Originally Posted by jamo
A few points:
First, of course majors matter, but they don't have to be the only factor. We're all smarter than that. We can look at the strength of competition in 1975 and that in 2005 and we know how much deeper the fields are today. Tiger didn't have to beat a 6 guys like Jack did, he had to beat 60.
Second, comparing Montana to Marino is very different than Tiger to Jack. Tiger didn't go winless in majors, he's second all time, and he's several majors clear of the guy in third (Walter Hagan with 11). Comparing Jack to Tiger is much more like comparing Joe Montana to Tom Brady. Sure, Montana has one more Super Bowl win, but Brady has plenty other things going for him (more TDs, fewer interceptions, higher QB rating, he made it to more AFC Championships and Super Bowls, etc.). Furthermore, we're smart enough to look at those stats and realize that they might not mean what they appear to. Brady threw more TDs, sure, but he also played in an era where the game favored passing offenses.
So yes, majors matter, but it's short-sighted to look at 18>14 and blindly accept that that's the only metric we're allowed to use to compare the two players. History will only recognize that as the sole deciding factor if we let it.
Only flaw with that argument is we have no control over history, whether we like it or not. Unfortunately, it's the media that controls everything. The media dictates who's the best and who isn't, in particular 50 years down the road when most of us aren't alive. They go by numbers. That's just the way it is. We never saw Bobby Jones or Walter Hagen play, but we go by what the media tells us and the numbers.
I don't get into the whole competition arguments because it's all opinion and can be argued either way. Yeah, the field is deeper today, no doubt, but there's no way to compare whether the top-10 of 1960 or 1970 was better compared to 2000 and 2010. Watson, Nicklaus, Palmer, Player and Trevino may be better than Tiger, Mickelson, McIlroy, Scott and Westwood. Who knows. While it was easier to be in the top-10 30 years ago, it didn't mean it was easier to win against some of the top competition.
I just think in the long run, majors are the determining factor. Tiger and Jack both themselves have admitted it. Now it's one thing if Jack won the most majors but didn't win a lot of PGA events, but he's among the most in PGA wins as well and won a lot of different events.
As for what I personally think, I hold them in two categories. Tiger at his peak was the greatest of all-time, but career-wise, I think Jack still has the edge of the best player of all-time. I think if Tiger can get to 16 or 17, even if he's one short, I will probably give Tiger the edge. But he needs to win some majors later in his career like Jack did or else he's going to be seen by myself and others as someone who peaked early and wasn't as strong later on in his career, particularly in the majors. I think when we talk about GOAT, you need to have that complete career from beginning to end, and Tiger has not capitalized in the later part of his career yet.