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Jack or Tiger: Who's the greatest - Page 216

Poll Results: Tiger or Jack: Who's the best?

 
  • 69% (1634)
    Tiger Woods is the man
  • 30% (716)
    Jack Nicklaus is my favorite
2350 Total Votes  
post #3871 of 4670
I think the best post I've read on the subject of relative competition across eras is Brocks' post describing the number of entrants for US Open qualifying. And it pains me to say that, because he's an arrogant blowhard with little tolerance for anyone else's opinion. But he does his research and it was a very compelling post.
post #3872 of 4670
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jakester23 View Post

That's my point golfingdad. Its not like the guys in the wgc events go there for a top ten. They all want/expect to win.

LOL ... I should have said "Yeah, AND even ..." instead of "Yeah, BUT even ..." ;)  My response looked like a rebuttal to you but it was actually an extension of my rebuttal to phan, whilst agreeing with you.  Sorry about the confusion. ;)

post #3873 of 4670

Many feel the levels of the other players in Jack's era was lower than the levels of the competition today, in Tiger's era

 

 

Many people do in fact discount many of their Stanley Cups. It's easier to be the best team out of six than out of 20+.

 

 

 

 

Reply to quote 1: How do you come to this conclusion? Had their been rankings in those days, are you saying Jack was #1 and everyone #2 ??? Of course not. Nobody had an edge, with the exception of Tiger, who one would say is probably the first golfer to come in and showed the importance of fitness and conditioning. 

 

 

Reply to quote 2: Yes, I won't say easier as in the odds are certainly in your favor but the fact remains that they won with what they had against the competition they had. I would dare say take any team from today's era and have them play the 1946 Montreal Canadiens with the same conditioning and equipment and they would probably get beat.

post #3874 of 4670
Quote:
Originally Posted by phan52 View Post
 

 

Well, that is exactly what I am saying. The guys in the top 50 assuredly have expectations but, again, even for them there are other factors. Staying in the top 50 gets them further privileges (exemptions in to Majors, for example), as does getting in the top 30, and so on. The rankings gets them bonuses from their sponsors. For players on the PGA Tour today there are so many perks for where they are ranked that it has to be a part of their thinking every week, in my opinion.

I don;t know how you can say any professional athlete outside of a small handful in any sport plays at 100% all the time to the best of their abilities. For golfers I think it is even moreso. The competition is so tremendous that they would get eaten alive otherwise. Just because guys think in the back of their mind that staying in the top 10 will allow them to make a decent living doesn't mean that when they're in a tournament, that kind of thinking enters into the way they play except in very, very few instances (I would imagine. I can;t speak from experience). Very few. In a "Who's better, Jack or Tiger" thread, this mini-discussion involves assessing how drive and determination affected the competition's strength, and I don;t think any of the points you make, whether true or not, have anything to do with that. Are you saying that a golfer in the 1960s, because they "needed to eat", was a tougher competitor mentally than a "complacent" mid-level guy today who can make good living at top 10 finishes? I think it might have the opposite effect on the competition level. Guys who were struggling to make ends meet didn't work harder, they got a regular job and quit competitive golf. Heck, some guy in this thread a while back said Jack Nicklaus almost wanted to be an insurance salesman because he didn;t know if he could make a living out of golf. Do you think Tiger Woods, or Phil Mickelson, or Rory McIlroy were thinking that after age 5? 

post #3875 of 4670
We can only really know when tiger stops competing, or until he beats jack's record in majors.
post #3876 of 4670
Quote:
Originally Posted by busapp View Post
 

It is hard to compare golfers from different eras.  If Jack would have had the advantages of equipment, training, technology and history which Tiger has taken advantage of, then likely the two would be relatively equal.  But this is mere fantasizing.  The point is that Tiger has taken advantage of modern technology and advantages.  As a result, he is the greater golfer.  In addition, Tiger has impacted the game in a larger manner than even Jack.  Tiger is a phenomenon, a larger than life figure, who has touched almost all golfers, and numerous people who have never played golf.  He has attracted African Americans into golf, he has encouraged all ethnic groups, and has changed the face of golf, the open-ness of golf forever.  He did not do this by intention, but just be being who he was at the right time in history.  What truly sets Tiger apart is the impact he has had on the young golfers.  What an inspiration he has been (even though in his private life he has been a dismal failure).  He motivated a who generation of young golfers to take up the game, to become more physically fit, and to aim for the highest levels.  I do not encourage young golfers to emulate Tiger because of his terrible private life, but his influence has been monumental.  As a result, he may well be the greatest athlete in any sport of the current era.  Only Mohammed Ali comes to mind as someone who has a comparable impact in the world of sport.

 

None of this has anything to do with who was the greatest.  The simple fact is that Tiger was far more dominant in his time than Jack was in his.  Tiger was clearly the best player in 10-12 years, while Jack was clearly the best player in about a half dozen years.  he was always a top 3 player, but in most years he was not #1.  It is not an accident that Tiger has 11 POY awards while Jack only has 5.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by stephenf View Post
 

Shockingly, I didn't read all two-hundred-plus pages of the thread, no.  And I didn't have to, to know what Jack has said about the fields -- which anybody who has been around the game (as I have, as a lower-level playing pro, a teaching pro, and a sportswriter) knows is completely promotional.  Jack is just not the kind of guy who's going to tell you "Yeah, the top competition was way better when I played, so this thing you're seeing today is substandard product, nobody should get all that excited about Tiger's wins, everybody go home."  Just not going to happen no matter how true it is.

 

 

Except Jack made his comments in his 1996 autobiography, when it had nothing to do with Tiger.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mbrodeur86 View Post
 

Reply to quote 1: How do you come to this conclusion? Had their been rankings in those days, are you saying Jack was #1 and everyone #2 ??? Of course not. Nobody had an edge, with the exception of Tiger, who one would say is probably the first golfer to come in and showed the importance of fitness and conditioning. 

 

 

 

 

As noted above, Jack was NOT #1 almost every year as Tiger has been.  Again, to repeat, it is not an accident that Tiger has 11 POY awards while Jack only has 5.

post #3877 of 4670
Quote:
Originally Posted by stephenf View Post
 

Jack is just not the kind of guy who's going to tell you "Yeah, the top competition was way better when I played, so this thing you're seeing today is substandard product, nobody should get all that excited about Tiger's wins, everybody go home."  

 

Of course he wouldn't say that.  Because it would be false.  

 

You can repeat it however often you like, but it's untrue.  Jack may be greater than Tiger now, and may end up remaining greater when their careers are over.  But it definitely won't be because of better competition.

post #3878 of 4670
Quote:
Originally Posted by bplewis24 View Post
 

 

Of course he wouldn't say that.  Because it would be false.

 

You can repeat it however often you like, but it's untrue.  Jack may be greater than Tiger now, and may end up remaining greater when their careers are over.  But it definitely won't be because of better competition.

I agree.  Besides, I've always thought competition was over-rated as a metric anyway.  When somebody wins a competition (or comes in dead last) in a sport that doesn't have any defense, there is no way to measure the competition.

 

Golf or track and field, for example.

 

If you replace Justin Gatlin (I'm quite impressed with myself that I remember that name because it's been a long time since the last Olympics :)) with me, that doesn't make Usain Bolt slower.

post #3879 of 4670
Quote:
Originally Posted by Golfingdad View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by phan52 View Post
 

 

Today's fields are deeper with talent but, IMO, it is also lacking the competiveness of those days because of the 125 player exemption and the backup of the Web.com Tour, where you can still make hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is very easy to get comfortable with top 10's. Guys back in the day were playing weekly for their livlihood, where even a win didn't guarantee you a card for the next season. You had to finish in the top 60 on the money list to be guaranteed an exemption, for one year. TOP 60!! Monday qualifying was a way of life for many of the guys on the tour if they didn't make the cut on any given week. Q school graduates only got the priivilege to play in the Monday qualifiers. If you didn't have a killer instinct you were gone in a flash.

I agree with you that players of today make a better living than Jack's day.  Who wouldn't?  That isn't really even debatable.  However, I disagree that you can use that as any kind of barometer of field strength or depth.  It's not like they aren't trying to win.  And I could just as easily make the counter-argument that not having the stress of playing for food actually makes you play better, so the fields - because the players don't have any worries other than the shot at hand - are actually STRONGER because of that.**

 

Think about playing in a scramble and you're the last guy to hit a tee-shot.  Are you more likely to crank one long and down the middle after all 3 of your playing partners just sliced theirs OB, or after one of them is already safely in the fairway?

 

**  I'm NOT making that argument - My opinion is that it's a non-factor - but I think that argument is equally as valid as yours.

 

One of the first of the "journeymen" career players was Scott Hoch.  He was constantly panned by sports media for having plenty of talent, but  no apparent drive to do more than just make a living.  Now the money list is filled with them, and making a good living is, if anything even easier because the prize is so much more lucrative.  The drive to succeed beyond that point is becoming lost.  Guys come up with so much promise, but somewhere the promise is suborned by easy money.  Unless their competitive drive is truly exceptional, they just seem to stall out.  

 

It happens over and over, year after year.  They are either seduced by the money, or they simply can't handle the constant pressures of playing and meeting sponsors demands.  While I grant that one year doesn't yet mark his career, Rory McIlroy seems headed down that road.  It remains to be seen if he can dig himself out of his rut.  Most of Tiger's competition have been one hit (or one year) wonders.  In that respect, Jack's chief competition tended to have more longevity.

post #3880 of 4670
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fourputt View Post
 

 

It happens over and over, year after year.  They are either seduced by the money, or they simply can't handle the constant pressures of playing and meeting sponsors demands.  While I grant that one year doesn't yet mark his career, Rory McIlroy seems headed down that road.  It remains to be seen if he can dig himself out of his rut.  Most of Tiger's competition have been one hit (or one year) wonders.  In that respect, Jack's chief competition tended to have more longevity.

 

I would disagree with your assessment of Rory.  I think he will have staying power.  He is still very, very young in his career.

 

And it could easily be argued that Jack's chief competition had more perceived longevity because the field of strong contenders wasn't as deep.

 

Lastly, one thing that is going to continue to (ironically) improve Tiger's legacy, is Phil Mickelson's continued success.  It's difficult to suggest that Tiger lacked good competition when there is another guy who has top 10 credentials and was there throughout Tiger's career.

post #3881 of 4670
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fourputt View Post
 

 

One of the first of the "journeymen" career players was Scott Hoch.  He was constantly panned by sports media for having plenty of talent, but  no apparent drive to do more than just make a living.  Now the money list is filled with them, and making a good living is, if anything even easier because the prize is so much more lucrative.  The drive to succeed beyond that point is becoming lost.  Guys come up with so much promise, but somewhere the promise is suborned by easy money.  Unless their competitive drive is truly exceptional, they just seem to stall out.

 

It happens over and over, year after year.  They are either seduced by the money, or they simply can't handle the constant pressures of playing and meeting sponsors demands.  While I grant that one year doesn't yet mark his career, Rory McIlroy seems headed down that road.  It remains to be seen if he can dig himself out of his rut.  Most of Tiger's competition have been one hit (or one year) wonders.  In that respect, Jack's chief competition tended to have more longevity.

But couldn't the argument be made that the reason why Tiger's current competition seems to be more of the "one hit wonder" type be because there is MORE (and quite possibly better) competition?  Because it is so much harder for those guys to stay up there, because there are so many more players vying to take that spot away from them?  Seems like Jack facing less competitors more often is a tick in Tiger's favor.

 

Also, isn't the view of a guy like Scott Hoch simply an opinion of the media?  By that, I mean just because sportswriters say "He is an underacheiver," does that automatically make him one?  I could make the argument that if Hoch existed in Jacks day, he would be viewed as better competition for Jack simply because he had more longevity.  But, in reality, he only had more longevity because HE had less competition fighting him for the right to fight Jack.  Perhaps Scott Hoch's problem isn't that he lacked drive, but that he lacked timing?

 

This post smells very Gladwellian to me (Malcolm, that is)  ... And, yes, I'm patting myself on the back for that. ;)

 

EDIT:  Sorry @bplewis24 , I got so excited to write out my response to @Fourputt that I didn't even notice that you basically already said it. ;)  My bad.

post #3882 of 4670
Quote:
Originally Posted by Golfingdad View Post
 

But couldn't the argument be made that the reason why Tiger's current competition seems to be more of the "one hit wonder" type be because there is MORE (and quite possibly better) competition?  Because it is so much harder for those guys to stay up there, because there are so many more players vying to take that spot away from them?  Seems like Jack facing less competitors more often is a tick in Tiger's favor.

 

Uh huh.

 

If you have 100 players who are all pretty damn good the odds are high the wins will be spread out amongst them. When you have five good players and 95 "meh" ones then the major wins will concentrate themselves amongst the five.

post #3883 of 4670
Quote:
Originally Posted by Golfingdad View Post
 

But couldn't the argument be made that the reason why Tiger's current competition seems to be more of the "one hit wonder" type be because there is MORE (and quite possibly better) competition?  Because it is so much harder for those guys to stay up there, because there are so many more players vying to take that spot away from them?  Seems like Jack facing less competitors more often is a tick in Tiger's favor.

 

Also, isn't the view of a guy like Scott Hoch simply an opinion of the media?  By that, I mean just because sportswriters say "He is an underacheiver," does that automatically make him one?  I could make the argument that if Hoch existed in Jacks day, he would be viewed as better competition for Jack simply because he had more longevity.  But, in reality, he only had more longevity because HE had less competition fighting him for the right to fight Jack.  Perhaps Scott Hoch's problem isn't that he lacked drive, but that he lacked timing?

 

This post smells very Gladwellian to me (Malcolm, that is)  ... And, yes, I'm patting myself on the back for that. ;)

 

EDIT:  Sorry @bplewis24 , I got so excited to write out my response to @Fourputt that I didn't even notice that you basically already said it. ;)  My bad.

This is the crux of the debate.  I hear sports analysts always debating if Chamberlain or Jordan were the best in the NBA.  Chamberlain supporters always refer to how he dominated the game with seven scoring titles, 11 rebounding titles, four MVPs and a 100-point game.

 

The Jordan supporters cite the fact that with the exception of Russell, Chamberlain was a giant on the court and that given the height advantage he had he should have led his team to more titles.  They also believe that had Chamberlain played today his lack of height/size advantage, poor work ethic and lack of leadership skills might have resulted in a mediocre career. 

 

The analogy is that while Jack was a giant of his time, he might not have done as well if he had to compete against Tiger, Phil and the other top pro's of today every week.  Would he have had the confidence he demonstrated during his time if he was playing in the shadow of Tiger?  Obviously we'll never know the answer, but I can see the argument that Jack might not be "Jack" if he was born 20 years later.

post #3884 of 4670
Quote:
Originally Posted by Golfingdad View Post
If you replace Justin Gatlin (I'm quite impressed with myself that I remember that name because it's been a long time since the last Olympics :)) with me, that doesn't make Usain Bolt slower.

 

 

 

Actually, it may indeed "cause" Bolt run slower if the other runners are slower. If Bolt absolutely needed to run a 9.70 to win a race because there was someone else in the race with the ability to run close to that, then he probably runs 9.70. But suppose the next fastest guy is going to run 10.30, then maybe Bolt only runs 10.00.

 

If your round 3 lead is 1 shot aren't you going to play differently than if it is 7 shots? I think you are.

post #3885 of 4670
Quote:
Originally Posted by newtogolf View Post
The analogy is that while Jack was a giant of his time, he might not have done as well if he had to compete against Tiger, Phil and the other top pro's of today every week.  Would he have had the confidence he demonstrated during his time if he was playing in the shadow of Tiger?  Obviously we'll never know the answer, but I can see the argument that Jack might not be "Jack" if he was born 20 years later.

 

 

 

 

You're right, we will never know that answer. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and almost any reasoned argument is as valid as any other in answer to this question.

post #3886 of 4670
I think the fact that this can be debated when Tiger still has plenty of good years left is amazing. I don't remember that being the case in any other sport.
post #3887 of 4670
Quote:
Originally Posted by newtogolf View Post
 

 Obviously we'll never know the answer, but I can see the argument that Jack might not be "Jack" if he was born 20 years later.

 

In my humble opinion, Jack would still have been Jack because he was that good.  However, I believe he may not have had as many 2nd place finishes as he did.  The rationale behind that being, when he was at his best, he would still be the best.  But when he wasn't, a stronger field would push him further down the list of finishers.  For the sake of this hypothetical, I'm assuming he's not competing against Woods, as it is unfair to both of them to try and project their ability to win in the era of another one-in-a-generation type of talent.  I try and contemplate it as if he was replacing Woods, and vice versa.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 9iron View Post
 

 

 

 

Actually, it may indeed "cause" Bolt run slower if the other runners are slower. If Bolt absolutely needed to run a 9.70 to win a race because there was someone else in the race with the ability to run close to that, then he probably runs 9.70. But suppose the next fastest guy is going to run 10.30, then maybe Bolt only runs 10.00.

 

Except that Bolt didn't ever need to run 9.7 or 19.1.  Both times he blew away the field, and in one of those instances the only person that could have beaten him was injured and not racing.  So that kinda disproves the theory that he would run slower.

post #3888 of 4670
Quote:
Originally Posted by iacas View Post
 

 

Nope. If it were provable, people would have proven it by now.

 

It's not a fact. It's an opinion, and as such, since it can't be proven, it will remain an opinion; one held by, among others, Jack Nicklaus.

 

 

If there are 80 people capable of winning the major being played, then that's far more daunting a task than beating eight, ten, or even twenty other people capable of winning the major. Jack faced far fewer people capable of winning the major than Tiger.

 

 

I'll take the current guys. :)

 

 

Let me put it to you this way. Let's assume that a "star" player is someone who is rated an A. A "good" player is someone rated like "B" or above.

 

Let's assume 100 players to keep things simple:

 

Jack vs. Tiger A Players B Players C Players D Players E Players
Fields in Jack's Era 5 10 30 30 25
Fields in Modern Era 10 50 38 2 N/A

 

I'm just making this up, but this speaks to the point I and others make: the fields are stronger today. If "C" players are capable of winning a major if the stars align, and "B" players simply need a good week, then in which era is it more difficult to win majors?

 

Let's do something crazy, even, and take the "10" in the modern era and make it a "3" and put the other 7 players wherever you choose. Do you still think that with 50 B players it's easy for the top three to win a bunch of majors?

 

Jack had less competition. In fact, you can name most of them (especially if you prefer to ignore the fact that many of the eras in which they won majors overlap at the edges of Jack's time).

 

Of course the stats (major victories) of Jack's peers are similarly inflated - they too benefited from the weaker fields.

 

Here's more of the foundation to my argument: far fewer people played golf at a high level in the 1960s and 70s. There was a much smaller pool of golfers to pull from. There was less money involved, so there was less training. The average ability of the average player on the PGA Tour is way, way higher now. Rather than pulling from the top 5% of pro golfers (making these percentages up, but you should get the point), we're now filling major championship fields from the top 0.5% of pro golfers. There are just so many more of them, that alone raises the bar, undeniably.

 

 

 

What a glurge.  "A" for effort, certainly, but the logic...man.

 

Let's work up from the bottom:

 

   1.  "Far fewer people played golf at a high level in the 1960s and 1970s."  Even assuming that's true, so what?  You're simply restating the premise when you say "there are just so many of them [better players, that is], that alone raises the bar, undeniably."  So if you add an "undeniably," it makes the argument?  The very question at hand is whether "more good players" equals more players in the category of players who can win majors in a way that keeps Woods from winning majors.  

 

   2.  You presume, but cannot prove, that the stats (I think you mean career win totals) of Jack's 1Bs are "inflated" because of a lack of competition -- specifically because of a lack of greater numbers.  Put another way, you merely restate another of your conclusions -- that "more" competition (more players) equals the notion of "better" competition, in the sense of making it harder for top players to win.  But you only assume it.  

 

     Do you know who the 100th-ranked player in the world is right now?  Victor Dubuisson.  Yes, that Victor Dubuisson.  104 is Paul Casey (you know him).  106 is Scott Jamieson.  Just behind them is Kevin Stadler.  The five from 95 to 99 are Ryan Palmer, Kevin Chappell, Luke Guthrie, Marcus Fraser, and Sung Joon Park.  I'm sure they're all fine players. But do you really contend that a surplus of players in that category make it harder for Tiger Woods to win a major than it was for Jack Nicklaus, or would've made it harder for Jack to win, if he'd had more of those guys to worry about?  Say it with a straight face. Try it.

 

     But the real hilarity of your assumption is its self-contradictory quality.  You appear to be saying that Jack's win totals, and the win totals of his top competitors, were due to the relatively lower number of guys who could shoot 72s and become millionaires without ever winning anything, so there were fewer midlevel players to challenge the top players.  But at the same time, you -- and inevitably others -- will point to Woods' easy wins, runaway wins, unchallenged wins, as evidence of his superiority.  Surely you see the irony in that argument.

 

     One of the problems with your meatball hypothetical statistics here is that you make no distinction between better and worse players when you talk about guys "with a chance to win."  With what chance?  A fluke chance?  These "80 guys" you're talking about, if you put them all together at the same time, were the odds on the winner coming from that group even as good as the top two of Jack's competitors from any phase of his career?  That would be a statistically answerable question.  I've got five bucks.  How about you?   

 

   3.  What I'm saying can in fact be "proven" in the sense of reaching a fairly high level of certitude.  Not absolute certainty, of course.  But an elevated level that is far better than speculation, assumption, and guesswork.

 

   4.  If you really think you'd want Woods' top four against Jack's top four, well...I'll just let people make of that what they will.  If you wanted a real game for Jack's top competition, you might have to go back to Hogan's era and pick up Nelson, Snead, and any other two top guys (I'd probably start with Demaret and Mangrum).  I suppose it goes without saying that all these players, including the top players during Woods' era, are supremely talented and capable, and there would be no wipeout.  That's just golf.  Despite the media wetting itself over Woods constantly, the truth is that if Woods played the #125 player in the world 10 times,and #125 played somewhere around his potential, Woods would win six or seven times.  That is a decisive series in this game.  If he averaged seven or eight wins, it would be absolutely dominating (and would be very hard to do against another pro).  Mickelson and Els at their best would get some wins against Snead and Nelson, or Watson and Trevino. (Hell, Jerry Kelly would've beat Jack Nicklaus on some days.)  But over several matches, history suggests you would see some differences start to emerge.

 

   5.  Re your repeated reliance on Jack's statements, you can keep repeating it without addressing anything I've said about it, but that isn't an argument, it's a proclamation.  Jack is going to be generous and promotional with the Tour that gave him a chance to be rich and famous.  If you know him at all, you know that much.  If you don't, you can't possibly evaluate what he's said about it. And it's not necessary to evaluate it anyway, because the argument from authority just isn't relevant here.  It is a mostly knowable thing whether the fields now are "better."  And besides, Jack has said contradictory things on this subject.  If you'd like to go through the history of those comments, we can do it.  We could start with what he said about what the new equipment would do to keep marginal players out there on tour winning millions of dollars over their career.  A proposition involving marginal players using game-improvement equipment does not equal a proposition that the competition now is oh-so-much tougher.

 

Anyway:  What you are ignoring in your theories based on what you consider to be self-evidence and "undeniability" regarding the sheer number of players and how much better you think they are (without any evidence to prove it), is the fact that you can make a pretty fair objective comparison of performances on an approximately even basis from era to era by looking at scores on similar courses and, where it makes sense to do so, adjusting for factors like vastly improved conditioning of courses, equipment changes, setup for championships, similar irons hit into greens, and so on.  When you do this, it becomes apparent quite rapidly that given the massive advantages of the modern pro, scores ought to be a helluva lot lower than they are.  The unadjusted scores of Woods-era players are no better than a stroke lower, sometimes not even that, than they were during the Nicklaus era.  That is an undeniable fact.  

 

This is true for the top players as well.  Average strokes for Vardon Trophy winners:  Nelson, 1945, 68.33.  Demaret, 1947, 69.9.  Trevino, 1980, 69.73.  Woods, 2013, 68.98.  The average Vardon winner during the Woods era has been at 68.69, but that's an adjusted average, and that's with all the previously mentioned advantages.  Even if you buy the notion of the adjusted averages -- and there are very good reasons not to -- you're talking about all of those massive advantages resulting in an improvement of about one shot per round -- less than two percent -- where you might expect three or four shots, or more.  Are all these advantages -- distances, far better and more receptive greens, courses set up not to embarrass players, etc. -- really not adding up to even one shot per nine holes? 

 

And there, we're talking about the top players, often Woods running at full speed without a challenge and without any fear of losing.  The average score on the PGA Tour is just about the same -- a stroke or less difference, generally, between eras.  The difference in the greens alone ought to be worth two to four shots a round. Talk to the players who played and/or taught and/or did broadcasts in both eras and ask them about the difference in the average Tour green of the '60s and '70s versus the greens now.  It's not close, and that matters.  A lot.  

.

So, around a stroke per round, some years not even that much, despite the differences in course conditioning and player conditioning, all the coaching and entourages, the generally easier setups, etc., and also despite the fact that nearly every pro plays with equipment that has various game-corrective features (including the ball) and a driver that allows the average player to hit it 25-30 farther than they used to.  Between the increased distances on the driver and on the irons, along with much faster fairways, you had players hitting 7- and 8-irons into #15 at Augusta before the changes were made there.  What you would need to prove your point is a serious difference in the per-round average score, and < one stroke won't do it

 

I'm wondering:  Are you aware of the MacGregor experiment from a few years ago, when they brought out a couple of Nicklaus-era persimmon drivers, no-help forged irons, and the old ball?  The average distance that players could hit the old persimmon was something like 245 to 255.  The longer hitters could get it to around 265-270.  Nobody hit it farther than Nicklaus or Snead used to; in fact, nobody even got that far.  And the iron distances were just where you'd expect them to be, typically 15-20 yards shorter for the same number -- 155 for the 7-iron, etc.  Which is yet another reason you're never going to see a "new guys play old equipment" tournament in the silly season, especially not with objective observers on site to measure distances and so forth.

 

Ironically, IMHO Woods at his best would've separated himself even more from the competition if they had been playing the old equipment, because his contact is so consistently good, which is to say he doesn't really need any of the game-improvement features, the perimeter weighting, etc.  Certain guys out there (Couples is another) are known as being able to put the sweet spot, or at least the center of the clubface, on the ball at a high rate, and Woods is on that very short list.  There are guys out there right now (which Nicklaus predicted, by the way) who are hanging around making three-quarter-million a year, shooting a lot of 71s, who probably wouldn't break 74 or 75 without the game-improvement features.  

 

(Just as an added personal note, I can tell you that the equipment really has made things entirely ridiculous.  I'm 53 and hit the ball at least 35-40 yards farther -- sometimes way more than that -- with the modern driver than I did at 25, playing as a plus-2 amateur and then as a pro.  With irons, even accounting for the lower lofts [which of course lead people to make all kinds of ridiculous comparisons to how far modern pros hit it versus how far Nicklaus-era pros hit it -- comparisons based on inflated figures, by the way ((check the USGA website sometime for the average 5-iron distance as strictly measured, not as reported by breathless, player-hyping TV announcers))], I hit it at least half a club farther than I did 30 years ago.  It's absolutely outlandish.  I can't even imagine what would've happened if I'd had this equipment in my 20s.  And you should try to imagine Snead or Nicklaus with these clubs, in their primes.  Just to keep up with the differences in distance, and not even accounting for the increased accuracy potential of the ball and the mishit-correcting features of clubs, you'd have to stretch every course by at least 40-50 yards per driving hole and at least 15-20 for every par-3, which would make the typical 7,000-yard course of the 1970s need to be around 7700 or 7800 just to keep up.)

 

In sum, you are missing the objective comparison that gives meaning to the relative comparison of players.  If I point out that Woods has been rarely challenged, and you can put forth evidence that this is because Woods is shooting 65 in final rounds to other players around the lead shooting 68s and 70s, then you have something.  But if I can show you that these other players are shooting scores that indicate they're throwing up all over themselves while Woods coasts to victory, that's a different matter.  

 

What would go a long way toward settling this question is finding out what were the average scores of top players who were within, say, three shots of the lead going into the final round (of a major, if you wanted to limit it to that -- but it would be useful to know the number both majors and all tournaments), back then versus now.  Or maybe you'd need to take the average scores of all players within three shots of the lead, and do a separate calculation to see whether the top players tended to do disproportionately well, and then compare eras.  (That's actually a question I'm looking into in a book project that's underway at the moment.)

 

Which brings us again to that question of how rarely (especially in his prime) Woods has had to worry about anything approaching a good performance in a final round by somebody tied with or just behind him.  Are you aware of just how often people have handed tournaments to him by failing in the last round?  Or how many times he's been able to win a playoff with a routine par?  I'm not blaming Woods for that.  All he can do is beat the people who are in front of him.  But where are the Watsons who could duel with him, throwing a 65 at his 66 in the final round of an Open?  Or the Trevinos who could push him to his absolute limit?  Name me even four times you can remember off the top of your head, over the past 17 years, who have pushed Woods in this way in a major, who've come out and hit him in the mouth and kept punching.

 

If you want, we can go through the '08 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines as an example.  It had most of the features of the Tiger Laydown, including a field where not one player anywhere near the lead could manage even a single stroke below 70 on the final day, from which emerged one single competitor (Mediate) who was just happy to be there and who refused to try to make a relatively routine shot to the 72nd hole (it's that par-5 with the billabong, but a lot of room to the right, with a fairly simple pitch or sand shot if you miss the green) that would've all but assured a winning birdie.  Both players (Woods and Mediate) limped to a one-under finish (with Woods shooting 73 in the final round, without anyone passing him) and went to a playoff, where they both struggled to tie at even par, then went to sudden death, where Mediate promptly and obligingly pulled out the same club he'd missed the fairway with earlier that day and the day before, on the exact same hole, and missed it in exactly the same spot in the left rough.  (Try to imagine somebody like Trevino doing that, or even missing the fairway in the first place.  Or even a Floyd or Irwin.)  After a couple more hacks by Mediate, Woods simply two-putted for par and the win.

 

Now, you may say it's true that U.S. Opens sometimes go like this, without tons of birdies in playoffs and such.  Okay.  But 37 holes in friendly weather, and neither player could do better than one under, and not one other leading player among a field with the best players of the current era could put up any challenge whatsoever? 

 

Also, what you may not know is that these guys tied for the 72-hole lead and shot one-under while both of them hit barely over half the fairways -- IN A U.S. OPEN.  Ask some of the players from previous generations what you would shoot if you missed half the fairways in a U.S. Open.  Something like 77 and 81, and a slammed trunk, is what.

 

The point is that with all the money in the game now, there is much more consciousness of the product -- the players -- and much more of a concerted effort to protect and promote that product.  Every once in a while the USGA busts out and makes conditions more or less like they used to be, and the modern players -- who aren't used to that sort of treatment -- falter.  (Cf. Merion, this year -- remember how this crop of infinitely superior players were just going to brutalize that course?  One-over won the tournament.)  But the PGA Tour itself is never going to do that.  They have no interest whatsoever in doing anything that would ever make anybody question whether these players might not be better than those of the '70s or the '50s.  Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake.  But a true statistical analysis taking into account all reasonable factors doesn't lie.

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