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Jack vs. Tiger: Who's the Greatest Golfer?


sungho_kr

Greatest Golfer (GOAT)  

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  1. 1. Tiger or Jack: Who's the greatest golfer?

    • Tiger Woods is the man
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    • Jack Nicklaus is my favorite
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1 hour ago, Fourputt said:

Not necessarily pertinent though.  It may point to nothing more than a change in the demographic power scale.  I'm not saying it does, just that it can't be stated as a deciding factor without more research.

No, Rick… it's not just that.

The U.S. team has gotten stronger, and the European team has gotten MUCH stronger. Some of those British teams had a whole lot of nobodies on them.

(And before someone criticizes my use of "nobodies" again I'm talking about "relative to the level of their peers." Not relative to, say, you, or me.)

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22 hours ago, RussUK said:

I know this has been going and going but i think its actually a hard one to call. IMO you have to factor in more than just just the number of W's (to quote Tiger), but the era in which they competed in, their adverseries and the equipment.

To use Formula one as an example. Going one wins alone Michale Schumacher was the best, but he had better cars (semi auto gearboxes etc.) and more strategy from the pit crew. Compare him to Senna, less wins but Senna did it in cars with manual boxes, no refueling and, many would say, stronger oppostion. But was he beter the Fangio or Ascari.

There is more to a person being the best than stats, its alson down to personal preference. 

For the record in golfing terms id go for Tiger, just for what he has done for the game. Oh, and Senna was better than Schumacher imo.

Good point. I feel the same about Lionel Messi. By far, by fár the best player ever. Breaking goal scoring records, winning (almost) everything, in modern football which is much faster and more competitive, on a higher level than players back in the day. Better than anyone ever was. Yet Diego Maradona is greater in my book. Winning the title with a 'smaller' club (Napoli) and winning the World Cup. Who is better is a lot about statistics combined with the strength of field, who is the greatest is for a big part personal I guess.

Spieth and McIlory are also better golfers than Nicklaus was. Maybe better than Tiger also? But for now, nobody considers them to be the greatest....

 

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19 hours ago, Fourputt said:

Not necessarily pertinent though.  It may point to nothing more than a change in the demographic power scale.  I'm not saying it does, just that it can't be stated as a deciding factor without more research.

Not sure I follow.  I don't know what a demographic power scale is, and nether did google.  

And no one said it was a deciding factor  In a discussion that is inherently subjective there can be no deciding factor.  But it is certainly information and a perspective that tends to weigh in on one side of the strength of field question.  It is rebuttable, but unless/until someone rebuts it, there it is.

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On 2/8/2016 at 0:14 PM, turtleback said:

Here ya go, right our of Jack's 1996 autobiography.  He is giving the third of his three reasons (equipment and fitness being the other) for the decline of the superstar in golf (remember, this is before Tiger, in an era when the closest thing to a super star was Greg Norman):

Now consider that in the face of these comments by Jack, we immediately embarked upon an era when one player was more comprehensively dominant over his fellows during the next 15 years than any golfer has ever dominated his sport.  And Jack wasn't even taking into account the increased globalization of the game that brought in even MORE players and MORE competition.

Excellent. Thank you for re-posting that quote. Sorry to hear you're tired of rehashing. Why not just let the thread die then? Is the expectation that folks will read all 272 pages before making a comment? That strikes me as an unrealistic expectation..

I agree the tour is tougher than it used to be. I consider the differences more incremental than astronomical...not the 'order of magnitude' range that seems to come through in some comments.

I think Jack is both being accurate in assessing his perception of a shift in quality, but also exaggerating for effect or experiencing present-day myopia at the very least about the money. $100 in 1962 money would be ~ $800 dollars today. Not exactly what I would call bus fare. The 'paltry' $100,000 had the buying power of about $800,000 in today's dollars, which is ~ 60% of today's average purse and ~ 30% of the Players' purse).. Most Americans would happily take an annual salary like that today. They weren't getting ditch digger wages. The prize money even then definitely attracted keen competitive interest.

Clearly purses have also grown more than inflation and even journeyman make more in a year than the top 10 in 1962 (below), but it seems about in line with the growth of the population of golfers in the U.S. itself - about triple since Jack's day, Endorsement money has definitely gotten bigger, as the tour and the golf marketplace have developed and expanded over time.

 

Rank       Player                  1962 $                   2015 $

1            Arnold Palmer        $81,448                 $639,223

2            Gene Littler           $66,201                 $519,562

3            Jack Nicklaus         $61,869                 $485,563

4            Billy Casper            $61,842                 $485,351

5            Bob Goalby            $46,241                 $362,910

6            Gary Player            $45,838                 $359,748

7            Doug Sanders        $43,340                 $340,143

8            Dave Ragan          $37,327                 $292,951

9            Bobby Nichols       $34,312                 $269,288

10          Phil Rodgers          $32,182                 $252,572

 

Edited by natureboy
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34 minutes ago, natureboy said:

Excellent. Thank you for re-posting that quote. Sorry to hear you're tired of rehashing. Why not just let the thread die then? Is the expectation that folks will read all 272 pages before making a comment? That strikes me as an unrealistic expectation..

 

No problem.  I'm not tired of responding to sincere and thoughtful posts, like yours, even if it rehashes stuff from before because OF COURSE it is unrealistic to expect people to read 3000 posts before commenting.  In any case I have that quote in a file and it was simple to post it - much simpler and politer than saying "go find it , it's here."  I DO think that one should maybe at least read a smattering of such a big thread before jumping in,  

But I have no patience whatsoever with the "I saw Jack play" and "he was nice at a clinic" type posts or posts by people who try to claim some special credibility because of some entirely personal subjective connection.  But that isn't you.

As to the rest, you asked for the exact quote and I gave it to you.  If you want to argue with what he said, that is another matter and does not concern me, since my position is that even if we, arguendo, say that the field strengths did NOT get better, Tiger's career was so much more dominant than Jack's that it doesn't matter.  I don't NEED to make a stronger field argument to make the case that Tiger dominated golf in a way and to an extent that no other golfer has ever dominated golf.  And he did it for 15 years (after an absolutely unprecedented career as an amateur) which, IMO, is long enough that it no longevity argument could overcome the sheer dominance advantage his career embodied.  

The fact that all that is true in the face of field strength increasing is just icing on the cake.   

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6 hours ago, natureboy said:

Excellent. Thank you for re-posting that quote. Sorry to hear you're tired of rehashing. Why not just let the thread die then? Is the expectation that folks will read all 272 pages before making a comment? That strikes me as an unrealistic expectation..

 

It doesn't die because of the "fly-by" posters I mentioned above. They are new to the site and may have joined just to respond to the thread. So in one way, it is a nice way to attract new members, which we encourage. A few of them don't hang around because they only wanted to make a comment then leave, which is sad.

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9 hours ago, natureboy said:

I think Jack is both being accurate in assessing his perception of a shift in quality, but also exaggerating for effect or experiencing present-day myopia at the very least about the money. $100 in 1962 money would be ~ $800 dollars today. Not exactly what I would call bus fare. The 'paltry' $100,000 had the buying power of about $800,000 in today's dollars, which is ~ 60% of today's average purse and ~ 30% of the Players' purse).. Most Americans would happily take an annual salary like that today. They weren't getting ditch digger wages. The prize money even then definitely attracted keen competitive interest.

Sorry, just jumping back in to quickly comment that you seem to be confusing the word "purse" with the winner's share. Rickie Fowler WON $1.8M for winning the Players in 2015. The total purse was just over $10M. $800k is only 8% of $10M. That's an order of magnitude jump - a power of ten.

Heck, the two players who finished T2 (splitting third place money too) earned $880k each.

9 hours ago, natureboy said:

Clearly purses have also grown more than inflation and even journeyman make more in a year than the top 10 in 1962 (below), but it seems about in line with the growth of the population of golfers in the U.S. itself - about triple since Jack's day, Endorsement money has definitely gotten bigger, as the tour and the golf marketplace have developed and expanded over time.

I already addressed the bad math, but you can't keep excluding the growth outside the U.S. Doing so ignores that Jack mainly competed against U.S.-born talent while today's golfers are playing against all sorts of golfers from all around the world.

Furthermore, the only equipment-related issue that holds any merit - again straight from Jack's lips - is that better equipment makes it tougher for good players to separate themselves today. It raises the level of the poorer (but still PGA Tour level) players without doing much to help the games of the goods/greats.

Ergo, the field is significantly stronger now than in 1962. Or 1972.

8 hours ago, turtleback said:

If you want to argue with what he said, that is another matter and does not concern me, since my position is that even if we, arguendo, say that the field strengths did NOT get better, Tiger's career was so much more dominant than Jack's that it doesn't matter. …

The fact that all that is true in the face of field strength increasing is just icing on the cake.   

I don't know that I've ever heard you say that you'd vote "Tiger" without any consideration for strength of field.

I suspect you'd agree that cake has a whole lotta icing, though.

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1 hour ago, iacas said:

I already addressed the bad math, but you can't keep excluding the growth outside the U.S. Doing so ignores that Jack mainly competed against U.S.-born talent while today's golfers are playing against all sorts of golfers from all around the world.

Look at Ben Hogan. He played in exactly one Open Championship. Before Arnold Palmer brought it back into the fold as something you should be playing every year it was just too expensive for such a little purse to win. There wasn't much prestige in winning it during that time. 


Look at the US open. Since 1993, 52% of the time a non-US golfer won the U.S. Open. From 1950 till 1993 92% of them were won by U.S. golfers.

Same with the PGA Championship. Since 1993 the U.S. has only won 56% of them. From the time they went to stroke play (1958) till 1992 the U.S. won 86% of them. 

Same with The Masters. Since 1993 the U.S. has won 56% of them (and Phil and Tiger account for 7 of them). From 1950 till 1992 the U.S. won 77% of them.

It just goes to show you that the influx of non-U.S. golfers to the PGA Tour field of players has made it that much more difficult for U.S. golfers to win a major.

Could I say that it was 30% easier for Jack to win those majors because of the non-US golfers who stayed away from traveling to the U.S. to play?

U.S. Open: 40% less likely U.S. player wins after 1993
PGA Championship: 30% less likely a U.S. Player wins after 1993
The Masters: 20% less likely a U.S. Player wins after 1993
 

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55 minutes ago, skydog said:

The 274 pages of this thread go to show why smart folks say not to compare athletes across eras...

Either side who thinks they have the 'right' argument here is wrong.

Nobody's said that. People are just sharing their opinions. Some are backed by actual facts, or have firmer foundations than others. Some are less based on facts.

But at the end of the day they're just opinions.

Watch the step down from that horse.

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2 hours ago, iacas said:

 

I suspect you'd agree that cake has a whole lotta icing, though.

Oh yeah, and the equipment argument goes right along with it in a synergistic way, since it changes the balance within the stronger field between the cream and the regular milk.  But you argue the field of strength issue better than I do.  I think because it is so obvious and beyond dispute to me that I have a hard time taking arguments from the other side about it seriously.

But, IMO the reality is the even if we ignore all that and assume a level playing field, it really is no contest unless someone thinks longevity trumps dominance.  Longevity is important, to a point, in that we need enough of a track record.  But how much is enough?  No one but a complete nit would say that all else being equal, Pete Rose was a better hitter than Ty Cobb.  Same with comparing Jim Brown and Emmit Smith. Other than distractors like character and how they behaved at a clinic, the only valid argument I can see for Jack over Tiger is longevity.  So in its essence, for me the issue boils down to whether Tiger's dominance advantage is enough to overcome Jack's longevity advantage.  To me the answer is obviously yes, and the other factors like strength of field and equipment just reinforce that.

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12 hours ago, iacas said:

Sorry, just jumping back in to quickly comment that you seem to be confusing the word "purse" with the winner's share. Rickie Fowler WON $1.8M for winning the Players in 2015. The total purse was just over $10M. $800k is only 8% of $10M. That's an order of magnitude jump - a power of ten.

No confusion. My post accurately addressed the 1996 article where Jack was quoted & his statement about the money between his early days (1962) and when the article was written. While he accurately described some 'real dollars' increase in prize money, he exaggerated the magnitude of the relative buying power of the purses between 1962 and the time of the article.

Today's Players Champ purse would have been worth about 12x the big tournament purse in 1962. But clearly comparing to the 1996 Players' purse, more of that boost came during the huge effect that Tiger's competitive years had on sponsorship levels. Every PGA golfer today owes him a serious debt of gratitude (as each PGA generation owes to the one prior that helped incrementally build up the tour).

Quote

I already addressed the bad math, but you can't keep excluding the growth outside the U.S. Doing so ignores that Jack mainly competed against U.S.-born talent while today's golfers are playing against all sorts of golfers from all around the world.

I'm not ignoring anything. I think in the 60's through today the 'average' U.S. based elite player (PGA Tour) was better than the 'average' elite player from abroad, but that did not necessarily limit ability of top talent from those less competitive tours to compete or win on tour. I expect that in that era the 'club pro' from down the street that Jack competed against could have been equal to if not a bit better than the typical tour pro from say Australia.

Before golf took off in the U.S. there were more players overseas in Europe & the British Commonwealth & better players tended to come from there. Some time after Ouimet, there were more players in the U.S. than abroad. But the strong established culture of play in those now relatively smaller golf population bases still could produce golfers capable of winning on the cash rich tour. I expect (but don't have numbers) that remained the case for quite a while with U.S. golf and worldwide golf participation numbers likely growing at roughly similar rates.

Today it's roughly 50/50 U.S. golfers to world golfers. I don't think this is largely different from when golf first became widespread in the U.S. No numbers I can find on whether worldwide golf participation was not growing at the same rate as here. If worldwide golf has recently been growing faster, it may now be ahead a bit. U.S. participation has dropped roughly 5 mil from it's peak of ~ 30 mil (when it was ~ 50% of worldwide estimate), but I haven't seen anything on whether the international golf population has also dropped, remained the same, or increased.

By the mid to late 40's golfing culture was deep enough in the U.S. that better golfers tended to come from here, but the relatively smaller population bases still were able to produce some great golfers. Player and Seve won a ton internationally, but not as much on the PGA tour...possibly owing in part to limited start opportunities. But they did reflect and perhaps inspire a resurgence of international competitiveness (relative to where it had fallen) vs. U.S. based players.

Even accounting for the 'resurgence', from what I've read and heard it seems widely agreed that from the 60's to today, overseas tours were and are relatively less less competitive in talent depth..Broadie wrote that the OWGR inflates ranking for overseas players by maybe 30 positions for ranks 40 to 120. International golf is sort of in the position the U.S. was in around its initial golf boom. I think a larger portion (but not all the top talent of 'elite' tour-competitive players will still tend to come from the U.S. for a while even as its share of worldwide golfers declines.

IMO Ryder Cup reflects a relative closing of the gap in top talent and depth (somewhat) due to a richer European Tour, well-managed country player development, team organization, and personal match play experience & focus by the Euros. But it's certainly a significant change from the many lopsided contests of the late 40's through the 60's. The larger pool of better players at that time were U.S. based.

 

Edited by natureboy
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9 hours ago, turtleback said:

Longevity is important, to a point, in that we need enough of a track record.

My point about longevity was exactly that. Tiger hasn't really had the same number of starts / opportunities to compare to Jack's major total. He's clearly got a higher batting average than Jack.

<sorry, thought that would merge>

Edited by natureboy
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9 minutes ago, natureboy said:

I'm not ignoring anything. I think in the 60's through today the 'average' U.S. based elite player (PGA Tour) was better than the 'average' elite player from abroad, but that did not necessarily limit ability of top talent from those less competitive tours to compete or win on tour.

I expect that in that era the 'club pro' from down the street that Jack competed against was equal to if not a bit better than the typical tour pro from say Australia.

Since you actually have no proof to that you can not claim this at all. The reason a club pro played in tour events was because it was based near them. Obviously a club pro from Australlia isn't going to travel to the US. That doesn't in any way say they were a worse golfer. 

Also, if you read my post. Since 1993 the odds of a US player winning a major based in the US dropped by 30% on average. That is when the world really turned into solid competition against the US golfers. Yet, you can even see that it went further back with how much the US struggled against the Europeans in the Ryder Cup once they expanded past just having a team from Great Britain. 

This holds true when comparing strength of field because it's the same concept. Just expanding the size of the pool of available golfers gave the world such an edge the whole dynamic of the Ryder Cup changed. Having European golfers now living in the US and playing more PGA Tour events makes it even harder to win here. Having the world population grow and golf expanding to countries like China and Korea has made it that much tougher for golfers to compete. The field today, and in Tiger's time was WAY deeper than what Jack faced. The facts are there showing that. 

The more I look at it the more I think the fact that even if Tiger is short 4 majors, he has 3 more overall PGA Tour wins during a time when a US Golfer was 30% less likely to win a Major than in Jack's era. The way Tiger dominated the tournaments that had the strongest fields. The tournaments that drew world players to the US because of the money and prestige. I could say Tiger faced 25-30% tougher competition than Jack did. In that regard, his 3 more wins is substantially more impressive. Also the fact that Tiger did that in 7 less years than Jack. 

Tiger wins. No doubt, he's the best ever. 

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58 minutes ago, natureboy said:

My point about longevity was exactly that. Tiger hasn't really had the same number of starts / opportunities to compare to Jack's major total. He's clearly got a higher batting average than Jack.

<sorry, thought that would merge>

But that stat goes directly to Tiger's lack of longevity (to this point in time).  If he hadn't had the issues that he's had, he wouldn't have missed all of those recent starts.  I don't see how you can diss Jack for being competitive over a longer period, and then still making many starts (which attracted more money to the events just by his presence) after his competitive career was past.  I don't know what the numbers work out to age for age to the point when Tiger was no longer starting in Majors, but that has to be a more telling number.

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2 hours ago, natureboy said:

No confusion....

Whoopsie, actually was some confusion. I jumbled my date comparisons.

$100,000 purse in 1962 was equivalent to ~ $520,000 in 1996 (Players' purse of $3,000,000), and ~ $785,000 in 2015 (Players' purse of $10,000,000).

So in constant dollars from 1962 to 1996 the biggest tour purse grew about 6x, and from 1962 to 2015 it grew about 13x. From 1996 to 2015 it grew about 2.2x. So my statement about Tiger having a singular effect on prize money was off. I'd say it's been more of a story of pretty steady constant expansion over time.

 

Edited by natureboy
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  • iacas changed the title to Jack vs. Tiger: Who's the Greatest Golfer?
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