What Does Wire To Wire Mean In Golf?

One phrase that you may have heard when watching golf on TV before is ‘wire to wire’.

This article explains in detail what ‘wire to wire’ means in golf. If you’re eager to find out more about the sport then read on!

What Does Wire To Wire Mean In Golf
Ingee Chun 2022 KPMG Champion – All-Pro Reels CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr

Definition Of Wire-To-Wire

Wire-to-wire is a term used in many sports, including golf and horse racing. It means to lead from the start of a competition or tournament all the way through to its finish. In other words, it’s when you hold onto first place right up until the end!

The term originated in horse racing where the start and finish lines would have a wire so horse that led from start to finish went wire-to-wire.

In golf, this usually happens when one golfer dominates their opponents and has such an impressive level of skill that week that they can’t be overtaken no matter how hard everyone else tries.

Because there can be as many as 156 players in a professional tournament it’s pretty rare to see many wire-to-wire winners in golf. Especially if you don’t include golfers who were tied for the lead at the end of any round.

Of course, because not every player starts at the same time you have to use the positions at the end of every round. 

Woods wins 2000 US Open

Wire-To-Wire Major Champions

There are only 4 major championships per year so the chances of a wire-to-wire victory are reduced straight away. Despite this, one of the four majors has been won wire-to-wire on quite a few occasions. Over four rounds of the toughest championships in golf, it’s a surprise to me that it has happened as often as it has.

Let’s run through major championship history to see which of the greats of the game have managed to hold the lead from start to finish in one of the tournaments.

The Masters Tournament

YearPlayerTies or No TiesScoresMargin of Victory
1941Craig WoodNo Ties66-71-71-72=2803
1960Arnold PalmerNo Ties67-73-72-70=2821
1972Jack NicklausNo Ties68-71-73-74=2863
1976Raymond FloydNo Ties65-66-70-70=2718
2015Jordan SpiethNo Ties64-66-70-70=2704
2020Dustin JohnsonTies65-70-65-68=2685
Masters wire-to-wire champions

The Masters’ committee doesn’t consider wire-to-wire victories where the player was tied at any time but I think that’s a little unfair so I have included Dustin Johnson’s win in 2020 since he crossed the finish line with the record-low score of 268.

US Open

YearPlayerTies or No TiesScoreMargin of Victory
1903Willie AndersonTies73-76-76-82=307Playoff
1906Alex SmithTies73-74-73-75=2957
1914Walter HagenNo Ties68-74-75-73=2901
1916Charles Evans Jr. (Chick Evans) (amateur)Ties70-69-74-73=2862
1921Jim BarnesNo Ties69-75-73-72=2899
1953Ben HoganNo Ties67-72-73-71=2836
1958Tommy BoltTies71-71-69-72=2834
1970Tony JacklinNo Ties71-70-70-70=2817
1972Jack NicklausTies71-73-72-74=2903
1977Hubert GreenTies69-67-72-70=2781
1980Jack NicklausTies63-71-70-68=2722
1991Payne StewartTies67-70-73-72=282Playoff
2000Tiger WoodsNo Ties65-69-71-67=27215
2001Retief GoosenTies66-70-69-71=276Playoff
2002Tiger WoodsNo Ties67-68-70-72=2773
2011Rory McIlroyNo Ties65-66-68-69=2688
2014Martin KaymerNo Ties65-65-72-69=2718
US Open wire-to-wire champions

The victory of Chick Evans in 1916 is noteworthy for two other reasons. Firstly is one of the few amateur golfers to win a major championship and secondly, he did so with only seven golf clubs in his bag!

Koepka wins 2019 PGA at Bethpage Black

PGA Championship

The US PGA championship only changed from matchplay to strokeplay in 1958 so there have been fewer opportunities for a dominant golfer to lead after each of the four rounds of play. Tiger Woods managed to win two majors with wire-to-wire victories in his miraculous 2000 season of course he went on to win the Masters in 2001 to complete the Tiger Slam.

YearPlayerTies or No TiesScoresMargin of Victory
1964Bobby NicholsNo Ties64-71-69-67=2713
1969Raymond FloydTies69-66-67-74=2761
1971Jack NicklausNo Ties70-69-66-69=2747
1982Raymond FloydNo Ties63-69-68-72=2723
1983Hal SuttonNo Ties65-66-72-71=2741
2000Tiger WoodsTies66-67-70-67=270Playoff
2019Brooks KoepkaNo Ties63-65-70-74=2722
PGA wire-to-wire champions

The Open Championship

The oldest major golf tournament which started in 1860 has seen its fair share of players leading from the first round to the last.

YearPlayerTies or No TiesScoresMargin of Victory
1899Harry VardonTies76-76-81-77=3105
1900J.H. TaylorTies79-77-78-75=3098
1903Harry VardonTies73-77-72-78=3006
1912Ted Ray No Ties71-73-76-75=2954
1927Bobby Jones (amateur)No Ties68-72-73-72=2856
1932Gene Sarazen No Ties70-69-70-74=2835
1934Henry CottonNo Ties67-65-72-79=2835
1971Lee TrevinoTies69-70-69-70=2781
1973Tom WeiskopfNo Ties68-67-71-70=2763
1974Gary PlayerTies69-68-75-70=2824
2005Tiger WoodsNo Ties66-67-71-70=2745
2014Rory McIlroyNo Ties66-66-68-71=2712
2017Jordan SpiethTies65-69-65-69=2683
The Open wire-to-wire champions

Players With Multiple Wire-to-Wire Triumphs

In majors, the only players to date (April 2023) to have multiple wire-to-wire wins are:

Jack Nicklaus – 4

Tiger Woods – 4

Raymond Floyd – 3

Rory McIlroy – 2

Jordan Spieth – 2

Harry Vardon – 2

Women’s Major Championships That Have Been Won Wire-to-Wire

The women’s majors have much shorter histories than the men’s but even so, they have still managed to produce some champions that have led from the beginning to the end.

Chevron Championship

None of these winners were tied at the end of any round.

1986Pat Bradley
1987Betsy King
1989Juli Inkster
1991Amy Alcott
1998Pat Hurst
2000Karrie Webb
2021Patty Tavatanakit
Chevron wire-to-wire champions
Mickey Wright

US Women’s Open

1954Babe Zaharias
1955Fay Crocker (no ties)
1958Mickey Wright (no ties)
1963Mary Mills
1967Catherine Lacoste
1968Susie Berning (no ties)
1970Donna Caponi
1971JoAnne Carner
US Women’s Open wire-to-wire champions

KPMG Women’s PGA Championship

1955Beverly Hanson
1958Mickey Wright (no ties)
1962Judy Kimball
1967Kathy Whitworth
1968Sandra Post
1982Jan Stephenson
1985Nancy Lopez (no ties)
1992Betsy King
1998Se Ri Pak (no ties)
2010Christie Kerr
2011Yani Tseng (no ties)
2019Hannah Green (no ties)
2022Ingee Chun (no ties)
Women’s PGA wire-to-wire champions
Lorena Ochoa

Women’s Open Championship

2005Jeong Jang (no ties)
2007Lorena Ochoa (no ties)
Women’s Open Championship wire-to-wire champions

Evian Championship

No wire-to-wire champions so far.

Female Players With Multiple Wire-to-Wire Triumphs

Betsy King – 2

Mickey Wright – 2

What Does Wire To Wire Mean In Golf: Summary

In summary, a wire-to-wire win is an impressive feat that has been accomplished by some of the greatest golfers in history. It takes exceptional skill and focus to win a tournament in such a fashion and probably a little bit of luck too, which makes it all the more impressive when someone manages to do so.

Whether you hope to achieve your own wire-to-wire victory or just appreciate the spectacle of others doing so, understanding what wire-to-wire means in golf is essential for any fan of the sport.

Go here if you want more golf terminology explained.

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