Rookie of the Year (2001), Haskins Award (2000), Presidents Cup champion (2007)
Bottom line: Former Oklahoma State star Charles Howell III has crafted one of the more unique careers in all of professional sports. In over 20 years on the PGA Tour, he has won just three times and never in a major. You know what he has done? Become one of the most consistent golfers in the world, with 90 finishes in the top 10.
What's weird about Howell is that consistency seems to disintegrate when it comes to playing in major tournaments. Not only has he never won one, but he's also never really come close, finishing in the top 10 just once at the PGA Championship in 2010.
Howell joined the LIV Golf tour in 2022, throwing a significant wrench in his quest to finally winning a major but almost guaranteeing he'll pass $50 million in career earnings.
2. Matt Kuchar
Born: June 21, 1978 (Winter Park, Florida)
Turned pro: 2000
Estimated career earnings: $63.2 million
Career highlights: British Open runner-up (2017), Byron Nelson Award (2010), Haskins Award (1998), Ryder Cup champion (2016), Presidents Cup champion (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019), Olympic bronze medalist (2016)
Bottom line: Matt Kuchar's career seemed dead in the water just a few years into his pro career when he lost his tour card in 2006 and ended up on the Nationwide Tour for a year before he bounced back and became one of the biggest moneymakers in PGA Tour history.
Kuchar's resiliency has also made him one of the most popular players on tour — among fans and other pros — despite never having won a major. Kuchar came close in 2017 with a runner-up finish at the British Open and has finished in the top 10 at majors 12 times in his career.
While Kuchar hasn't posted a top-10 finish in a major since 2019, and his chances to eventually grab a major win seem to have almost totally faded, he still has over $60 million in career earnings.
1. Lee Westwood
Born: April 24, 1973 (Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England)
Turned pro: 1993
Estimated career earnings: $72.6 million
Career highlights: Two-time Masters Tournament runner-up (2010, 2016), British Open runner-up (2010), four-time European Tour Golfer of the Year (1998, 2000, 2009, 2020), seven-time Ryder Cup champion (1997, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2012, 2014)
Bottom line: If you've watched golf with any consistency in the last 30 years, you should be well-versed in what a force Lee Westwood has been despite never winning a major — he's one of just two players, alongside Luke Donald, to reach No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings without winning one of the four signature events.
Westwood has won titles on either the PGA Tour or European Tour in four consecutive decades dating back to the 1990s and has been one of the greatest champions in Ryder Cup history with seven wins in 10 appearances.
Westwood has come agonizingly close to winning a major. He has three runner-up finishes, including twice at The Masters and once at the British Open. And twice, he's taken the lead into the final round at a major — The Masters in 2010 and British Open in 2013.