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


sungho_kr

Greatest Golfer (GOAT)  

214 members have voted

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

    • Tiger Woods is the man
      1629
    • Jack Nicklaus is my favorite
      817


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On 3/2/2016 at 10:08 AM, iacas said:

@natureboy, the chart also only goes back to 1981.

Don't have full field stats before that. Are you implying that the gains in average distance or scoring were similar in 60's and 70's to late 90's?. I accept that club technology has always been advancing, but the gains of large metal driver heads, ball technology (esp. low spin), graphite shafts, and perimeter weighting on irons have likely had much bigger impacts than the relatively minor long game tech improvements in the 60's and 70's that made it to tour.

Quote

Game improvement clubs by their very nature improve the play of the lesser players, while the better players get significantly less out of them. Blades (all they had in the 60s and 70s, for the most part) are the opposite of game improvement clubs.

While I expect perimeter weighting has contributed to lower scores over time, I expect that driver / wood technology advances have been more significant to scoring. I know elements of perimeter weighting concepts have made it into players' irons, but to my knowledge full 'game improvement' irons are rare in PGA bags except may for some long / driving irons. The charts below support my statement that tech has improved scoring for the whole field since the 80's, with the bottom end gaining slightly (narrowing Std Dev) more. Elite players were not standing still.

56dc9aaa6a25c_PGAScoreAvgTop_Bott_5pct-S

Interestingly the Std Dev for average driving distance has widened while scoring has narrowed with the top 5% in distance gaining on the field average. Over the interval relative 'bombers' have gained in average distance vs. the bottom end of the field.

56dc9acbd179d_PGADriveDistTop_Bott_5pct-

The story this tells me is the forgiveness of high MOI large headed drivers and a lower spinning ball has helped players who were limited on strike precision, but could generate lots of balls speed marginally more than players who were limited on swing speed, but elite with consistently centered strikes. Players unable to generate much swing speed, but with elite scoring games like Corey Pavin and David Toms would be unlikely to break into the tour today. But while that does partly agree with what Jack said, the bottom and top of the field both gained significantly in distance and followed the same overall trend. The fitted trendline for avg distance is linear to show the overall trend, but the shape of the distance gain curve was really sigmoid with slight upward trend before 1995 big upward trend 1995-2005 and more recent tapering / plateauing of gains.

I've also included a chart that shows the percentage increase relative to 1980 for PGA average drive distance, course length for a few majors over time (to represent relative course lengthening during the interval), and PGA scoring average. IMO it shows that distance gains have not been fully offset by course lengthening yielding lower scores. I accept that golfers are also getting more fit / better on average, but IMO that has had a much smaller impact than technology on average distance since 1980. That said, I think this link (http://www.businessinsider.com/how-augusta-national-has-changed-2013-4) makes it very hard to argue that Augusta National isn't a tougher course (more penal on errant drives / tighter targets) than in the past despite not keeping pace with tech-related distance gains in course length.

56dc9adeab730_PercentChangevs1980.thumb.

 

Edited by natureboy
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Tiger has a chance to be the greatest of all time. But his body has to respond first. Time will tell.

Jack was amazing in his course management and strategy. He hit the 1 iron, and some other unusual stuff. His only great weakness was sand play and played around it according to Pelz. He was a great putter and ball striker with an ability to play under pressure. There is a reason why no one else as come close to 18 major victories.

 

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5 hours ago, ppine said:

Tiger has a chance to be the greatest of all time. But his body has to respond first. Time will tell.

Jack was amazing in his course management and strategy. He hit the 1 iron, and some other unusual stuff. His only great weakness was sand play and played around it according to Pelz. He was a great putter and ball striker with an ability to play under pressure. There is a reason why no one else as come close to 18 major victories.

Tiger's already achieved enough to make the claim to the mantle of best golfer ever. Tiger was an excellent course strategist too. I would say that's probably a wash between them. Jack was clearly the better driver in his best years and across his career. Sand play was not his only great weakness, he had a self-admitted poor short game all around the green. Tiger's was very sharp / elite. They were / are both excellent putters. Jack was by reputation a great long iron player, but stats say so was Tiger. Tiger did not have Jack's 1-iron because that was his 3-iron.

Personally, I consider 14 pretty damn close / close enough.

3 hours ago, iacas said:

@natureboy, I didn't say "full game improvement" irons.

What did you mean then? Picture?

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I grew up listening to my father drool over Jack Nicklaus, so of course I'm totally biased to answer such a question.

One time when I was about 16 years of age at Glenn Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario, Canada,  I recall walking about a thousand yards between the 9th and 10th hole with Jack striding right by my side.  I remember trying to keep up with him while he walked hard about a golf club length from my side. 

Thing I love now is looking up Wiki about Jack Nicklaus.  I love reading the sentence that goes,  " He is widely regarded as the greatest professional golfer of all time, winning a total of 18 career major championships, while producing 19 second-place and 9 third-place finishes in them, over a span of 25 years. 

There isn't a soul on this earth that could convince me that Jack wasn't the best Pro Golfer to ever put his hands on a golf club.....he's simply the best.

NicklausDM2304_468x651.jpg
Edited by The Slapper
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On 2/7/2016 at 6:38 PM, natureboy said:

Est Golf Population - US.png

After further research, there's some problems with the 'facts' on the number of golfers (both U.S. and worldwide that I and others have used. The curve above is valid based on the National Golf Foundation surveys, but using an accurate definition of 'a golfer' is relevant when trying to compare strength of field relative to the size of the pool of potential golfers.

The definition of 'golfer' that yields the above numbers for the U.S. is someone who plays 1+ rounds a year. A great number of these golfers play only that one round or a few more. More serious golfers are a much smaller segment of this 'universe' of 'golfers' and based on the difficulty of the game and steep learning curve, the only relevant population from which future pros are going to develop. Below is a chart that shows the est. population of 'avid' golfers and those with official handicaps over time.

56e1b7042f0ef_USGolfPop.thumb.png.6a80a8

From 1960 to 2015, the number of avid golfers has increased roughly 6.4 x (541% incr.). The gain was ~ 5.9 x (486% incr.) from 1960 to 1996. From 1969 to 2015 the gain was ~ 3 x (200% incr.). From about 1983/1984 the gain was ~ 1.25 (25% incr.).

Roughly similar numbers for change in number of registered / GHIN golfers of ~ 7 x (600% gain) for 1960 to 2015 & ~ 6.4 x (540% gain) from 1960 to 1996. From 1970 to 2015 ~ 3.2 x (220% gain) and from 1983/1984 to 2015 about 1.45 x (45% gain).

 

 

 

Edited by natureboy
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Here's a bit of interesting info relative to using the Ryder Cup European success as an indicator of competitiveness of different eras. In 1960 the U.S. likely had about double the number of 'serious' golfers with handicap indexes (GHIN). When all of Europe was included in Ryder Cup their 'golfing base' was about 74% of the U.S.'s. Since about 1992 the number of GHIN holders in Europe has edged the U.S.

While the European team competitiveness since 1985 does seem to generally support a larger 'serious golfer' populations being able to generate deeper teams, Europe was still roughly 75% as deep as the U.S. in 'serious golfers' and even in the 60's as 2-1 'serious golfer' underdogs, the U.K. team pulled out a win in '57 and a tie in '69.

56e20e7d2419b_Affiliated-Registered-GHIN

Another caveat is that I believe one reason for the very large number of GHIN holders in Europe is a number of national golf programs require golfers to 'register' and maintain a HCP even to use public courses. This may 'water down' the 'serious' share of their GHIN-holding golfer population and the U.S. number may reflect more 'hard core' golfers. But for the Euro countries that require 'golf registration', having HCP info allows their national golf federations to identify raw talent early and steer it toward programs and teams to nurture that talent. I would hazard a guess that most young U.S. players with golf HCPs  hail from wealthier private clubs and a lot of our potential 'natural talent' is likely missed (or was before things like 1st tee). Golf participation rates in the U.K., Ireland, & Sweden have been dropping of late after all-time peaks, but France & Germany's GHIN numbers are still growing as the game gains in appeal there. Europe also has vast 'untapped' populations in former Iron Curtain countries that will take up the game more as incomes rise there (former GDR, Poland, Czech Rep., Slovak Rep., Hungary, Romania). The U.S. may want to consider planning long-term to expand the team to North America plus Central / South America in order to stay competitive as our population base is currently only 62% of the European Union though growing slightly faster.

56e2110464371_TotalPopulation.thumb.png.

Edited by natureboy
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@natureboy-I didn't really read your posts because I don't need to read them to know that:

  • I played in several PGA Tour events in the 60s and 70s.
  • I could not have held the jock strap of guys on the Web.com Tour if you moved them back to that era.
  • The players today are way way way way way way way better.
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I honestly think Jack Nicklaus was the better golfer given the technology his great distances he hit the ball and he uses a rubber ball well Balata.. Anyway I would compare Tiger to Seve/Arnold Palmer. Tiger is extremely obsessively competitive Like MJ and was driven to succeed he kinda blew up sometimes but manages to escape trouble while other times he had a perfect tournaments. He was dominant for a very Long time similar to Greg Norman and records aside Nicklaus was better because of his temperament he was calm calculated  and very consistent combined with his superior athletic ability. Take Nicklaus today and he would win majors and do very well probably not 18 because the filed is to deep well anyway that's might take.

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16 hours ago, Phil McGleno said:

@natureboy-I didn't really read your posts because I don't need to read them to know that:

  • I played in several PGA Tour events in the 60s and 70s.
  • I could not have held the jock strap of guys on the Web.com Tour if you moved them back to that era.
  • The players today are way way way way way way way better.

Maybe you're selling yourself a bit short? What if you had grown up playing the modern equipment? Making the switch from persimmon to high volume titanium must have really messed with long-ingrained clubhead feel for more than a few pros (Norman e.g.).

If your GHIN is currently accurate and you are in your mid 60's was your long game better in your 20's and 30's with the same equipment? Would your GHIN have been lower / more positive then? If 'barely keeping your card' was +4.0 in 2007, you still seem fairly close to that level compared to a scratch golfer. I know that at this high level of golf skill a separation of 1.3 index points is huge and takes a ton of work to close (even if you have comparable length), but I expect that your long game has diminished substantially with age.

I posted those charts because I don't think depth of talent in the field scales linearly with the population base of golfers (though I do think it matters somewhat). If the average tour player was 3 times as good as when Tom Watson became a pro, he would not have contended at the British Open in 2009 or made cuts in 2015 when at age 65 his long game has to have deteriorated relative to his prime.

12 hours ago, Mike Boatright said:

I honestly think Jack Nicklaus was the better golfer given the technology his great distances he hit the ball and he uses a rubber ball well Balata.. Anyway I would compare Tiger to Seve/Arnold Palmer. Tiger is extremely obsessively competitive Like MJ and was driven to succeed he kinda blew up sometimes but manages to escape trouble while other times he had a perfect tournaments. He was dominant for a very Long time similar to Greg Norman and records aside Nicklaus was better because of his temperament he was calm calculated  and very consistent combined with his superior athletic ability. Take Nicklaus today and he would win majors and do very well probably not 18 because the filed is to deep well anyway that's might take.

Really? Tiger has more majors than Seve and Arnold combined. He and Nicklaus are both in a different league among multiple major-winners. Personally, I think Tiger has the edge because of total wins. IMO it's closer than many in the thread seem to think. I would agree tour strength / depth has improved somewhat. I just don't agree with the arguments that today's average pro is 7 times as good as in Nicklaus' day.

Edited by natureboy
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  • 7 months later...
5 minutes ago, iacas said:

It's just under 70%.

And @Golfingdad, it's the top story in the sidebar of golf.com. It still matters to enough people. Though less than it did three weeks ago, and less than it did a year ago, yes.

If he begins to play well, though, it will ramp up again. Not to the 2015 levels, even, but up.

It would be interesting to ask the same question today.

Believe it or not, although I'm a confirmed "hater" I voted Tiger as GOAT lo these many years ago now...

...but given the importance of longevity in an overall career, I'd change that now.  I wonder how many others feel the same way.

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17 minutes ago, David in FL said:

It would be interesting to ask the same question today.

Believe it or not, although I'm a confirmed "hater" I voted Tiger as GOAT lo these many years ago now...

...but given the importance of longevity in an overall career, I'd change that now.  I wonder how many others feel the same way.

I don't think longevity matters at all.

Seriously, if a guy won his first 18 majors and the first 70 PGA Tour events ever, he wouldn't be the GOAT because he's only tied with Jack but did it over a significantly shorter period of time?

That makes no sense.

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8 hours ago, iacas said:

I don't think longevity matters at all.

Seriously, if a guy won his first 18 majors and the first 70 PGA Tour events ever, he wouldn't be the GOAT because he's only tied with Jack but did it over a significantly shorter period of time?

That makes no sense.

I agree, the accomplishment is what matters, if Tiger does it in a shorter period of time one could argue that it's even more impressive.  

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1 minute ago, newtogolf said:

I agree, the accomplishment is what matters, if Tiger does it in a shorter period of time one could argue that it's even more impressive.  

I agree, jack so far had more time to achieve his records. More opportunity. If the difficulty of winning the major is low, then the odds of winning so many in a short period of time is more impressive than over a longer period of time. 

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4 hours ago, newtogolf said:

I agree, the accomplishment is what matters, if Tiger does it in a shorter period of time one could argue that it's even more impressive.  

I'd agree, but per below they are still kind of comparable in terms of their Major wins up to age 40.

4 hours ago, saevel25 said:

I agree, jack so far had more time to achieve his records. More opportunity. If the difficulty of winning the major is low, then the odds of winning so many in a short period of time is more impressive than over a longer period of time. 

Jack won two majors at 40 to reach 17. It took him 6 more years to win his last at the Masters when the press was already writing him off as 'washed up'.

Long games typically start deteriorating in the late 30's. For some it's more rapid than others. Jack hung in there for a time, but didn't win as much as when he was younger. That extra time vs. Tiger didn't make a huge difference to his Major wins.

13 hours ago, David in FL said:

...but given the importance of longevity in an overall career, I'd change that now.  I wonder how many others feel the same way.

Injuries happen. I don't think longevity in itself is much of a measure other than whose approach you'd rather model. Given his focus on the Majors, I think Jack's approach to pace himself and conserve energy for when it mattered most to him was wise.

I think Tiger/Jack more comes down to how you rate Major wins, tour wins, relative performance to the field in Majors, and performance vs. the field in tour events.

Tiger is clearly stronger on total wins, and relative performance vs. the field. His fields were likely a bit deeper than Jacks. Jack looks stronger (chart below) in total performance in the Majors. His longevity / avoidance of injury probably helped there. He likely faced more 'great' multi-major winning competitors than Tiger. Did Rory take some of his Majors when Tiger was in the field? Rory might yet put up a big career total as an all-time great, giving Tiger at least two contemporaries with 5+ Majors.

Tiger-Jack Major Finish Share.png

Edited by natureboy
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  • 5 months later...

Always knew it was Jack, his special on GC just sweet confirmation. And it's only just begun.  Tiger might slip to 3 after 3 episodes.  Lol

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22 minutes ago, Gunther said:

Always knew it was Jack, his special on GC just sweet confirmation. And it's only just begun.  Tiger might slip to 3 after 3 episodes.  Lol

The poll disagrees.

So funny!

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8 minutes ago, iacas said:

The poll disagrees.

So funny!

The TST poll?  C'mon G, you know better.  

Your objective thoughts about golf are generally correct but when you delve into the subjective, you typically are off the rails.  Keep rollin tho...  

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