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


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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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On 11/29/2021 at 7:51 AM, saevel25 said:

Not really. 

You would have to come up with an acceptable inflation adjusted number. Just not assuming your normal CPI inflation, but good luck determining how much extra inflation in purses was caused by Jack and caused by Tiger. 

I do not think career money won is an indicator of dominance since you are now taking a much more good stat, like top 10 finishes and winning, and assigning a cost benefit analysis done by accountants. 

Some of the reasons that money is such a bad measure go beyond 'inflation'.  Top players over Tiger's career played far fewer events than in Jack's years.  And then there is the difference between prize money distribution.  In Jack's years generally the winner received 20% of the total purse, while in Tiger's years it has been 18%.

And it is completely unnecessary to look at money because there are innumerable measures of dominance that have nothing to do with money.  Winning streaks, no-cut streaks, winning percentage, adjusted stroke averages compared to contemporaries, number of years of dominance in wins and majors, Vardon trophies, Player of the Year awards, etc.  All of which, along with others, that have been extensively discussed in this thread.

On 11/28/2021 at 2:41 PM, csh19792001 said:

What's the best indicator, then? 

It has been discussed in detail numerous times in this thread.  There is no one best indicator, it is the totality of the career.  I do not understand the compulsion some have to reduce a complex set of data into a single measure.

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But then again, what the hell do I know?

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46 minutes ago, turtleback said:

  I do not understand the compulsion some have to reduce a complex set of data into a single measure.

We can thank Jack for that.

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5 hours ago, turtleback said:

Some of the reasons that money is such a bad measure go beyond 'inflation'.  Top players over Tiger's career played far fewer events than in Jack's years.  And then there is the difference between prize money distribution.  In Jack's years generally the winner received 20% of the total purse, while in Tiger's years it has been 18%.

And it is completely unnecessary to look at money because there are innumerable measures of dominance that have nothing to do with money.  Winning streaks, no-cut streaks, winning percentage, adjusted stroke averages compared to contemporaries, number of years of dominance in wins and majors, Vardon trophies, Player of the Year awards, etc.  All of which, along with others, that have been extensively discussed in this thread.

It has been discussed in detail numerous times in this thread.  There is no one best indicator, it is the totality of the career.  I do not understand the compulsion some have to reduce a complex set of data into a single measure.

I misread the original poster as saying "It isn't the single greatest measure." 

I inferred by the remark that he/she meant the average distance between 1st place in Vardon Trophy and within 2 strokes of that....that there must be a better single measure/metric out there. So I asked "Which one IS the single greatest measure?"

I totally agree with everything you just said in your post above. I never make everything about one number. That would be like trying to reduce Willie Mays to his 156.1 Wins Above Replacement ("WAR"). It would be both insipidly reductive and also a disgrace to arguably the greatest player of all time, and the most exciting and naturally gifted.

BTW: What do you think they do on the tennis and basketball and golf forums? Exactly that. Reduce a player down to a number, and rank and assess accordingly.

Edited by csh19792001
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19 hours ago, csh19792001 said:

BTW: What do you think they do on the tennis and basketball and golf forums? Exactly that. Reduce a player down to a number, and rank and assess accordingly.

Just because they are stupid doesn't mean we have to be.

But then again, what the hell do I know?

Rich - in name only

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  • 1 year later...
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atpi.png

That bottom line is what I've been talking about this whole time.

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The ‘Evolution ATPI’ graph for Tiger is ridiculous.

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He’s already ahead of Tiger.

Then again that article was from before Tiger won in 2019. So maybe he will re-pass him now.

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Two points that caught my eye reading through the article and playing with the charts.

  1. It's funny to see that some of the most dominant seasons in golf, at least in terms of what most people would answer if asked that question, of Tiger in 2000 and 2001 are actually only his 5th and 10th best seasons from '96 to 2015. 
  2. Sucks to be Greg Norman with 9 years, including two stretches of 3+ years in a row, as statistically the best player in the world and still only have 2 major championship wins to show for it. 

To expand on comment #2 there, most other players on the list of top annual ATPI players won at least one major within 1 or 2 years of being the top annual ATPI player. The only other exceptions to that pattern are Tiger Woods (in his 2012/2013 stint on top), Lee Westwood, and Luke Donald.

I'm sure there are some data limitations preventing them from going back even further in time for calculating these index values, but it is a new approach that seems to do the best job yet that I've seen of comparing past players to more modern ones. It gives the correct previously measured and known result as well, which is that modern players simply play golf better than players of the past. If you have a certain level of dominance over a field of better golfers, you yourself are a better golfer than the person who had the same level of dominance against fields of weaker golfers.

What I would be most curious to see, however, is if there's any similar method of comparing things that would allow you to see how much of the improvement in fields and top golfers is due to equipment (clubs and balls) versus simply being better players/athletes (whether that be a result of more competition, more knowledge, better training methods and resources, etc.). I can't think of any particularly rigorous method off the top of my head that would allow this, but it's a neat thought experiment.

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2 hours ago, Pretzel said:

It gives the correct previously measured and known result as well, which is that modern players simply play golf better than players of the past.

The floor continues to be raised.

2 hours ago, Pretzel said:

What I would be most curious to see, however, is if there's any similar method of comparing things that would allow you to see how much of the improvement in fields and top golfers is due to equipment (clubs and balls) versus simply being better players/athletes (whether that be a result of more competition, more knowledge, better training methods and resources, etc.). I can't think of any particularly rigorous method off the top of my head that would allow this, but it's a neat thought experiment.

I don't think you can isolate those types of things, because everyone tended to advance on those things simultaneously.

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I wonder if they miscalculated Jason Day's 2016? The reason being I looked at his main page on the updated site and has him with a +5.18 strokes gained for the tour championship that year. The only problem is he withdrew after a round and a half. The winner was Rory and he only gained +2.16 per round that week.

Otherwise, I think the whole thing is quite fascinating. Would love to see the remaining scores up to 2022. 

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On 4/13/2023 at 4:51 PM, Golfnutgalen said:

I wonder if they miscalculated Jason Day's 2016? The reason being I looked at his main page on the updated site and has him with a +5.18 strokes gained for the tour championship that year. The only problem is he withdrew after a round and a half. The winner was Rory and he only gained +2.16 per round that week.

That would be a withdrawal because of back injury, not because of poor play. He shot a 67 in the first round (lowest score of round 1 was a 66) and was even through his 2nd day while many were scoring worse than round 1. They most likely just extrapolated his performance either from that stint as if it was across the entire tournament, or they perhaps extrapolated the R1 performance alone across the entire tournament. 

The scoring average for Round 1 was 70.9, and the scoring average for Round 2 was ~70.2 (excluding Jason Day's partial score), meaning a performance of shooting 67 + 70 in Round 1 and Round 2 would've been nearly 4.1 total strokes gained relative to the field just from simply a scoring perspective. Strokes gained methodology doesn't perfectly translate into scoring though, and it's likely that he was just really exceptional on approach and tee shots but average performance (bad relative to the rest of his game) when putting that prevented him from scoring well. That or he could've been quite average off the tee or approaching the green, but had miraculously good putting to bring up the strokes gained across a small sample size. It's easy to skew the numbers for strokes gained to be larger with smaller sample sizes than larger ones, because there isn't time for regression to the mean to occur. 

Quote

I don't think you can isolate those types of things, because everyone tended to advance on those things simultaneously.

The closest method I could think of to compare would be to use similar methodology as they used to compare a golfer against themselves year over year. If you can do that, you could measure an average change among all players on years of big equipment releases but it would still have confounding variables since players themselves vary from year to year naturally anyways. Would be interesting to see if there were any trends where the averages spiked noticeably without the inclusion of new players, where the same players in the field all improved dramatically coinciding with the release of some kind of equipment rather than new, better players joining the field to raise the floor.

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  • 2 months later...

I have to laugh at the chumps who show up with arguments that today's golfers by definition are the best ever. Right, except nobody says that. We don't say the golfers are more talented today. We say there are more...

Not sure if this guy "Brock Savage" is a member here- since I'm never on here- nonetheless, I thought this was an extremely insightful comment directly apropos of this ongoing debate/discussion:

"Right, except nobody says that. We don't say the golfers are more talented today. We say there are more talented golfers today. "More" meaning they are more numerous, not more talented.

Talent is random. Only a small percentage of people win the talent lottery --- for world class golf, way less than 1%. And there's no telling whether the most talented player of any period, including this one, was more talented than Jack, or Jones, or Vardon. It's absolutely unknowable.

What is knowable, though, is that the base population is larger, so whatever percentage of people are born with golf talent, there are a lot more of them today than there were 50 years ago.

What is knowable is that training and coaching is vastly improved. Hogan had to dig his swing out of the dirt. Today, they have radar and laser and the Minolta super duper high speed swing cam, and they know exactly how every little swing tweak affects their spin rate and launch angle and apex height -- stuff nobody had any clue about in Jack's day. So 50 years ago, if you had 100 guys born with golf talent take up golf, maybe 30 of them would find their optimal swing. Today, it's probably over 90.

What is knowable is that the huge purses, and the fact that Tiger was the world's richest and most famous athlete, and not just the world #1 golfer, is making golf the first choice of more young athletes, rather than just the guys who couldn't make the "real" sports teams in school. So if you had 100 guys born with multi-sport talent 50 years ago, most of them played golf for fun, if at all. Today, a lot more of them concentrate on golf as their main sport.

And what is knowable is that travel is much faster and cheaper now, so almost every world class player shows up for almost every major and WGC, and for many of the regular PGA events. 50 years ago, the second or third best player in, say, Australia, often didn't even play in the British Open, let alone a PGA event. So all the PGA events, and three of the four majors, had only a handful of international players, and the fourth major had only a handful of Americans.

None of that is speculation. It is a verifiable fact that there are over twice as many people in the world today than there were 50 years ago. It's a verifiable fact that the purses today are hundreds of times as high as they were 50 years ago --- Tony Lema got about $4200 for winning the 1964 Open; today, it's about $1.5 million. It's a verifiable fact that virtually all the world top 100 play every major they are eligible for, instead of only a handful playing any events that require overseas travel.

It's not knowable exactly how all of that combines, but a good indication is the number of entries in the US Open. To enter the US Open requires both top 1% talent for the game, and a serious commitment to it. There were about 2400 entrants per year 50 years ago. This century, it's consistently over 9000, well over three times as many. It's true that, mostly because of the time and expense, the number of duffers recreational players has declined, but they never had any influence on field strength, anyway. High school kids on the golf team still play all they want, for free.

What do you have to counter that? Nothing but your belief that there were half a dozen golf phenoms all at the same time in the 60's, and none today, now that Tiger's past his prime. You're entitled to that opinion, but what facts do you have to back it up? Only the number of majors they won. But how many majors would Phil have won if the fields were like they were 50 years ago?

Phil finished second in the US Open to Goosen in 2004, to Ogilvy in 2006, and to Rose last year. 50 years ago, odds are that none of those guys would have even tried to qualify for the US Open, since it required shutting down their schedule for a minimum of three weeks to travel to the US for sectional qualifying, with no guarantee that they would make it into the actual tournament. Michael Campbell, who beat Tiger with some amazing putting down the stretch in 2005, said that he would not have entered that year if the USGA hadn't established overseas qualifying sites, so he didn't have to travel to enter.

How would Phil look next to Arnie with those three US Opens? Eight majors, and a career Grand Slam.

And how would Tiger look if Michael Campbell, Trevor Immelman, Angel Cabrera, and YA Yang had stayed home, like most international players did in the Jack era?

I'll make it even simpler for you, since you follow women's golf. How much better would the US women look today, if there were no Asians on tour? Or even just no Koreans?

Well, it looks like you're going to crow about the lack of current talent every time a guy backs into a win for the foreseeable future, but come on. The Valero was a 40-point tournament, which makes it one of the weakest regular PGA events, barely above the John Deere. And the tournament committee knows that most top players don't like to play right before a major, so they try to attract the few who do by making it as close to major conditions as possible, to help them fine tune their games. A weak field facing a tough setup is not a recipe for low scores, but you still insist on taking one bad week and comparing it to the majors of your hazy memory, even though you seem to have forgotten epic collapses by the likes of Arnie, who managed to lose a seven shot lead over the last 9 holes of the 1966 US Open. And who knows how often something like that happened in a low-rent event?

I don't know if Tiger was more talented than Jack, or even Trevino. All I know is that there are many solid reasons to believe that in order to win a tournament, he had to beat around three times as many talented golfers, even in most of the regular tour events he's won, as Jack did in a major --- especially the Open, where Jack only had to beat as few as 8 other Americans, at a time when probably 60-70 of the world top 100 were Americans. I don't say it's true by definition, as you claimed, but I say it's the way to bet, based on facts and logic.

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It's a pointless discussion, every one knows the greatest of all time is Mac O'Grady.

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6 hours ago, csh19792001 said:

I don't know if Tiger was more talented than Jack, or even Trevino. All I know is that there are many solid reasons to believe that in order to win a tournament, he had to beat around three times as many talented golfers, even in most of the regular tour events he's won, as Jack did in a major --- especially the Open, where Jack only had to beat as few as 8 other Americans, at a time when probably 60-70 of the world top 100 were Americans. I don't say it's true by definition, as you claimed, but I say it's the way to bet, based on facts and logic.

There a zillion assumptions that always get glossed over. It matters a lot if you are looking a players total career or just when they were good.

The best way to calculate who is greatest would be use the JAWS framework on Baseball Reference for majors.. For baseball they use  career WAR and WAR from the 7 best years and average the two. But instead of WAR use strokes gained for golf  And then make some sort adjustment for field depth.

The answer would be pretty clear who is greatest.  Joe Peta was a trader for Lehman and then wrote a book on baseball sports betting and then on the Masters and he did the calculation for strokes gained at  the Masters.

In baseball it took Bert Blyleven 14 tries to get in the Hall of Fame. We now know he is a top 10 post dead ball era pitcher and should have been voted in first ballot. As analytics get more embraced and widely publicized like WAR has for baseball, guys like  Tom Kite,,  Greg Norman, Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk,  and Nicklaus will be held  in higher regard than they currently are because they were consistently great.  Guys who had short careers or who were inconsistent like Johnny Miller, David Duval,  John Daly,  Tiger, Ballesteros, will be more properly rated instead of just looking at wins. 

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1 hour ago, GolfSwami said:

Guys who had short careers or who were inconsistent like Johnny Miller, David Duval,  John Daly,  Tiger, Ballesteros, will be more properly rated instead of just looking at wins. 

Which one of those two areas are you trying to claim Tiger falls into?

He has played in at least 1 event in 26 out of 27 seasons from 1996 to 2022 and played in 6+ events for 20 straight seasons from the 1996 season through the 2014-2015 season

He made 92.7% of his cuts as a professional.

He won 22.9% of his events as a professional.

He was top 25 in 75.4% of his events as a professional.

So are you really trying to say that Tiger had a short career or was inconsistent? If so, prove it. Back up your claim with facts.

 

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19 minutes ago, klineka said:

 

So are you really trying to say that Tiger had a short career or was inconsistent? If so, prove it. Back up your claim with facts.

 

One Major, 12 major top 10s post age 32

 

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