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


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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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Two things I bring up when it comes to this discussion. One is if you have let's say two towns next to each other, one has a population of 10,000 people and the other has a population of 1,000 people. Let's also say that they never play golf against each other. Only among themselves. In the first town, you have one guy who has won 15 events, then a couple of guys who won 6, a couple who won four and a bunch of people who won three, two and one events. In the second town, you have one guy who won 18 events, then a guy who won 11, a guy who won 9, a guy who won 8, a couple who won 7, a couple who won 3-5 and then a few 2s and a few 1s. Who's the best golfer? It's possible it's the guy who won 18, but it's pretty unlikely. Far more likely to be the guy who won 15 in the much bigger town. 

In the same way, I view the fact that there is more parity in the 1990 and onwards world than there was in the pre 1990 world as a plus for Tiger. It's much harder to stand out if the fields are deeper, stronger, better. If there are a handful of players who win all of them, that tends to suggest weakness to me, not strength.

The other thing is Ed White. Harvey Penick talked about him in one of his books. Ridiculously good at the game, but no one ever heard of him, because he got a job and didn't play professionally. There was no money in it and he needed security, so he took a job that paid him steadily. No clue how many people there are out there like him, but if he was around today, he'd be playing pro golf for sure. If he had played professionally, Penick sure seemed to think he'd have been one of the best of all time. Fred Haas played him in a college match and got stuffed. 40 years later he walked into Penick's shop and saw Ed White's picture on the wall and, after a full career playing pro golf, he said that Ed White was the best player he ever saw. Those 40 years would presumably have included at least some of Jack.

I can see why people might say Jack is the GOAT. I don't agree, but I can at least understand why they say it. IMO there is no argument you can make for anyone other than Tiger to be the BOAT though. At least not yet.

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After 393 pages of replies can we all agree that Tiger is the GOAT? 

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47 minutes ago, snapfade said:

After 393 pages of replies can we all agree that Tiger is the GOAT? 

There are still holdouts that insist that if you think it’s Tiger it’s just recency bias. And that 18 > 15.

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 4/16/2024 at 11:37 AM, iacas said:

There are still holdouts that insist that if you think it’s Tiger it’s just recency bias. And that 18 > 15.

 

Maybe not just the 18 & 15 angle though. Jack's consistency over a long period of time is pretty incredible. Kind of mindblowing to look at his total number of Top 5 finishes in the majors. 

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12 minutes ago, Dr. Manhattan said:

Maybe not just the 18 & 15 angle though. Jack's consistency over a long period of time is pretty incredible. Kind of mindblowing to look at his total number of Top 5 finishes in the majors. 

Once again… it's easier to be "consistent" when you're playing against weaker competition.

Despite playing against significantly stronger/deeper fields, Jack was nowhere near as dominant as Tiger Woods was.

Jack's "consistency" is a lame way of saying "I like Jack and I want to vote for him as GOAT but I can't come up with a real reason why, so I'll just say he was more 'consistent.'"

If someone joined the PGA Tour, kinda muddled around for a year or two, then won 16 majors and 75 total PGA Tour events in eight years, then promptly retired… He'd almost surely have my vote for GOAT.

Consistency schmonsistency.

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1 minute ago, iacas said:

Once again… it's easier to be "consistent" when you're playing against weaker competition.

Despite playing against significantly stronger/deeper fields, Jack was nowhere near as dominant as Tiger Woods was.


Weaker depth of fields for sure. Some of the top level guys with Jack were pretty awesome. Tom Watson had the lead on the 72nd hole of the 2009 British Open, an event where Tiger missed the cut. Old Tom was almost 60 years old. Jack himself at age 58 finished Top 10 at The 1998 Masters and scored better than Tiger, who won The Masters by 12 shots just a year before that.
 

The success of both Tom & Jack in older age gives some hope that maybe Tiger can find the magic again at some point. He’s still trying to figure out how to build the stamina for 72 holes after the leg injury. I would love to see him jump on the leaderboard in the coming years. I know a lot of people have given up on him at this point, but that was also true from 2014 to 2017 with the back injuries. He had a hell of a resurgence in 2018 & 2019. Would be fun to see it again. 

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Just now, Dr. Manhattan said:

Weaker depth of fields for sure. Some of the top level guys with Jack were pretty awesome. Tom Watson had the lead on the 72nd hole of the 2009 British Open, an event where Tiger missed the cut.

I'm not doing this for the hundred and twentieth time. Sorry in advance, but you get the massively abridged version.

Those guys also benefited from the weaker/shallower fields. Also, Watson's career doesn't overlap with Jack's like many think it did. Tom is nearly a decade younger. Jack won only like four majors only after Tom won his first. And Tom won more British Opens than he did all three of the other majors combined, as it was his specialty (not Jack's).

Arnie's career similarly doesn't overlap Jack's as much as many think.

 

13 minutes ago, Dr. Manhattan said:

Jack himself at age 58 finished Top 10 at The 1998 Masters and scored better than Tiger, who won The Masters by 12 shots just a year before that.

Jack would also tell you Tiger was the better golfer.

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If you watch the video/s of ‘Tiger’s greatest shots’ it’s undeniably clear that Tiger is far superior than any golfer that’s ever played. The helicopter follow through shot from the bunker, the second at Pebble Beach where he cut the uphill corner and made it to the green and so many others. Jack simply could’ve never hit those shots. 
Hell at the Skins Match around the  90’s with Jack, Tiger and Mark O’Meara Tiger hits a shot and Jack says, ‘ Man that kid can really hit that ball.’ O’Meara says ‘ He’s (22), he supposed to hit it like that.’ Jack then says, ‘ Well, we never hit it like that when we were that age .’

Tiger’s the GOAT. By far.

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Woods won 14 majors in his first decade, then messed up his private life + numerous unforced, self-punishing auto (and other) accidents and injuries. Result: 1 major in his second decade. So, while Woods was the greater "natural" talent, Nicklaus was the greater golfer as measured by results because he understood that golf was just part of how well you live your overall life.

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5 minutes ago, Haxo Angmark said:

Woods won 14 majors in his first decade, then messed up his private life + numerous unforced, self-punishing auto (and other) accidents and injuries. Result: 1 major in his second decade. So, while Woods was the greater "natural" talent, Nicklaus was the greater golfer as measured by results because he understood that golf was just part of how well you live your overall life.

As we've had to tell other people, the topic is which is the better GOLFER, not human being.

Erik J. Barzeski —  I knock a ball. It goes in a gopher hole. 🏌🏼‍♂️
Director of Instruction Golf Evolution • Owner, The Sand Trap .com • AuthorLowest Score Wins
Golf Digest "Best Young Teachers in America" 2016-17 & "Best in State" 2017-20 • WNY Section PGA Teacher of the Year 2019 :edel: :true_linkswear:

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2 minutes ago, Haxo Angmark said:

Woods won 14 majors in his first decade, then messed up his private life + numerous unforced, self-punishing auto (and other) accidents and injuries. Result: 1 major in his second decade. So, while Woods was the greater "natural" talent, Nicklaus was the greater golfer as measured by results because he understood that golf was just part of how well you live your overall life.

It may not be surprising that in the previous 7,064 posts, this particular point has been discussed. To which I will counter:

  1. If we're talking about results, why only the majors?
  2. Unless you know something that I don't, neither of us are in any position to judge whether Woods or Nicklaus lived their overall life better, not that such a thing is even objectively measurable, nor is it relevant to the discussion.

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2 hours ago, Haxo Angmark said:

Nicklaus was the greater golfer as measured by results

Hardly. Tiger’s stats far exceed those of Nicklaus’ other than the ‘Majors.’ I put majors in quotes because several of Jack’s major wins were grossly weak in depth of field. 
 

Im sure you’re aware that major wins as the sole criteria was Jack’s idea only after he realized he wasn’t gonna be able to surpass Snead’s total wins. Which of course was Jack’s criteria originally. Jack also moved the goal posts by not counting Amateur championships after Tiger won three to Jack’s two.

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I don't agree with them, but people can and do argue about Jack being the GOAT. I don't believe anyone can argue that Tiger isn't the BOAT though. Not in good faith.

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End of discussion.

 

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(edited)
18 hours ago, iacas said:

Once again… it's easier to be "consistent" when you're playing against weaker competition.

Despite playing against significantly stronger/deeper fields, Jack was nowhere near as dominant as Tiger Woods was.

Jack's "consistency" is a lame way of saying "I like Jack and I want to vote for him as GOAT but I can't come up with a real reason why, so I'll just say he was more 'consistent.'"

If someone joined the PGA Tour, kinda muddled around for a year or two, then won 16 majors and 75 total PGA Tour events in eight years, then promptly retired… He'd almost surely have my vote for GOAT.

Consistency schmonsistency.

Tiger was way more dominant. Tiger won more tournaments against deeper fields in a compressed period of times  Anyone who disagrees with that statement is clearly wrong.

But does that make Tiger the greatest? To you maybe. Not to those of us who combine dominance with longevity. Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski were clearly better tight ends at their peak but the GOAT is Tony Gonzalez. He made 14 Pro Bowls and was All Pro 10 times. Gronk was only 5 and 4 on those stats. Who is the greater point guard Isiah Thomas or John Stockton?  Stockton didn't win any championships but he is third all time in VORP, top 10 in Win Shares and 40th in PER. He was excellent for 19 years. Isiah is around 60th in VORP and outside the top 100 in other advanced metrics. 

Jack's total output, particularly in majors, is lightyears beyond Tiger. They aren't close even when you adjust for field strength. Jack has 73 top 10s in majors. Tiger barely has that many total cuts in majors.  If Tiger started his career in 1960, the odds are 0.0000% he would have Jack's overall record in the majors if his career trajectory were the same. Tiger would not get to 50 top 10s in majors let alone 73 based on how his career played out. 

You don't have to agree valuing overall output with dominance is the best way to decide. It is subjective. But saying Tiger has the better major record because fields were weaker is clearly wrong. Jack's strokes gained in the majors are so far ahead, that no adjustment for field strength gets Tiger in the ballpark. Jack has 37 top 2s in majors. Tiger barely has that many top 10s.  There were no shortage of guys in the 70s who would be top players in the late 90s, who would have provided plenty of resistance to Tiger. And the simple way to know this is those guys from the 70s were often still relevant playing against Tiger. 

Edited by GolfSwami
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8 minutes ago, GolfSwami said:

Jack has 73 top 10s in majors.

For a large chunk of Jack’s early majors, he didn’t even have 10 people with a reasonable chance to win against him. You can’t just disregard that.215ACC4E-97BD-4556-99A5-17334D6EBA47.thumb.png.626f9dd7ff9d082321cbdba00d202602.png

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(edited)
17 minutes ago, Vinsk said:

For a large chunk of Jack’s early majors, he didn’t even have 10 people with a reasonable chance to win against him. You can’t just disregard that.215ACC4E-97BD-4556-99A5-17334D6EBA47.thumb.png.626f9dd7ff9d082321cbdba00d202602.png

I didn't disregard it at all. I acknowledged and I am very well aware that the British Open often didn't have the best players (which was still true in the 90s but to a lesser extent), the PGA Championship had a lot of club pros and golf in general was a much less viable profession so the fields were more top heavy.

Clemson plays college football in the ACC. The ACC is a much weaker conference than the SEC and Big Ten.  Clemson often had great teams that were discounted because people used the same thinking as you.  Just because the SEC is tougher doesn't imply that every team ore even the top teams are better. 

This conversation would be more relevant if Jack only had a slightly better major record. The gap between Jack and Tiger in majors records is massive.  Tiger's 50th place finishes and DNPs aren't magically becoming 2nds in the 60s and 70s.

Edited by GolfSwami
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13 minutes ago, GolfSwami said:

The gap between Jack and Tiger in majors records is massive.

And that gap between Tiger’s total wins against Jack’s is massive. And aside from your obsession with majors, Tiger’s accomplishments are massive compared to Jack’s. And stop using other sports as an example. This is golf. Have you not looked at the lists of Tiger vs Jack accomplishments and records? It’s comical to look at both of them and derive that Jack is the GOAT. You acknowledge the weak fields Jack played in then turn around and state how amazing his major records are. That makes no sense at all.

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