I hope to give all of you some food for thought and welcome your critical comments. Keep in mind that I am not an expert, just an avid golfer and love the topic.
When all is said and done, I think the microscopically short list of the best ever in the "modern" era should be in alphabetical order: Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones (in a different category), Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods,(Before them, including Walter Hagen,we have an entirely different topic.)
At 38 y.o. Tiger's window of opportunity to win 4 more "majors" to tie Jack's 14 is clearly closing quickly. Even Tiger talks about the relevancy of the majors. Tiger may be a spectacular physical specimen but unless he restrains and retrains himself, his body is going to breakdown. There is time, but .... For discussion, I looked up some facts which have probably already been listed before.
Jack won his last of 14 majors at the following, approximate ages:
no. 15 at age 38, nos. 16 and 17 at age 40, and no. 18 at age 46.
Hagen won the last of his 11 majors at approximately 37.
Hogan won 9 majors, despite serving in the Armed Forces during WWII from '43 to '45, and the near tragic accident of '49 at age 36. Having heroically rebuilt his body and his swing he won majors at the following, approximate ages:
no 4 at age 38, no 5 at age 39, nos 6, 7 and 8 at age 41
Does anyone think Tiger is as fierce and determined as this man? Not me.
Gary Player (no one ever more fit) won his last of 9 majors at the following, approximate ages:
nos. 7 and 8 at age 39 and no. 9 at age 43
Tom Watson won the last of his 8 majors at age 34.
Gene Sarazen won the last of his 7 majors at age 33.
Sam Snead won the last of his 7 majors at age 42
Palmer won the last of his 7 majors at age 35
Harry Vardon's last of 7 at age 44.
Lee Trevino's last of 6 at age 45
NIck Faldo's last of 6 at age 39
Mickelson with 5 is still playing, last one in 2013 at age 44.
Count them, of the approximately 125 majors, only 16 were won by players of 38 years or older. If one eliminates the age of 38, there have only been 6 players who have won at age 39 or older. Among this hall of fame group of 12, collectively there have been only 8 majors won. Only 1 of them, Hogan, won more than 1.
Tiger has played in approximately 70 majors and won 14, a 20% win streak. However, he is 0 for the last 20, a trend going in reverse.
Tiger's narrow window appears to be 38 and 41 (only 16 majors) to put himself in position to catch Jack. He hasn't won a major since 2008. The last time he won 2 in a season was 2006. Unless he pulls a "Hogan," 4 wins at ages 39 to 43, I don't see it happening.
If Tiger hadn't gone off the ranch with his ridiculous military, narcissistic style training leading to injuries and the distractions of his public indiscretions (2009), he might have made it more easily.
What a waste. What could have been?
Just as a last thought. Check out how many multiple "majors" winners Jack played against v. how many Tiger has played against.
I do very much lean toward Jack as No. 1 for several reasons, not the least of which are his 19 seconds and 8 come from behind victories to Tiger's 0. I do recognize Tiger's status as No. 2 in waiting for No. 1. There is time for him but not much. I would also put Hogan at No. 2 all-time, giving him serious credit for his WWII and accident "lost years. "
This is not the golden age of golf; this is the golden age of equipment.