Vardon Trophy for Low Scoring Average on the PGA Tour

Tiger Woods won the Vardon Trophy more than anyone else

Every year, the golfer who leads the PGA Tour in scoring average receives (among other things) the Vardon Trophy. But the Vardon Trophy is not awarded by the PGA Tour — it is given out by a different organization. And it has slightly different qualifying criteria compared to the PGA Tour's own award for scoring average.

The Vardon Trophy is awarded by the PGA of America. The PGA Tour has its own award for lowest season scoring average called the Byron Nelson Award. In both cases, it is adjusted scoring average, not actual scoring average, that is the basis for the award. (Actual scoring average is simply a golfer's total strokes in the year divided by rounds played. Adjusted scoring average is weighted to take into account field strength and golf course difficulty.)

The biggest difference between the awards, aside from which organization doles them out, is that the PGA of America sets 60 rounds played as the minimum to qualify for the Vardon Trophy, while the PGA Tour's own award sets the minimum rounds at only 50. That difference does, occasionally, lead to different golfers winning the two awards in a given year.

Why two awards, and why does the PGA of America, which has nothing to do with the PGA Tour, give out an award to PGA Tour members? The Vardon Trophy has been awarded since 1937 and, at that time, the PGA of America was the organization that oversaw what eventually came to be called the PGA Tour. So for decades, the Vardon Trophy was the only award that recognized PGA Tour scoring average leaders.

Eventually, in the 1960s and 1970s, the PGA Tour pulled away from the PGA of America to become a fully independent organization. But the PGA of America continued handing out the Vardon Trophy (it also continues to name a Player of the Year Award winner, another vestige of its long-ago time in charge of the pro tour). It wasn't until 1993 that the PGA Tour began awarding its own trophy for low scoring average, the Byron Nelson Award.

Winners of the Vardon Trophy

The golfer's winning scoring average is also listed. Changes in the criteria required to win the Vardon Trophy are also noted in the list.

Based on adjusted scoring average, minimum 60 rounds played on the PGA Tour:

2021 — Jon Rahm, 69.30
2020 — Webb Simpson, 68.98 (44-round minimum due to COVID-19 pandemic's effect on schedule)
2019 — Rory McIlroy, 69.06
2018 — Dustin Johnson, 68.70
2017 — Jordan Spieth, 68.85
2016 — Dustin Johnson, 69.17
2015 — Jordan Spieth, 68.91
2014 — Rory McIlroy, 68.83
2013 — Tiger Woods, 68.98
2012 — Rory McIlroy, 68.87
2011 — Luke Donald, 68.86
2010 — Matt Kuchar, 69.61
2009 — Tiger Woods, 68.05
2008 — Sergio Garcia, 69.12
2007 — Tiger Woods, 67.79
2006 — Jim Furyk, 68.86
2005 — Tiger Woods, 68.66
2004 — Vijay Singh, 68.84
2003 — Tiger Woods, 68.41
2002 — Tiger Woods, 68.56
2001 — Tiger Woods, 68.81
2000 — Tiger Woods, 67.79
1999 — Tiger Woods, 68.43
1998 — David Duval, 69.13
1997 — Nick Price, 68.98
1996 — Tom Lehman, 69.32
1995 — Steve Elkington, 69.92
1994 — Greg Norman, 68.81
1993 — Nick Price, 69.11
1992 — Fred Couples, 69.38
1991 — Fred Couples, 69.59
1990 — Greg Norman, 69.10
1989 — Greg Norman, 69.49
1988 — Chip Beck, 69.46

Based on actual scoring average, minimum of 80 rounds played, and PGA of America membership required:

1987 — Dan Pohl, 70.25
1986 — Scott Hoch, 70.08
1985 — Don Pooley, 70.36
1984 — Calvin Peete, 70.56
1983 — Raymond Floyd, 70.61
1982 — Tom Kite, 70.21
1981 — Tom Kite, 69.80
1980 — Lee Trevino, 69.73
1979 — Tom Watson, 70.27
1978 — Tom Watson, 70.16
1977 — Tom Watson, 70.32
1976 — Don January, 70.56
1975 — Bruce Crampton, 70.57
1974 — Lee Trevino, 70.53
1973 — Bruce Crampton, 70.57
1972 — Lee Trevino, 70.89
1971 — Lee Trevino, 70.27
1970 — Lee Trevino, 70.64
1969 — Dave Hill, 70.34
1968 — Billy Casper, 69.82
1967 — Arnold Palmer, 70.18
1966 — Billy Casper, 70.27
1965 — Billy Casper, 70.85
1964 — Arnold Palmer, 70.01
1963 — Billy Casper, 70.58
1962 — Arnold Palmer, 70.27
1961 — Arnold Palmer, 69.85
1960 — Billy Casper, 69.95
1959 — Art Wall, 70.35
1958 — Bob Rosburg, 70.11
1957 — Dow Finsterwald, 70.30
1956 — Cary Middlecoff, 70.35
1955 — Sam Snead, 69.86
1954 — Dutch Harrison, 70.41
1953 — Lloyd Mangrum, 70.22
1952 — Jack Burke, 70.54
1951 — Lloyd Mangrum, 70.05
1950 — Sam Snead, 69.23
1949 — Sam Snead, 69.37
1948 — Ben Hogan, 69.30
1947 — Jimmy Demaret, 69.90

Vardon Trophy Points Winners
(From 1937 through 1941, the Vardon Trophy was awarded on a points basis, with points earned through various achievements throughout the year.)

1941 — Ben Hogan, 494 points
1940 — Ben Hogan, 423
1939 — Byron Nelson, 473
1938 — Sam Snead, 520
1937 — Harry Cooper, 500

Golfers With the Most Vardon Trophy Wins

No one comes close to Tiger Woods' record of nine different years winning the Vardon Trophy. But there are multiple golfers with three or more wins each:

  • 9 wins — Tiger Woods, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2013
  • 5 wins — Billy Casper, 1960, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1968
  • 5 wins — Lee Trevino, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1980
  • 4 wins — Arnold Palmer, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1967
  • 4 wins — Sam Snead, 1938, 1949, 1950, 1955
  • 3 wins — Ben Hogan, 1940, 1941, 1948
  • 3 wins — Rory McIlroy, 2012, 2014, 2019
  • 3 wins — Greg Norman, 1989, 1990, 1994
  • 3 wins — Tom Watson, 1977, 1978, 1979
No Jack Nicklaus? No, because most years Nicklaus wasn't eligible. In the early part of his career, he did not have PGA of America membership; from the middle part of his career on, he rarely met the minimun-rounds-played requirement.

Why Did the PGA of America Name the Trophy After the British Harry Vardon?

The PGA of America established the Vardon Trophy award in 1937. But why did the organization name it after Harry Vardon? After all, Vardon was British, not American. One reason is that in 1937, Vardon would have been considered the greatest professional golfer of all-time (topping Walter Hagen; Bobby Jones would have been considered No. 1 overall, but all of his wins happened as an amateur).

But the bigger consideration was that Harry Vardon died in 1937. That was the precipitating event that led to the Vardon Trophy's creation: When Vardon died, the PGA of America, to honor this legend of the game, decided to create an award and name it after him.

Photo credit: "Tiger Woods iron off the tee" by Tour Pro Golf Clubs is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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