Originally Posted by mvmac
Just to clarify, you're saying that the fields as a whole are weaker now (late 90's to now) than they were in the 60's-80's?
This is a tricky question. Because how far down do you go before it stops mattering? I remember having a discussion last year about the strength of field of the PGA being so much stronger than the Masters. I suspect the answer to that one falls right at about the point where it's impossible for a person to win the thing.
For example, if I was added to the Masters field, and you or Erik were added to the PGA field, then there is no question that the PGA field "strength" was increased by a ton compared to the Masters field strength. However, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't make a hill of beans difference because none of us are winning either of those tournaments, and in fact, none of us are finishing anywhere except dead last. (No offense )
So, if the cutoff is the last player with a chance to win, then there can really be no doubt that fields are stronger today. There are waaaaay more players with at least an outside shot of winning nowadays than in the 60's or 70's.
But perhaps it's more complicated than even that? What if I were to just use ratings. If you rated all golfers on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being Tiger and Jack, 9 being your Phil Mickelsons and Tom Watsons and Gary Players, and let's set 5 as the low number for major winners. (I'm thinking of you, Shaun Micheel and Michael Campbell)
There is no question that nowadays there are way more 5's than there were back then. But are there more 8's and 9's? What if Jack had to compete against twenty 8's and 9's, and Tiger only competed against five 8's and 9's but also fifty 5's and 6's? I don't know that the answer is that obvious.
I didn't vote in the poll (yet) but I'm leaning towards 17 today being tougher - but not by too much. I would certainly say without a shadow of a doubt that Tiger's 20 (if and when that ever were to happen) would be greater than Jacks 20, but I'm not totally sure 17>20.
Follow up question for @jamo , et. al. ... I'd be curious to know where the "break even" point of majors nowadays vs. majors in Jack's day would fall. 15? 10? 5? Are Phil's 6 more impressive than Jack's 20?