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


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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I would think we need to start with defining terms.  What is greatness?  If it is the most majors, Jack wins.  If it is the most times losing a major closely, Jack wins.  If it is most hookers slept with, Tiger probably wins. 

To me the term implies some longevity, so if Bobby Jones were part of the conversation that might exclude him.  But Tiger's run of longevity even with his last several years is enough to not be a disqualifier.  At least to me.

I think greatness should examine the level of golf played -- the quality of best shots and best tournaments -- and it should examine the difference between the player and his competition. 

I have to admit I didn't watch Jack during his prime -- and expect that even those that did were not able to see as much of his heroics because there was less television coverage.  Nonetheless, based on press accounts (which admittedly suffer from recency bias), it seems Tiger's level of golf was unsurpassed.  Tiger 2001 and 2002 drove as well as Jack, his irons were as good as Jack, and his putting and short game far exceeded that of Jack. 

And then you look at the difference between the player and his competition. Again, Tiger far outplayed his competition as compared to Jack.  I frankly don't buy the argument that Jack's competition was better than Tiger's.  There's the simple matter of population counts and the number of people playing high level golf.  But, more than that, Tiger so outplayed his competition that he took majors away from folks.

Finally, and this is even more subjective than the already subjective comments above -- Tiger had a flair for the dramatic, a charisma, and the ability to hit absurd shots that Jack, with his conservative nature, simply couldn't (or, more likely, wouldn't) match. 

 

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For some reason, you have missed hundreds of posts that do accept that.  I've often said I can't even prove that Tiger would beat Vardon head to head, although I'd bet on him. What I CAN prove is

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 (re

That's very unfair to Jack, since he played events well into his 60's.  It also distorts Tiger's record, since he played injured for several years. It would be more fair to look at the the period

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Just now, tdiii said:

I would think we need to start with defining terms.

We don't, because then you're forcing one definition on everyone.

People are welcome to decide what "greatest" means on their own. The topic only restricts that to greatest golfer.

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4 minutes ago, iacas said:

We don't, because then you're forcing one definition on everyone.

People are welcome to decide what "greatest" means on their own. The topic only restricts that to greatest golfer.

Of course we don't "have" to.  But if everyone is using different definitions for "greatest", then we really go around in circles.  For, say, 288 pages.  Which is fine.  It would be interesting to know how folks define that term -- conceding that the underlying arguments provide some illumination of a person's working definition.  And I certainly was not forcing my definitions on anyone else. 

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5 minutes ago, tdiii said:

But if everyone is using different definitions for "greatest", then we really go around in circles.

So? People get to use their own definitions. I'm not going to restrict that. It's the nature of debate.

Who's the better hockey player: Gretzky or Lemieux? A lot of people could make a case for Lemieux. If you limit it just to stats, it's Gretzky, but the stats don't tell the whole story, many feel.

6 minutes ago, tdiii said:

It would be interesting to know how folks define that term -- conceding that the underlying arguments provide some illumination of a person's working definition.

I define it as the highest level of play for a "long enough" (several years) period of time.

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4 minutes ago, iacas said:

 

I define it as the highest level of play for a "long enough" (several years) period of time.

At least we can agree on that. 

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2 hours ago, iacas said:

Also, FACT: Tiger won more Vardons and Players of the Year than Jack.

FACT: Tiger's ten best years beat Jack's ten best years. I wish I could find @turtleback's post(s) on this. They're pretty compelling.

FACT: Tiger won a higher percentage of his tournaments, had a larger margin of victory, and coughed up only one lead in a major entering Sunday. Jack falls short in all cases.

FACT: Tiger won 18 WGCs. Jack won zero. Think that it's unfair that Jack didn't have WGCs in which to play? Tell it to Hogan and Snead, when Jack decided to switch from career victories to major championships as the criteria.

FACT: the equipment of the modern era, with cavity back irons, hybrids, etc. have helped Tiger's competitors more than they've helped Tiger. Tiger's said it, Jack's said it, equipment makers have said it…

Sorry Jack, that's a FACT, too: the fields are both stronger and deeper now. Significantly so.

I haven't been around for a while, but I see we have a new cohort of 18>14 types.  I'm not going to rehash everything I've written in the past, but here are the message numbers, in this thread in no particular order, putting forth the overwhelming case that other than the simplistic 18>14 argument there is no argument for Jack that stands up to analysis.  And in some cases the refutation comes right out Jack's mouth.

2827

4718

4207

4190

4115

3755

3079

And 2879 punctures many of the myths that have grown up around Jack that still persist.

I will close with my old challenge to the Jack supporters.  You list Jack's best 18 years in order, in terms of dominance, and I'll do the same for Tiger, and we'll have a little 'match play' comparison.  Or you can save your time because if you try, Jack loses 10 & 8.  But by all means, step up and take your best shot.

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This one contains the quote from Jack that "the golfers in the middle of the pack today have had to become as good as the players at the top were when I started out thirty and more years ago, while those in the top have become the equals of superstars of my generation." (and that was from before Tiger Woods came onto the scene.)

This has this quote: "And YOU claim that majors is the benchmark, which is why you get the charges of laziness.  How about Vardons?  How about money titles?  Cut streaks?  Winning streaks?  Winning margin?  POY awards?  The fact is that once you get past the simplistic 18>14 there is almost nothing on Jack's side of the ledger."

And this one: "How about dominance?  In how many years in his career was Jack the dominant player?  Not too many, if you look closely.  Jack was among the best 3-5 players for 20 years, but h was clearly the best player in less than half of them and dominant in no more than a half dozen or so,.  As compared to Tiger who was not only the best, but dominant to an extent never seen before or since in all but a couple of years ('98 and '04) up to 2008."

As well as the one I was referring to: "I'll tell you what - you put Jack's years in order from most dominant to least dominant.  I'll do the same for Tiger's years and we'll line them up in match play. I'll save you the trouble - Jack loses 10 & 8."

There are other points made in that post, too. I encourage anyone to look at it.

Relevant quote from this one: "None of the Jack supporters want to list his dominant years season by season because they know I can then match each of them up with dominant season of Tiger's and each of Tiger's matching seasons  will be better and they will run out of dominant years long before I will.  I've challenged every one of these late additions to the thread as I did to the earlier contributors on the Jack side of the issue and gotten no response  Which is why I still maintain that when it comes right down to it, the only basis they really have for picking Jack is 18>14.  Certainly not dominance."

TONS of great stuff here:

This one has some stuff quoted in the one above:

#3755:

And finally, #3079:

Thanks, @turtleback.

Once again, I was wrong about how many people simply look at "18 > 14" and don't consider much beyond that. I was wrong. You were right.

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And then there is message 4684 wherein we get a history lesson in just how number of majors came to be the 'criteria' for GOAT.  Lobbied for by Jack despite several different standards he had previously proposed - until he realized he wouldn't reach them.  And then having reached the point where had the most majors, THEN decides most majors was the only FAIR was of determining the GOAT, ignoring the fact that he had far more opportunities to play in majors, and that no one before him planned their whole year around them.  If number of majors REALLY was the key, why didn't ANYONE consider Walter Hagen the GOAT before Jack?

https://thesandtrap.com/forums/topic/2203-jack-vs-tiger-whos-the-greatest-golfer/?do=findComment&comment=378140

 

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@turtleback

If I want to know who won a game I look to the scoreboard not stat sheet.

I don’t think stats were accurately kept for say Hogan Snead Palmer Jack etc anyways so comparing ballstriking is not objectively possible.

As far as the depth of field,  I think the top of the field in Jacks time was much more formidable than in Tigers in terms of winners with mental toughness. They had more guts and won more majors than Tigers competitors. 

I think five of Jacks majors were won with Sunday comebacks.  Tiger never did that and he never faced several rivals unafraid to stare him down.  

Again I have high hopes Tiger can win on the scoreboard but right now the only argument for him requires the stat sheet.

I really believe if he’s truly healthy he can do it.  Plenty of time.  Let’s say he wins Augusta this year.  He can show how little true heart exists even today amongst the spoiled millionaires in the field.

Speith won’t back down,  don’t know about the others...

Imo it’s still possible Tiger could get to 20,  but right now he’s down a couple runs in the bottom of the seventh.  He’s still batting though and no outs.

 

 

 

 

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9 minutes ago, Jack Watson said:

They had more guts and won more majors than Tigers competitors. 

Again, this has been pointed out many times. Those player, Watson, Palmer, Trevino, Miller all benefited from the lack of depth in those fields. 

You put Els, Mickelson or Vijay back in the 60's-70's and they'll have better records than they have now.

11 minutes ago, Jack Watson said:

I think five of Jacks majors were won with Sunday comebacks.  Tiger never did that and he never faced several rivals unafraid to stare him down.  

Wouldn't that illustrate that Tiger was so much better than the field? Jack had to "come back" while Tiger was already ahead, sometimes miles ahead.

Also Tiger did have a lot of rivals play well against him down the stretch. He just played that much better.

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25 minutes ago, Jack Watson said:

@turtleback

If I want to know who won a game I look to the scoreboard not stat sheet.

I don’t think stats were accurately kept for say Hogan Snead Palmer Jack etc anyways so comparing ballstriking is not objectively possible.

As far as the depth of field,  I think the top of the field in Jacks time was much more formidable than in Tigers in terms of winners with mental toughness. They had more guts and won more majors than Tigers competitors. 

I think five of Jacks majors were won with Sunday comebacks.  Tiger never did that and he never faced several rivals unafraid to stare him down.  

Again I have high hopes Tiger can win on the scoreboard but right now the only argument for him requires the stat sheet.

I really believe if he’s truly healthy he can do it.  Plenty of time.  Let’s say he wins Augusta this year.  He can show how little true heart exists even today amongst the spoiled millionaires in the field.

Speith won’t back down,  don’t know about the others...

Imo it’s still possible Tiger could get to 20,  but right now he’s down a couple runs in the bottom of the seventh.  He’s still batting though and no outs.

 

 

 

 

When you make a new point that hasn't been made and discredited in this thread I'll respond to you.  You haven't so far.  You haven't addressed or interacted with any of the stuff in those messages I linked to, so I'm a little skeptical that you even read them.  So I'm not going to get into a back and forth with you on things that have hashed and re-hashed in this thread repeatedly.  Or maybe you think Jack was lying when he said the top players in 1996 (the very dawn of Tiger's pro career) were comparable to the superstars of his day?

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53 minutes ago, Jack Watson said:

@turtleback

If I want to know who won a game I look to the scoreboard not stat sheet.

Again I have high hopes Tiger can win on the scoreboard but right now the only argument for him requires the stat sheet.

So lets look at the scoreboard. The scoreboard should include ALL tournaments, not just majors. They play to win tournaments first and foremost, not to just win majors. 

Lets go hypothetical for a second. Who would you consider to be a greater player, Player A who won 50 PGA tour events and 0 majors, and Player B won once and it was a major? I bet almost everyone would say Player A. 

Back to reality here. Lets look at the scoreboard, as Erik did earlier. 

6 hours ago, iacas said:

FACT: Tiger has won 79 PGA Tour events, Jack 73.

FACT: Tiger won a higher percentage of his tournaments, had a larger margin of victory

All of those point to Tiger being ahead on the scoreboard.

Let's now do something interesting. Since you think majors count so heavily, lets pretend each major victory counted as 2 wins. 

Tiger would have 93 (79+14)

Jack would have 91 (73+18)

So even if each major counted as two wins, Tiger would still be ahead on the scoreboard. So no, the only argument for Tiger does not require the stat sheet, a very compelling argument can be made by using the scoreboard.

 

53 minutes ago, Jack Watson said:

I really believe if he’s truly healthy he can do it.  Plenty of time.  Let’s say he wins Augusta this year.  He can show how little true heart exists even today amongst the spoiled millionaires in the field.

Speith won’t back down,  don’t know about the others...

So you think coming down the stretch on Sunday at Augusta players like Justin Thomas, Rahm, DJ, Mcilroy, Fowler, are just going to "back down" against Tiger Woods because they dont have "true heart" and are spoiled millionaires? But for some undisclosed reason Spieth wont? (guess he isnt a spoiled millionaire) That might be the most ridiculous statement/assumption I've ever read on this site. 

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Fact majors represent the most important tournaments with the strongest fields era for era.

Jacks placed best in these games.  Best vs best. That’s fact.

That’s why I hold my opinion that’s all.  Scoreboard.

Its simple to me and that’s all I have to say on this except that I can’t wait for Tiger to get back in his groove and compete this year.  I hope his health is good and he can end this discussion permanently.

Carry on.

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16 minutes ago, Jack Watson said:

Fact majors represent the most important tournaments with the strongest fields era for era.

Not a fact. The Majors do not have the strongest fields in the season. The Masters allows precious winners to return, even way past their prime, they dilute the field. 

Importance doesn’t equate golf ability or dominance. Though the odds of Tiger winning that many PGA tour events and not getting major wins is astronomically small. 

 

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46 minutes ago, Jack Watson said:

Fact majors represent the most important tournaments with the strongest fields era for era.

Jacks placed best in these games.  Best vs best. That’s fact.

That’s why I hold my opinion that’s all.  Scoreboard.

Its simple to me and that’s all I have to say on this except that I can’t wait for Tiger to get back in his groove and compete this year.  I hope his health is good and he can end this discussion permanently.

Carry on.

You're just trolling at this point, @Jack Watson.

Nicklaus competed against some pretty weak fields, even in the majors. 14+79 >> 18+73, IMO, based solely on the consideration of the strength and depth of the fields. Then Tiger pulls even further away when you look at how he dominated, not just won, and the awards he won, etc.

Read and respond to other people, or you're just trolling. You keep posting the same thing. Blah blah. "18 > 14" to you, and that's all that matters. Problem is, we're not all simpletons about this sort of thing like you want to be.

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I feel the need to respond due to getting referred to as too simple.  Accusations were made that I did not read others posts or respond and that I am trolling.

@turtleback basically makes an argument based on a concept of dominance.  I did not specifically address the underlying concept here.  The concept is that margin of victory is meaningful.  Ie a team beating another 200-0 is better than 1-0.  My response is seriously that in terms of record it counts the same one victory.  Turtle made many excellent points to support his position but imo makes the mistake of saying here I challenge anyone to compare some limited time of both Tiger and Jacks career and I will prove Jack inferior over this period I have defined based on dominance.  When choosing the GOAT at any given time I value championships andd prefer to look at the totality of the accomplishments of the player.  To me majors are the biggest championships.  Also,  extreme dominance presupposes inferior competition imo.  So much is just opinion here but that’s mine.

@mvmac basically said weak fields were responsible for Jacks competitors records.  My response is one round with my life on the line I will take Watson over Phil Palmer over Vijay and Player over Els.

The strength of field issue is interesting because it’s inarguable that fields are not DEEPER now,  but my opinion is that they are not necessarily STRONGER in terms of number of players who have the guts to play their best and beat the best in majors and who have amassed many majors.

@saevel25 claimed it’s not a fact that majors have the strongest fields noting Augusta as a prime example due to allowing ams and past champions.  What deserving great players have been kept out of Augusta’s field?  Why would you argue that?  IMO the majors represent the strongest fields of any era and are most difficult championships to win.

The strength of field issue to me is a BIG opinion one.  DEPTH not so much.  Fields are deeper now and there’s more parity.  

My opinion is head to head at any given age before forty it’s a toss up.  Jack has the edge in his forties as of right now,  but really can’t say because it seems the big cat is healthy now.  Jack might have a slight edge in consistency of striking but Tigers short game negates that.  Tough to definitively say much except it’s a coin toss imo.  Again that’s all subjective.

Strength of field is a matter of opinion but look at this link here.  Tiger never suffered a loss playing his best as Jack did at Watson’s hands in 77 at Turnberry.  IMO that points out the inferiority of Tigers rivals/main competition.  Obviously,  @turtleback would argue that his opinion is that it proves Tigers greater dominance than Jacks.  I hold a different opinion on this field issue.  I hold that the top of Jacks field would pound the best in Tigers era into submission.  That’s a subjective opinion.  The also rans don’t matter to me at all.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1421116-the!-top-10-rivals-of-tiger-woods-throughout-his-career

I think that addresses responding to those who have kindly taken the time to point out their arguments to me.

I was not a Tiger fan much in his heyday because of the fact no one could really challenge him at his best.  (To me weak competition to others a sign of greatness).   Now I am a HUGE HUGE FAN because he makes things SO interesting going forward.

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13 minutes ago, Jack Watson said:

@turtleback basically makes an argument based on a concept of dominance. I did not specifically address the underlying concept here.  The concept is that margin of victory is meaningful.  Ie a team beating another 200-0 is better than 1-0.  My response is seriously that in terms of record it counts the same one victory.

If a team beats an opponent 200-0 they're quite likely significantly better than a team that beats the same opponent 1-0. Dominance means something.

13 minutes ago, Jack Watson said:

When choosing the GOAT at any given time I value championships andd prefer to look at the totality of the accomplishments of the player.

Again, you're not saying anything new here. And… the "totality of the accomplishments" favors Tiger Woods in virtually every other category. The only category in which it favors Jack and in which you can "value championships" is the simplistic "18 > 14" argument, which still doesn't account for depth/strength of field.

13 minutes ago, Jack Watson said:

Also,  extreme dominance presupposes inferior competition imo.

No, it doesn't. It demonstrates how TW was THAT much better.

The competition and strength/depth of field was significantly stronger during Tiger's era. FACT. Simple math, buddy. Simple enough that even someone whose SOLE point is "18 > 14" should be able to understand it, but chooses not to.

13 minutes ago, Jack Watson said:

@mvmac basically said weak fields were responsible for Jacks competitors records. My response is one round with my life on the line I will take Watson over Phil Palmer over Vijay and Player over Els.

Whoopty doo. You're just justifying your position. The fields are stronger and deeper now. Ask @Phil McGleno. Ask Jack Nicklaus. Or, do some basic math.

13 minutes ago, Jack Watson said:

@saevel25 claimed it’s not a fact that majors have the strongest fields noting Augusta as a prime example due to allowing ams and past champions.

On this one, you're just plain wrong. The PGA has - and not by just a little - the strongest field of the majors. The Players Championship has a stronger field than even the PGA. The Masters is well back, with an artificially small field and a lot of non-competitive players.

Again, this is basic math, and it's already out there. Go look it up or something.

13 minutes ago, Jack Watson said:

My opinion is head to head at any given age before forty it’s a toss up.

And in my opinion, Tiger wins 65 of the 100 matches they play against each other.

Your entire argument is "I like Jack, and 18 > 14."

13 minutes ago, Jack Watson said:

Strength of field is a matter of opinion but look at this link here.

Keep lying to yourself all you want, man. It really isn't.

13 minutes ago, Jack Watson said:

Tiger never suffered a loss playing his best as Jack did at Watson’s hands in 77 at Turnberry.  IMO that points out the inferiority of Tigers rivals/main competition.

Do you realize how dumb a statement like that is? I think you previously also pointed out that Tiger almost never lost when leading… as if that's somehow a bad thing.

Suppose we use Madden ratings, where 100 is perfect, and 0 is a newborn baby or something. Let's put Jack at a 90. He played against a few 86s or 87s, like Tom Watson, and some guys in the 70s, like Tom Weiskopf, and a whole lotta players in the 50s through the 30s.

Tiger is a 99. He's playing against a BUNCH of guys in the lower 90s. The worst guy with a Tour card is an 80. You get an occasional Monday qualifier in the 70s, or a sponsor's invitation in the low 70s or 60s if they're just a local favorite (though Tiger doesn't play many of those kinds of events), but you get NOBODY like the local club pros that filled out 1/3 to 1/2 of the fields in Jack's day.

So Tiger has about an 7-point gap. He dominates. Jack had maybe a three-point gap. He doesn't dominate quite as much. That can explain it, too: Tiger not only had stronger competition, he was that much better.

13 minutes ago, Jack Watson said:

I hold a different opinion on this field issue. I hold that the top of Jacks field would pound the best in Tigers era into submission. That’s a subjective opinion. The also rans don’t matter to me at all.

That defies the math, what Jack Nicklaus himself has said, and common sense. Athletes in EVERY sport have gotten better. Every sport, you would have us believe, except golf. The top half of the fields in Jack's day is almost dipping into the bottom half, which was often local club pros and other weaker players looking for one week in the spotlight.

Look, despite the 200 words or whatever you just put out there, your two arguments are "you like Jack" and "18 > 14." Anything else you said above is just a flavor of those.

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