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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
      1636
    • Jack Nicklaus is my favorite
      811


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He's the best of all time despite all the tribulations in health and personal life the last 11 years. Had he gotten back into it earlier or not had to suffer that entire period of lost potential, he would've been past everyone else in every possible statistic by now. 

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1 hour ago, iggywriter said:

I don't think it's a matter of better competition overall (depth is certainly beneficial to the Tiger argument; anyone can get hot and win the whole thing; Willett or Weir is an example of this) but rather more direct competition. Tennis offers a really good comparison:

Roger Federer is certainly the best player of all time, but would he have been perceived as great if it weren't for the competition he faced? Look at Sampras (another guy who deserves to be considered here) and the guys he faced in majors. Until Nadal and Djokovic arrive on the scene, Sampras looks like the guy with much better competition (Agassi, Goran, Edberg, Becker) because Roger's beating guys like Roddick and Hewitt (good players; not greats). The competition level gets much more fierce when Nadal bursts on the scene and Federer falters at Roland Garros year after year. Then, he conquers, and finds his way back to the top. He builds his resume (not just with Major victories), but with legendary matches, and the success of the other guys (who are also all time greats; the big three era of tennis is probably the best era in the sport's history). 

Basically, my point is this: Greatness isn't necessarily just skill. Tiger is a better player than Jack, just like Federer is a better player than Sampras. But, the story (or legacy for lack of a better word) is built on the perception  of competition and the rivalries that develop. Jack had Tom, Arnie, Lee, etc. all building towards that legacy by their own success. Tiger has basically just had Phil. 

That's how I look at this; it's not just the end product; if that's all that matters, then sure, it's Tiger all day long. No question, no debate. The story is important; the success of the other guys is just as important. It builds the narrative; it becomes more interesting. It keeps us coming back and talking about '77 at Turnberry, or '82 at Pebble Beach. Really, until this Masters, all we had from Tiger were the shots ('05 Masters for example) and the Tiger Slam. I guess I'm wanting more. 

I probably don't think about this the same way that most people here do. Greatness for me is all about the stories. I haven't felt that Tiger has given us all that much, in comparison to Jack, or even Bobby. 

If Federer didn’t have Nadal and Djokovic he’d have several more majors, almost undoubtedly ... but that would not necessarily mean that he’d have been a better tennis player.  Quite possibly the opposite might be true.  Without them to push him, it’s easier for him to win and his drive is lower.

I believe that’s the argument your making?  I’m cool with that.

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Tiger rules.  In the Tiger era, golf courses are far longer than Jack's time so the game has an extra element of difficulty.

Apart from needing to be consistent like in Jack's time, PGA golfers now also need to be long drive champions compared to Jack's time.

Edited by GOATee

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9 hours ago, iggywriter said:

The point of my post is this: Jack had tougher, and more consistent Nemesis' during his run, and still managed to set the record.

No he didn't. This line of logic has been exhausted.

8 hours ago, iggywriter said:

I don't think it's a matter of better competition overall (depth is certainly beneficial to the Tiger argument; anyone can get hot and win the whole thing; Willett or Weir is an example of this) but rather more direct competition. Tennis offers a really good comparison:

Tennis doesn't offer a good comparison. Tennis doesn't have stroke play. If every tournament in golf was match play then it might be more directly comparable.

8 hours ago, iggywriter said:

Basically, my point is this: Greatness isn't necessarily just skill. Tiger is a better player than Jack, just like Federer is a better player than Sampras. But, the story (or legacy for lack of a better word) is built on the perception  of competition and the rivalries that develop. Jack had Tom, Arnie, Lee, etc. all building towards that legacy by their own success. Tiger has basically just had Phil. 

This thread is about who is the greatest golfer. It has nothing to do with rivalries. If you want to go down that line, I could say Tiger was so good that no one could stand out as his rival. Jack was much closer to his competition.

Golfer A was consistently 2-3 strokes better a round than the next best golfer. This is such level of dominance that no one could stand near his level.

Golfer B was consistently half a stroke better a round than the next best golfer. This allowed for some closer matches.

Which golfer is more dominant? It's easy to see which one when you take away the names.

Basically you are romanticizing the past instead of looking at facts.

 

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7 hours ago, Golfingdad said:

If Federer didn’t have Nadal and Djokovic he’d have several more majors, almost undoubtedly ... but that would not necessarily mean that he’d have been a better tennis player.  Quite possibly the opposite might be true.  Without them to push him, it’s easier for him to win and his drive is lower.

I believe that’s the argument your making?  I’m cool with that.

In a nutshell, that's basically what I'm saying. 

9 minutes ago, saevel25 said:

Basically you are romanticizing the past instead of looking at facts.

 

I'm almost certainly romanticizing the past; but isn't that what we do when we talk about the GOAT in any sport? That's certainly the case in boxing, basketball, tennis, etc...

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5 minutes ago, iggywriter said:

I'm almost certainly romanticizing the past; but isn't that what we do when we talk about the GOAT in any sport?

If it is, it's the wrong way. Facts should be used to define greatness, not how we feel about a player.

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9 minutes ago, iggywriter said:

I'm almost certainly romanticizing the past; but isn't that what we do when we talk about the GOAT in any sport?

I don't, or try not to.

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10 minutes ago, iggywriter said:

I'm almost certainly romanticizing the past; but isn't that what we do when we talk about the GOAT in any sport? That's certainly the case in boxing, basketball, tennis, etc...

No? Not for me at least. When talking about the GOAT in basketball I look at the facts, level of competition, etc just like people are doing here.

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I've always held out for Jack in these discussions but I will admit that yesterday's win by Tiger is forcing me to re-think this. ¯\_(ヅ)_/¯

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Another major and a SERIOUS comeback.  Just adds more margin to the position.  And he's not done.

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14 minutes ago, commishbob said:

I've always held out for Jack in these discussions but I will admit that yesterday's win by Tiger is forcing me to re-think this. ¯\_(ヅ)_/¯

Yep.  He's now won over 3 decades.  His stats speak for themselves, and any shortage in major wins is offset by other areas of domination (more wins, which I think should carry more weight), winning percentage (23%), etc.

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All we have is opinions unless they teed it up against each other in their prime. That can't happen.

I'll admit to the sentimental part of me thinking of Jack as the GOAT, but Tiger's record between 1997 and 2008 is just stupid.

Jack made a statement about the level of competition some time back. He said the field today is deeper than at any point in golf. I agree. He also said the top ten in his day could whip the top ten 1997-2008. I agree with that.

The top 7 major winners from 1958 -1986 accounted for 57 majors.

Nicklaus -18 Player - 9 Watson - 8 Palmer - 7 Trevino - 6 Floyd - 4 Seve - 4

The top 7 from 1997 - 2019 accounted for 37.

Woods - 15 Mickleson - 5 Ernie - 4 Rory - 4 Speith -3 Harrington - 3

Does that point to tougher mental players that weren't scared of Jack? Or just Woods being that much better than everyone else?

Both.

Driving - Jack

Irons - Tie

Short game - Woods

Putting - Tie

Because there is so much more coverage today, we are much more exposed to the greatness that is Tiger Woods.

If they played a match. ??????????????????? We can only dream.

Four more majors and it won't be a thread.

 

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12 hours ago, iggywriter said:

There's far too many posts in this thread for me to read up on everything, but it seems to be almost consensus that the talent Tiger has faced far exceeds the talent Jack faced. 

It's almost certainly a fact. Just look at the numbers. The fields in Jack's days were 66% club pros early on, and still upwards of 33% club pros in his later years. Jack competed against the best of about 5 million American golfers, and a few million international golfers. Tiger has faced the best of about 25M American golfers and many orders of magnitude more golfers from other countries.

12 hours ago, iggywriter said:

1. In the early part of Tiger's career (late 90s - early 00's), the talent in the game wasn't all that great; look at your multiple time major champions (Mark O'Meara, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, etc) are certainly very good golfers, but with the exception of Ernie, you're not talking about all time greats.

You're making the same mistake that many posts here have debunked.

If you've got 10 guys who are really great, and then 140 guys who are average to bad, those 10 guys are going to win a lot more. That's Jack's era. Then today you have 20 really great players, and 130 really very good players… the wins are going to be spread out more.

Gary Player won the 1959 British Open, at a time when U.S. golfers were absolutely dominant. The field had four Americans in it, two were vacationing amateurs, and none made the cut. Yet he's cited as "look at how good Jack's competition was…". Yet throw in 15 current leading Web.com players and it's likely one of them wins that "major championship."

12 hours ago, iggywriter said:

2. Nick Faldo and Greg Norman are at the latter part of their careers, and really after 1996 aren't all that relevant (Norman does have success in 1999, and Faldo has some success at the US Open in the 00's).

Whoopty doo.

Here's something to try on: All of Tiger's 81 PGA Tour victories had stronger fields than Jack faced in the first nine of his major victories, and upwards of 50+ of them had stronger fields than Jack faced in all 18 of them.

12 hours ago, iggywriter said:

3. The other guys of that era, specifically Couples and Love III, never really live up to their potential. Couples does perform very well at the majors, but he doesn't win anything.

These are just your opinions. Look at the facts. Look at fields, look at how many people played golf, and how many countries produced golfers.

The best football team is far, far less likely to come from a town of 500 than it is to come from a town of 50,000.

12 hours ago, iggywriter said:

I think we can all agree that the second best player of that generation is Phil Mickelson; Sergio Garcia has to be the third best. Phil finds success at the majors, but Sergio doesn't. The rest of the field is a who's who of very good golfers, but very few all time greats.

Oy.

12 hours ago, iggywriter said:

1. The game was much different back when he played; short game and finesse seemed to be valued more. That era had guys who could really putt, chip, scramble, etc. 

No it didn't. Players today are better at all aspects of the game. Period.

12 hours ago, iggywriter said:

2. In the 60's Jack had to face Arnie and Player; guys like Venturi, Peter Thomson (at the end of his career), and others were still around and playing well. 

And Tiger's faced stiffer competition now than Jack ever faced.

Let me put it this way. If you could cut Tiger's competition to:

  1. Phil
  2. Ernie
  3. Vijay
  4. Sergio
  5. DJ
  6. Rory
  7.  

And you replaced the rest of the fields with club pros and mini-tour guys… what do you think THEIR numbers would look like?

Tiger would have won 30 majors. Phil would have 12. Vijay, Sergio, Ernie, DJ, Rory… would all be threatening double digits.

Those other players also took advantage of weak fields. They also - the weeks Jack wasn't playing well enough to win - beat up on the club pros and the "rabbits" out there on the Tour.

12 hours ago, iggywriter said:

3. In the 70s you've got Johnny Miller, Lee Trevino, Seve, and Tom Watson battling Jack. The Duel in the Sun is still probably the finest closing round in Open History.

Henrik vs. Phil was better, IMO.

12 hours ago, iggywriter said:

The point of my post is this: Jack had tougher, and more consistent Nemesis' during his run, and still managed to set the record.

No, he didn't.

12 hours ago, iggywriter said:

Right now, I have him tied for second best of all time (with Bobby Jones, who shouldn't be forgotten about when we talk about GOAT)

Ha ha ha ha ha. Bobby Jones had to beat, legitimately, like two people to win any given event? And sometimes (in match play) other guys did the dirty work for him and eliminated his main competition.

I'm going to leave you with two graphs from earlier in this topic. They represent what I've said in words in graphic/chart type form:

strength_and_depth.jpgstrengths.png

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13 hours ago, iggywriter said:

There's far too many posts in this thread for me to read up on everything, but it seems to be almost consensus that the talent Tiger has faced far exceeds the talent Jack faced. 

I disagree with that assessment, and here's why:

1. In the early part of Tiger's career (late 90s - early 00's), the talent in the game wasn't all that great; look at your multiple time major champions (Mark O'Meara, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, etc) are certainly very good golfers, but with the exception of Ernie, you're not talking about all time greats. 

2. Nick Faldo and Greg Norman are at the latter part of their careers, and really after 1996 aren't all that relevant (Norman does have success in 1999, and Faldo has some success at the US Open in the 00's). 

3. The other guys of that era, specifically Couples and Love III, never really live up to their potential. Couples does perform very well at the majors, but he doesn't win anything. 

Now, we move into the 00's, where the competition is a little more fierce. 

I think we can all agree that the second best player of that generation is Phil Mickelson; Sergio Garcia has to be the third best. Phil finds success at the majors, but Sergio doesn't. The rest of the field is a who's who of very good golfers, but very few all time greats. Tiger has his run, and dominates the sport. But who's out there to give Tiger a run for his money on a consistent basis in the majors? Phil's like the only guy. I guess you could say that Padriag Harrington was pretty great (he was my favorite player for a very long time), but he's really only relevant from 2007-08. 

Now, we're at the later part of Tiger's career, and the game is full of really great (and even all time great) players: Rory, Jordan, Rose, and Jason Day are going to make the next few years very hard for Tiger; throw in Lefty as another potential guy who can win, and about another half dozen names or so of really good players (Bubba, Thomas, Molinari, Koepka, etc.) and we're starting to see a golden era for the game. I have no doubt that Tiger is the greatest athlete to ever play the game, but I WANT to see him win in an era with heavy competition to top Nicklaus. That's just my opinion. 

Because this is far too long, here's the thing with Jack:

1. The game was much different back when he played; short game and finesse seemed to be valued more. That era had guys who could really putt, chip, scramble, etc. 

2. In the 60's Jack had to face Arnie and Player; guys like Venturi, Peter Thomson (at the end of his career), and others were still around and playing well. 

3. In the 70s you've got Johnny Miller, Lee Trevino, Seve, and Tom Watson battling Jack. The Duel in the Sun is still probably the finest closing round in Open History. 

4. Hale Irwin is often under appreciated in terms of all time greatness: He won the US Open '74, '79, and '90 because he was one of the greats. 

The point of my post is this: Jack had tougher, and more consistent Nemesis' during his run, and still managed to set the record. Tiger, while certainly much more gifted, hasn't yet had the kinds of rivalries, which to me, signify true GOAT significance. I am confident that in the next three or four years, Tiger is going to break Jack's record, and I think playing in this era (with this competition), he'll over take Jack for me. Right now, I have him tied for second best of all time (with Bobby Jones, who shouldn't be forgotten about when we talk about GOAT) and that's not a bad place for him. Tiger will end his career as the greatest, but there's still a few road blocks ahead of him before he really achieves that status. 

Well, since you aren't going to read the thread I'll give you the Cliff notes version.  Virtually everything you just posted has been completely debunked in it.  You miss the obvious points.  Those all time greats in Jack's era had the same benefit of weak fields that Jack did.  Gary Player was one of those all time greats.  When he won his first major it was a British Open whose field only included 4 or 5 Americans, all unknowns - at a time when American golfers were absolutely dominant.  That is just an example.  Most top American golfers did not routinely go to the Brisish Open as late as the 70s.  It wasn't until they started having British Open qualifying events in the US that more Americans would go over.

But you are entitled to your opinion.

12 hours ago, iggywriter said:

I don't think it's a matter of better competition overall (depth is certainly beneficial to the Tiger argument; anyone can get hot and win the whole thing; Willett or Weir is an example of this) but rather more direct competition. Tennis offers a really good comparison:

Roger Federer is certainly the best player of all time, but would he have been perceived as great if it weren't for the competition he faced? Look at Sampras (another guy who deserves to be considered here) and the guys he faced in majors. Until Nadal and Djokovic arrive on the scene, Sampras looks like the guy with much better competition (Agassi, Goran, Edberg, Becker) because Roger's beating guys like Roddick and Hewitt (good players; not greats). The competition level gets much more fierce when Nadal bursts on the scene and Federer falters at Roland Garros year after year. Then, he conquers, and finds his way back to the top. He builds his resume (not just with Major victories), but with legendary matches, and the success of the other guys (who are also all time greats; the big three era of tennis is probably the best era in the sport's history). 

Basically, my point is this: Greatness isn't necessarily just skill. Tiger is a better player than Jack, just like Federer is a better player than Sampras. But, the story (or legacy for lack of a better word) is built on the perception  of competition and the rivalries that develop. Jack had Tom, Arnie, Lee, etc. all building towards that legacy by their own success. Tiger has basically just had Phil. 

That's how I look at this; it's not just the end product; if that's all that matters, then sure, it's Tiger all day long. No question, no debate. The story is important; the success of the other guys is just as important. It builds the narrative; it becomes more interesting. It keeps us coming back and talking about '77 at Turnberry, or '82 at Pebble Beach. Really, until this Masters, all we had from Tiger were the shots ('05 Masters for example) and the Tiger Slam. I guess I'm wanting more. 

I probably don't think about this the same way that most people here do. Greatness for me is all about the stories. I haven't felt that Tiger has given us all that much, in comparison to Jack, or even Bobby. 

Tennis is a terrible analogy, because it is a head to head interactive sport while in golf it is which player deals with a course and conditions the best.  The quality of Federer's forehand makes it physically tougher for his opponent to return it.  A golfer hitting a great shot does NOTHING to make his opponent's next shot physically tougher.

 

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Little doubt they are both the greatest of their generation. All of the "what ifs" are just that, what if.

Would Tiger have been as fit as he is now back in the 60"s? Doubtful. Would Jack have been more fit if he played in the last two decades? Most certainly.

They both were the ones to beat when it was teed up no matter the field. Same went for Old Tom, Jones, Hagen, Nelson, Hogan, Snead. None could help who was in the field at the time. Somehow transported to our times, they would still be great, given the fitness and equipment.

Ty Cobb probably would have batted .367 over a lifetime were he playing now. Would he have been a great hitter? No question.

It's still fun to debate.

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3 hours ago, iggywriter said:

In a nutshell, that's basically what I'm saying. 

I'm almost certainly romanticizing the past; but isn't that what we do when we talk about the GOAT in any sport? That's certainly the case in boxing, basketball, tennis, etc...

Romanticizing the past is how we get nonsense like people putting Jones into the GOAT conversation.  In his whole career Jones NEVER played a single event in which substantially all of the best players of his era were in the field.  And no, amateur golf, with the sole exception of Jones, wasn't anywhere near the pro level, so his Amateur wins are 'majors' more by courtesy than by any version of reality.

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Watching the golf channel this morning and they inadvertantly made the point about the absurdity of romanticizing the past.  They referred to Jack's '75 win as one of the greatest because of it being the 'big 3' Jack, Weiskopf, and Miller.  The big three, lol.  Weiskopf and Miller each had exactly one major to their credit in 1975.

Tiger beat off Molinari (1 major), Koepka (3 majors), Dustin (1 major), Simpson (1 major), and Day (1 major).


And it has been this way for a while.  

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4 hours ago, iggywriter said:

In a nutshell, that's basically what I'm saying. 

I'm almost certainly romanticizing the past; but isn't that what we do when we talk about the GOAT in any sport? That's certainly the case in boxing, basketball, tennis, etc...

I believe that they said during the broadcast yesterday that Tiger's percentages go a long way toward illustrating his dominance.  Something like 24% of the tournaments he played in he won.  Jack's numbers are good but not even in the same ball park as Tiger's (and Jack has always been my golfing idol).  These aren't up to date but:

  • Tiger Woods: 79 wins in 324 events -- 24.2 percent
  • Jack Nicklaus:  73 wins in 595 events - 12.3 percent

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