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Is Phil the 3rd Best Player of All Time?


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Behind Jack and Tiger?

Here are the golfers with more majors and more PGA Tour wins (Phil has 6 and 45, respectively):

  • Jack: 18 and 73
  • Tiger: 15 and 82
  • Ben Hogan: 9 and 64
  • Sam Snead: 7 and "82"
  • Arnold Palmer: 7 and 62

(Wikipedia credits Hagen with 45 PGA Tour wins ... but I'm dubious on those being anything comparable to even Snead's "wins").

Here are the players not on that list with more majors than Phil:

  • Walter Hagen: 11
  • Gary Player: 9
  • Tom Watson: 8
  • Harry Vardon: 7
  • Bobby Jones: 7
  • Gene Sarazen: 7

Phil has won PGA Tour events in 4 different decades and won majors in 3 different decades. Imagine if he didn't have to compete with Tiger, too. Their primes were matched up perfectly, and it's easy to imagine Phil winning a few more without Tiger around. 

Thoughts?

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FWIW here are some players and their achievements. I'll skip Jack and Tiger as they're clearly the top two. Name Main Tour/Pro Wins Majors Year Began

Just a quick note, the discussion on Tiger v Jack being GOAT has almost 7,000 replies over 15 years.  Picking #1 is hard enough, picking #3 will be close to impossible.  

Geez. You're big on detail. I'd hate to encoutner you in a debate! The weight of your evidence would have the average golf historian buckling at the knees.

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I see you have a near full bag of Callaway so I think you are biased 🤣

Some of the way you argue things seems a little in favor of Phil (the "in x decades" argument is better done as actual year range) and the deprived by Tiger argument can also apply to golfers like Watson and Palmer who were forced to play against Nicklaus but if you want to look at it as if there is Jack and Tiger and then beneath that there is a T3 with all the other legends you listed it seems reasonable to include him among that bunch.

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I would say he's ranked 3rd. I know Hogan has 64 PGA tour wins, but those PGA Tour wins back in the day are not the same quality as when Phil played. 

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I don't know the answer to the OP's question, but one has to wonder just how many tournament and Major wins that Phil would have if he had not played in same era as Tiger. 

Phil is certainly a great player and and a great human being too.  Did you see him hand the ball he had just holed out from the penalty area to the boy in the wheel chair?  I don't know where he fits on the chart of great players, but he is at the top of my list for showing he cares about less fortunate others.

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9 hours ago, DeadMan said:
  • Jack: 18 and 73
  • Tiger: 15 and 82

This actually annoyed me. 🙂

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I don’t think we can really compare players across eras. Too many variables and what-if’s. 

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10 hours ago, DeadMan said:

Imagine if he didn't have to compete with Tiger, too. Their primes were matched up perfectly, and it's easy to imagine Phil winning a few more without Tiger around. 

Check me if I'm wrong here. But hasn't Phil only finished second to Tiger 4 times ever? With only the 2002 US Open being the only major. 

So if there never was a Tiger, than Phil maybe gets to 7 majors and 49 wins????

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17 minutes ago, Vinsk said:

This actually annoyed me. 🙂

Haha. I thought about putting a disclaimer that I was just ordering by major wins, not by what I thought the actual order of ability was. But I figured I didn't need it. Guess not!

5 minutes ago, ChetlovesMer said:

Check me if I'm wrong here. But hasn't Phil only finished second to Tiger 4 times ever? With only the 2002 US Open being the only major. 

So if there never was a Tiger, than Phil maybe gets to 7 majors and 49 wins????

7 majors would mean only Tiger, Jack, and Hogan had more majors and PGA Tour wins than him, so that is directly relevant.

But also Phil spent a lot of time in Tiger's shadow and not being close to good enough to beat Tiger consistently. I'm thinking if Phil is clearly the top golfer for a while, that gives him a boost to win a few more majors and more PGA Tour wins.

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6 minutes ago, ncates00 said:

I don’t think we can really compare players across eras. Too many variables and what-if’s. 

I’ve certainly heard/read this before. I don’t agree and here's why: The variables are just part of life. The fact that all aspects of golf and other sports have improved is just the way life progresses. Jack could’ve hit the gym and worked on his swing/game more. There wasn’t near the focus on physical enhancement like there is now.

Technology improved. Again, that’s just the way it is. Athletes are better, stronger and faster. Again…that’s just life progression. Tiger Woods is a superior golfer to Jack and any other golfer that’s ever played. Period. And those ‘variables’ play a part in that. 
 

What ifs are not part of the argument. Again…life. What could’ve been wasn’t. And that’s that.

58 minutes ago, ghalfaire said:

but one has to wonder just how many tournament and Major wins that Phil would have if he had not played in same era as Tiger. 

But he didn’t. Fantastical thinking shouldn’t play a role in assessment. 

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10 minutes ago, Vinsk said:

I’ve certainly heard/read this before. I don’t agree and here's why: The variables are just part of life. The fact that all aspects of golf and other sports have improved is just the way life progresses. Jack could’ve hit the gym and worked on his swing/game more. There wasn’t near the focus on physical enhancement like there is now.

Technology improved. Again, that’s just the way it is. Athletes are better, stronger and faster. Again…that’s just life progression. Tiger Woods is a superior golfer to Jack and any other golfer that’s ever played. Period. And those ‘variables’ play a part in that. 
 

What ifs are not part of the argument. Again…life. What could’ve been wasn’t. And that’s that.

But he didn’t. Fantastical thinking shouldn’t play a role in assessment. 

Sure, and I see your point. However, it’s not a fair comparison due to the variables, and I’m saying it both ways. Meaning, on the one hand, Jack won more but against arguably lesser fields. On the other hand, Tiger won less than Jack but did so against arguably more difficult fields. However, who’s to say that if you swap the two (or Phil with another guy since this thread is about him), what the results would be. Also, there are other things that are hard to measure, for instance, Bob May and Chris DiMarco are hardly world beaters at first blush, but they played the best golf of their lives against Tiger. Who’s to say the same thing didn’t happen to Jack back in the day? We try to weaken Jack’s field, which is understandable, but who’s to say some of those guys didn’t have a Bob May or DiMarco round and Jack still won?
 

There’s something to be said of the trailblazers who came before you. That’s the same reason why MJ doesn’t compare eras, and he is, along with Tiger in my opinion, the greatest of their respective sports. Maybe you wrote it off as humility or whatever, but I honestly think it’s respect for the older generations and the affirmation that the eras were different, and therefore, unfair to compare. And quite honestly, a waste of time yielding no fruit other than something for sports stations to talk about without cessation. 

All this to say, I think Phil is one of the greatest. For sure. But the 3rd all time? No. In fact, I don’t think we should have an overall greatest board any way. Just use a “greatest of” by era. I think that’s a more appropriate way to recognize accomplishment and make comparisons. 

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1 hour ago, DeadMan said:

7 majors would mean only Tiger, Jack, and Hogan had more majors and PGA Tour wins than him, so that is directly relevant.

But also Phil spent a lot of time in Tiger's shadow and not being close to good enough to beat Tiger consistently. I'm thinking if Phil is clearly the top golfer for a while, that gives him a boost to win a few more majors and more PGA Tour wins.

I agree its relevant to the discussion. But I'm going to suggest that if there never was a Tiger Woods, Phil would have only won ... 4 majors and 35 tournaments.... 

Why?

It's the Isiah Thomas argument. Isiah Thomas has said on several occasions that his desire to be better than Michael Jordan drove him to work harder, practice more, be better. Now granted Isiah and Michael hated each other, where as I don't think Phil and Tiger have that hatred. I'm still going to suggest that playing in Tiger's shadow drove Phil to be better. I really can't say how much better, but I'm going to just make a wild ass guess that it accounts for 2 majors and 10 wins. ...🤪

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I have to believe the competition is tougher these days, and for Phil to do what he did yesterday, and all his other wins, really promotes him well to be #3. 

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At 51, he played against tougher competition, and played that well on a tougher course than Augusta National. I honestly think this achievement is much greater than what Jack did in his last Master's win. This might one of the greatest major victories of all time. 

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The exact same strength of field argument that makes 15>>18 would argue yes.  The fact that he never rose to the #1 ranked position would argue no.

I come down on no, because I think dominance over your peers is a gateway condition, and at no time in his very very very good career was he ever dominant - not even for a single year.

2 hours ago, saevel25 said:

At 51, he played against tougher competition, and played that well on a tougher course than Augusta National. I honestly think this achievement is much greater than what Jack did in his last Master's win. This might one of the greatest major victories of all time. 

It is certainly his most impressive major win.

Until next month at Torrey Pines??

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4 hours ago, DeadMan said:

Haha. I thought about putting a disclaimer that I was just ordering by major wins, not by what I thought the actual order of ability was. But I figured I didn't need it. Guess not!

I wouldn’t have thought it necessary. That’s exactly how I read the list.

14 hours ago, DeadMan said:

Here are the golfers with more majors and more PGA Tour wins (Phil has 6 and 45, respectively):

  • Jack: 18 and 73
  • Tiger: 15 and 82
  • Ben Hogan: 9 and 64
  • Sam Snead: 7 and "82"
  • Arnold Palmer: 7 and 62

 

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3 hours ago, Vinsk said:

I’ve certainly heard/read this before. I don’t agree and here's why: The variables are just part of life. The fact that all aspects of golf and other sports have improved is just the way life progresses. Jack could’ve hit the gym and worked on his swing/game more. There wasn’t near the focus on physical enhancement like there is now.

Technology improved. Again, that’s just the way it is. Athletes are better, stronger and faster. Again…that’s just life progression. Tiger Woods is a superior golfer to Jack and any other golfer that’s ever played. Period. And those ‘variables’ play a part in that. 
 

What ifs are not part of the argument. Again…life. What could’ve been wasn’t. And that’s that.

But he didn’t. Fantastical thinking shouldn’t play a role in assessment. 

Ah no.

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Nowhere close to third.  There are too many others out there that were perhaps better.  I think choosing between different eras are very difficult. Yes Phil had Tiger taking away potential majors from him, but then so did many of the other greats in that list.  None of them were so dominant in their time that nobody challenged them.  There have always been strong fields, though today's fields may potentially be deeper in that almost anybody of the 100 or so golfers entering a tournament could potentially win it as evidenced by many one major winners who seem to not have had good enough careers that would have merited a major

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