Raymond Floyd carried an aura as a competitor and a winner that drew fear from his rivals whenever his name went on a leader board, which it did during four different decades.
In notching 22 PGA TOUR victories, including four major championships from 1963 to 1992, Floyd distinguished himself as a player without a discernible weakness and whose strengths were a superb short game and an obvious mental toughness. The latter was manifested in his distinctive stare, the look of complete concentration that invariably took over his features when he was in contention for a title. “I’ve seen Raymond win without it, but I’ve never seen him lose with it,” said his wife, Maria, the person Floyd maintains has been the key figure in his long career.
When Floyd’s game was on, he was capable of some of the hottest 72-hole forays ever seen. In 1976, he won the Masters by eight strokes with a then-record-tying score of 271, using a 5-wood to consistently hit the par-5s in two and playing them in 16 under par for the week. At the 1982 PGA Championship at Southern Hills, Floyd was again on fire, opening with a record 63 and going wire-to-wire again to win by three.
Along with his explosiveness, Floyd had longevity. He and Sam Snead are the only players ever to win official events in four different decades. In 1992, he became the first player to win on the PGA TOUR and Champions Tour in the same year.
"I decided to find out how good I could be, and it made a huge difference."
Floyd was born Sept. 4, 1942, in Fort Bragg, N.C. His father was a golf professional in the military managing a driving range and later a golf course at Fort Bragg. At 17, Floyd won the National Jaycees, but almost became a professional baseball player before turning down an offer to pitch in the Cleveland Indians farm system.
He joined the tour in 1963 and won in his 11th start at the St. Petersburg Open. Floyd was obviously talented, a long hitter with a gifted short game, but he won only once more in the next six years. By his own admission, the young Floyd was as interested in having a good time away from the golf course as getting the most from his game on it.
Raymond Floyd, at age 51, was the oldest player to compete in a Ryder Cup when he did so in 1993.
But in 1969, he set a goal to win $100,000, win a major championship and make the Ryder Cup team. He did all three while taking the 1969 PGA Championship. Still, Floyd did not become a truly dedicated player until his marriage to Maria Fraietta in 1973. “She got me to respect my ability,” said Floyd. “I decided to find out how good I could be, and it made a huge difference.” Beginning in 1975, Floyd averaged a victory a year for the next 17 years. In 1983, he won the Vardon Trophy.
Floyd’s crowning achievement was winning the 1986 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. Floyd had never played particularly well at the Open, posting only two top-10 finishes in his previous 18 tries. But the spacious feel of Shinnecock brought out his best. He played controlled golf, put together a flawless back nine on Sunday and won by two strokes.
The only major Floyd never won was the British Open, where he tied for second at St. Andrews in 1978 and was joint third in 1981.
Floyd was one of the first players to combine tremendous power with a soft touch, making him an important player in the evolution of the modern game. Floyd’s short game is considered exemplary, and he is often acknowledged as one of the greatest chippers the game has ever seen.