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

Greatest Golfer (GOAT)  

194 members have voted

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

    • Tiger Woods is the man
      1634
    • Jack Nicklaus is my favorite
      815


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1 minute ago, Vinsk said:

Well....imo the fact that 4 strong players did it makes it less ‘rare’. And hitting a tee shot in the water is considerably more excusing than missing a 2’ putt like Hoch did to hand Faldo the win. Or to have a the leader blow a six shot lead in the final round....that’s uniquely lucky.

 

Faldo was extremely fortunate in all 3 of his green jacket victories. Ray Floyd going in the water at the 11th handed the title to him. But you gotta give credit to Faldo for grinding hard and making sure that he gave himself the best chance to take full advantage of these mistakes.

Tiger did a great job of that this year at Augusta as well. The water balls at 12 would have meant less if he did not bury the 6 footer for par. That was really critical for him to get the full two shot swing on guys like Koepka, Molinari, and Finau. 

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5 hours ago, turtleback said:

I just want to point out that in that post I attributed the real stuff to a guy from the GC boards named jugglepin.  It was actually put together by our own @brocks from the days when GC had boards.  And again, apologies to @brocks for the misattribution.

 

No worries, it's an honor to have one of my posts confused for one of jugglepin's. 

I have here a couple of jugglepin's actual posts, which I've always liked.  I think you may have reposted it also.  No link, since TGC evidently deleted its entire board many years ago.

===========================

Originally posted to TGC by jugglepin:

Just for fun, let’s look at this a different way. Ok, suppose Palmer, Player, Trevino, Watson, Miller, etc were ‘greater’ than today’s current players. I’m not sure I agree but we’ll go with it for this discussion.

The argument seems to be that Jack’s wins were greater because these guys were in the field, or that Jack had so many 2nd’s because these guys stepped up and took championships from him.

Let’s look at Jack’s victories and see what the ‘name’ players did to put pressure on Jack:

’62 US Open –Palmer had 10 3-putts in regulation, and took 38 putts on Saturday; with any kind of putting from Palmer there never would have been a playoff.
’63 Masters – Player bogeyed the last two holes to finish 3 shots back; Palmer shot 37 on the back 9 the last day and finished 5 shots out.
’63 PGA – Player was 7 shots back, Palmer 14 shots back, never in it.
’65 Masters – Jack blew the field away, just like Tiger did in ’97.
’66 Masters – Palmer shot 38 on the back 9, finishing 2 shots out of the Brewer – Nicklaus – Jacobs playoff; Player finished 11 shots back.
’67 US Open - Jack legitimately beat Palmer in this one, though by then he knew he could beat Palmer; unheard of Trevino finished 5th 8 shots back, Player was 11 shots back.
’70 Open – best known for Sanders blowing the 3-footer to give Jack a chance; nonetheless Trevino finished 2 shots back, Palmer 7 shots back, and Player missed the cut.
’71 PGA – Player was the only one close at 4 shots back, Trevino 7 shots back, Palmer 8; Player shot a final round 73 so he didn’t exactly put the pedal to the metal.
’72 Masters – Player finished 5 shots back, Trevino and Palmer both finished 14 shots back at +12; this tournament was similar to 2002 for Tiger in that absolutely no one challenged Jack the last day.
’72 US Open- Palmer shot 76 to finish 4 shots back; Trevino shot 78 to finish 5 shots back, and Player never contended, finishing 15 shots back.
’73 PGA – Watson finished 8 shots back, Trevino and Miller 9 shots back; Player 17 shots back; and Palmer missed the cut.
’75 Masters – Miller admits he chickened out shooting at the pin on 18 when he needed a birdie to tie Nicklaus; Watson was 9 shots back, Trevino 10 shots back; Palmer 11 back.
’75 PGA – Watson was 9 shots back; Palmer and Player 15 shots back; Trevino 21 shots back.
’78 Open – Watson closed with a 76 to finish 6 shots back; Trevino was 10 shots back; Player 11 shots back; Miller was cut.
’80 US Open – Watson was 4 shots back, Trevino 11 shots back.
’80 PGA – Trevino was 11 shots back, Watson 14 back in a Nicklaus runaway.
’86 Masters – great comeback by Jack, but Norman did bogey 18 to miss out playing off.

The inescapable conclusion that I came to looking at all this is that while these guys may have been great players and great champions, they pretty much stunk when it came to putting pressure on Nicklaus in his wins. The fact is guys like Bruce Crampton and Doug Sanders pushed Jack harder in his victories than these guys. Say what will about Di Marco, May, etc. – I contend they did more to force Tiger to play great shots and/or rounds than Palmer, Player, etc. ever did with Jack.

If time and energy allows, we can look at some of Jack’s 2nd place finishes and see where these guys really ‘took’ championships from Jack. There are a few, but not as many as legend would have many believe.

======

With all the hoopla about Tiger versus Jack, how Jack’s 19 seconds shows how much other players of his era stepped up, etc. it seemed like looking at Jack’s second place finishes warranted closer scrutiny.

After looking closer, they seemed to fit into 3 categories:

Runaways (6) – Jack was 2nd or T2 but never had a chance

Close but not that close (5) – Jack was 2nd or T2 but it wasn’t as close as it looked

Close calls (8) - either Jack blew it (which happened more often than many realize), the competitor made some great shots, or some combination thereof.

Before laying out the categories, a few observations:

o Trevino and Watson were the only players that fought Jack tooth and nail down the stretch and won.

o While some players clearly did step up against Jack, Jack did play his share of giveaway.

o Jack realistically could have won the close calls. Of these he gave away about half, so perhaps Jack lost 4-5 majors due to competitors really stepping up.

Here they are:

Runaways:

’64 Masters – Palmer won going away by 6 strokes; Jack was T2 with Dave Marr.

’64 Open – Tony Lema won going away by 5 strokes. Jack finished 2nd but was never in it.

’64 PGA – Bobby Nickols won by 3 strokes going wire-to-wire; Jack was T2 with Palmer.

’68 US Open – Trevino won going away by 4 strokes; first player to shoot four US Open rounds in the 60’s; Jack had to shoot a final round 67 to get within 4 strokes. Never close.

’76 Open – Johnny Miller won going away by 6 strokes. Jack shot 69 the last round to get a back-door T2 with Seve Ballesteros, who shot 74 the last round.

’79 Open – Seve Ballesteros won going away by 3 strokes and it wasn’t that close. Jack got a back-door T2, but Crenshaw was the only serious challenger until he double-bogeyed the 17th hole.


Close, but not that close:

’65 PGA – Dave Marr won by two – Jack tied second with Billy Casper. The pivotal hole was the par 5 11th where Jack bogeyed with two poor chips while Marr birdied.

’67 Open – Robert De Vicenzo beat Jack by two strokes – no one else was close. Can you say Rich Beem or Michael Campbell?

’68 Open – Gary Player beats Jack and Bob Charles by two strokes. Player actually battled all day with Charles and Billy Casper. Jack was the chaser all day and never could get closer than 2 shots.

’81 Masters – Jack and Johnny Miller were T2 behind Watson by 2 strokes. Jack had to birdie 15 and 16 to get within 2 shots of Watson, who played a conservative back 9 and cruised home.

’83 PGA – Jack lost by a stroke to Hal Sutton. Sutton had a 5-stroke lead with 7 to play. Sutton got a little sloppy and let Jack get close, but never let him close enough to tie for the lead.


Close calls

’60 US Open – While Palmer ‘charged’ to victory by 2 shots, Jack had to work pretty hard to lose this one. With a one-shot lead, he missed an 18-inch putt on the 13th hole, 3-putted the 14th hole, missed a 3-footer on 16, then missed a 5-footer on 18. Ben Hogan was later quoted as saying he played with a kid 'who should have won by 10 shots’.

71 Masters – Tied for the lead after 3 rounds, Jack 3-putted 4 greens in route to an indifferent 72 and lost by two shots to Charles Coody; Johnny Miller was T2 with Nicklaus.

’71 US Open – Trevino caught Jack with a final-round 69 and won the playoff the next day by 3. Remember that in the playoff Jack gave away the lead early by failing to get out of bunkers on both #2 and #3.

’72 Open – Well chronicled end to the Grand Slam hopes as Jack lost by one to Trevino. Tied for the lead the last round, Jack bogeyed the 16th hole and then failed to birdie the par 5 17th. Trevino of course did hit the miracle chip on 17 to stay one ahead, while Tony Jacklin fell apart and finished 3rd..

’74 PGA – Jack missed a makeable putt on 18 that would have tied Trevino (even though according to legend Jack never missed a putt he needed on 18), thus losing by a shot.

’77 Masters – Watson birdied 17 to take the lead. Jack, playing the group ahead of Watson, then bogeyed 18 and Watson cruised home with a 2-shot victory.

’77 Open – Well chronicled duel in the sun between Nicklaus and Watson. Remember though, that Jack missed a 4-foot birdie putt on 17 that would have kept him tied for the lead, as Watson did birdie 17.

’82 US Open – Well chronicled loss to Watson when Watson chipped in on 17, then also birdied 18 to win by 2.


 
Can't stop now...before posting this, I want to say that I, like Turtleback and others out here, had the honor of watching both Jack and Tiger play, and there is no greater admirer of Jack than I. His ability was only surpassed by his incredible sportsmanship.

That all said, the myth that Jack never missed a putt or never gave one away is fodder for Discovery Channel 'Myth Busters'. Here are just a few examples of where Jack missed some key putts in a major, many of which he didn't win. And Tiger has missed some as well, the only point here is that Jack was just human as Tiger, perhaps more so.

*******************

1960 US Open - with a one-shot lead, missed an 18-inch putt on the 13th hole, 3-putted the 14th hole, missed a 3-footer on 16, then missed a 5-footer on 18. He lost by two strokes to Arnold Palmer. Ben Hogan was later quoted as saying he played with a kid 'who should have won by 10 shots'.
1963 British Open - with a two-shot lead, three putted the 15th hole from 15 feet (the second putt missed being a 'tap-in') for a bogey, then missed big putts on 17/18 to finish bogey-bogey and lose by one shot.
1966 Masters – after taking 38 putts in round 2, in the final round he missed a 12-foot putt on 16, and then a 4-footer on 17 for birdie that could have won the championship outright. He still prevailed, winning the 18-hole playoff the next day.
1970 British Open – three-putted three of the last five holes, including 18, to give Doug Sanders a great chance to win outright. Sanders missed a 3-footer on 18 and they tied, with Jack winning the playoff the next day.
1971 Masters - four 3-putt greens in the final round and a ball in Rae's creek, lost by two shots.
1972 British Open – missed a 6-foot par putt on 16 to bogy and fall out of the lead in the final round with Trevino and Jacklin.
1974 PGA – left a putt in the jaws of the cup on 18 that would have tied Lee Trevino.
1975 US Open – bogeyed the last three holes to finish two shots out of the Lou Graham – John Mahaffey playoff.
1977 British Open – missed a 12-foot birdie putt on 15 to maintain the lead after Watson had bombed in a long birdie putt, then missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the par 5 17th hole that dropped him out of the lead. Watson birdied the 17th hole and went on to win when they both birdied 18.

 

 

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5 hours ago, iacas said:

Okay, but FWIW I'm thinking of the seminal, cornerstone types of posts.

I have a post (actually two, I had to break up the original since it got so long) I made in 2010 to the old TGC board that was well received.  I've made two updates to the second half of it since the original post; one was in 2011, after I learned that Jack had won $160K in official money for winning two non-majors, in a year (1976) when winning all four majors would get you $127K in official money.  The other update, at the very bottom, I made just now, to take account of Tiger's 2013 season and this season. 

Originally posted in 2010 at this now defunct link: http://www.thegolfchannel.com/core.aspx?page=8015&select2=4153820#4153820

Did Jack really dominate the Jack era?

In a word, no.  Not like Tiger has dominated this era.  Jack was one of the world's best golfers for about 20 years, but you can't make a good case for him being *the* best golfer in the world for more than 9 of those years.  And he isn't CLEARLY the best except in 5 of those years.

That's my opinion, and I can back it up with hard data.  But as this explanatory preface to my data has gotten longer and longer, I've decided to put the data in a separate post.  This post will give some background and opinions on the Jack era in general.  Those who just want to see the data without my stupid opinions, or at least less of them, can skip this post, and go straight to post #2 in this thread.

In view of Tiger's recent performance, I should also add that I am not writing this because I think that Tiger's winning days are over.  Tiger is still only 34, and even if he takes the rest of this year and all next year off, he has plenty of time to break all the records (actually, I guess there are just two left). I'm writing it because I like to compare Tiger's career with Jack's at various points, and this seems to be a turning point in Tiger's career, whether he comes back or not.
============

Why do so many people consider Jack Nicklaus the greatest golfer of all time?

9 out of 10 people will say it's because he won 18 pro majors, but IMO they are deceiving themselves, because the pro majors standard seems to apply ONLY to Jack.  I've always said that dominance is the most important factor in ranking the best of all time, and I think most people agree with me, even if they don't realize it.  They talk about Jack's majors, but they are using his majors to symbolize his 20-odd years of dominating the PGA Tour --- and that domination exists only in their imagination.  

I'll spend the rest of this post attempting to prove the first part of that statement, and the next post proving the second part.

Hardly anyone ranks Walter Hagen over Ben Hogan, yet Hagen has 11 pro majors to Hogan's 9, and he got them in spite of the fact that the Masters was founded well after his prime, the PGA was founded well into his prime, and several US and British Opens were cancelled during his prime.  By the time he was 40, Jack had played 80 majors.  Hagen had played only 38 by the same age.

But, you say, Hogan was also robbed of majors, first by the war, and then by a crippling accident.  I agree, and that's my point.  A few dominating years are better than a longer, lower-quality career, even if the latter ends up with higher numbers.

The epitome of that is Bobby Jones. Many people rank Jones ahead of both Hogan and Hagen, not to mention Tiger.  But Jones is only T7 on the list for most pro majors, and the four players who are tied with him all have many more career wins than Jones.  Nevertheless, almost everyone ranks Jones, with 7 pro majors, over Watson, with 8, or Player, with 9, or Hagen, with 11.

So why is Jones rated so highly, with just 7 pro majors?  Some will point to his US Amateur wins (he won the British Amateur only once), and claim they should count, because the amateurs were as good or better than the pros back then.  But it requires very little research to show that the competition Jones faced in amateur events was weak.  If you look at the top 50 finishers in the Opens of the time, you will see that the pros outnumber the amateurs by 8 or 9 to one.  And they are fairly evenly distributed; the amateurs are not bunched at the top.

And even if that weren't true, even if the amateurs *were* as good as the pros, how can you call an event a major, if it only has half of the world's best golfers in the field?

The next attempted explanation will be that Jones compiled his outstanding record in the US and British Opens in only a few years.  IMO that is much closer to the mark.  Jones didn't pile up huge numbers, and he didn't play for very long, but he was arguably the best golfer in the world for the years he did play. He didn't have as many pro majors as Hagen, but he didn't play as many, either, and he won five majors with Hagen in the field, while Hagen never won a major with Jones in the field.  Thus, even though Hagen was pretty obviously the best *pro* of his era, he was pretty obviously NOT the undisputed best *golfer* of his era, and therefore was never in consideration as the best of all time.  It is a matter of dominance, not numbers.

I think Jones would be an immortal even if he had only won two pro majors, namely those in the Grand Slam of 1930.  Golf isn't like most other sports, where half the players win each game.  Golf tournaments have only one winner out of a field of up to 150 or more, so it's very rare that there is a truly dominant player for even an entire year, let alone an era.  And 1930 is the only year where a golfer won EVERY important event, without a loss.

That is total dominance, and that is why Jones is ranked above many or even all golfers with more wins and more majors than he has.  The dominance he displayed in 1930 has never been duplicated.  Because of that, the definition of dominance has been allowed to slip.  Nelson's 1945 is considered dominant, even though he compiled his records against depleted fields, and was beaten badly by Hogan after Hogan was discharged.  In turn, Hogan's 1953 is considered dominant, even though he didn't play often, and didn't win every time.  But he did win every major he played.

As the tour began to formally recognize yearly accomplishments --- the Vardon was instituted in 1937, and the Player of the Year Award in 1948 --- the definition of dominance might have been formalized as well.  With 40-odd events a year, it's simply impossible for someone to win them all, but what if a guy won all the important awards and achievements of the year --- most wins, most money, most majors, the Vardon Trophy, and the POY Award?

Hogan did that the very first year the POY was awarded.  In 1948, he won the Vardon and POY awards, had the most wins and earnings, and won two majors, so it was clearly possible.

But nobody did it again until 1962, when Arnie ran the table.  And nobody did it after that until Tom Watson, in 1977.  And that was the last time it happened in the century.  In 52 years, from 1948 to 1999, it happened just 3 times.

And then it happened four times in the next 7 years, as Tiger did it in 2000, 2002, 2005, and 2006.

Well, since Jack isn't one of the names on that list, there must be something wrong with the definition, right?  What if we relax it a bit?  For example, in order to win the most majors of the year, you need at least two, but that's pretty hard to do.  What if we include players who won all the awards, and won at least one major, with nobody else winning two or more that year?  In other words, instead of being *solo* first in major wins for the year, you are at least *tied* for first?

That helps, but not a lot.  It allows us to add Billy Casper in 1966; Vijay in 2004; and Tiger in 1999, 2001, and 2007.  Now the only players with dominant years are Tiger with 7, and Singh, Casper, Watson, Palmer, and Hogan all tied with one each. Not what Jack fans had in mind, I'm sure.  

Jack isn't on the list because he never won a Vardon.  But he is unique, as far as I know, in claiming scoring titles anyway.  On his website, he claims 8 of them --- 1964-65, and 1971-76.

I call BS on this.  It's probably true that the PGA required 5 years of membership before you could win the Vardon back then, but that applied to everyone. Palmer and Casper were no slouches the first five years of their careers, nor did they have dreams of running a pro shop, but they haven't awarded themselves any bogus scoring titles. In some ways the rules are less strict today, but in other ways they are tougher.  Tiger only has to play 60 rounds, rather than 80, but he couldn't win the Vardon this year even if he played every remaining event and shot a 50 every round, because he withdrew during a round at the Players. That restriction wasn't imposed in Jack's day. And don't get me started on the hurdles the PGA imposed on some foreign and black golfers.  Jack could have had it a lot worse.

After 1966, when Jack had his five years in, the only reason he didn't win the Vardon (assuming his numbers are right) was that he didn't play enough rounds.  That was his decision, and he should live with it.  Palmer, Casper, and Trevino, among others, managed to play enough rounds at a very high level.  Maybe Jack wouldn't have won so many majors if he didn't take time off from regular events to scout the major venues and practice specifically for them.  It gave him a big advantage over the other players.

By the way, it is NOT true that Jack wasn't eligible for POY during those years.  The POY was open to full PGA members *and* approved touring pros, and Jack was approved. He finished second in the voting in 1963, the first year he was a legitimate contender by today's standards.  But they had different standards back then, especially in how they weighted the majors.  The US Open was huge, while the British Open was not even as important as the Western Open.  It was paying around $4,000 for first place when the Masters was paying $20,000.  The four majors, which everyone considers the gold standard today, assumed their importance only fairly late in Jack's career, largely due to lobbying by Jack himself.  And it was clearly unfair to use them to compare Jack to those who came before him.  As I noted above, Hagen played less than half as many majors as Jack did before age 40.

The British Open didn't become very important until the 70's.  You only have to look at the attendance records of the top PGA stars to see that --- Jack is the ONLY one who bothered to play the British Open every year.  Nelson, Hogan, and Snead famously played it only once each during their primes.  Billy Casper, who had 51 tour wins beginning in 1956, and IMO was the best golfer in the world for 3 years of the Jack era, didn't play the Open until 1968.  Even Arnie, who is generally credited with rescuing the Open from obscurity, skipped five Opens between 1964 and 1974.  So Jack not only played more majors than anyone before him, he also faced weaker fields in the Open than in many regular Tour events.  IMO a two-major year in the Jack era, especially if one of them was the Open, was not an automatic POY.  It was still very impressive, though.

So if "most pro majors" is an unfair standard that is inconsistently applied, why is Jack at the top of so many people's lists?  I believe that Jack's 18 majors is just an easy number to remember to symbolize his dominance.  Many people think that Jack dominated the game for 25 years, more or less, just like Jones dominated 1930, and just like Tiger has dominated before this year.  They are flat wrong. Those with better memories or knowledge think he dominated for more like 15 years, until Watson came along.  But even they are wrong.  

Memories get fuzzy with time.  People tend to think that Jack was the best golfer in the world for over 20 years, with just a couple of exceptions for a hot year by a Miller or a Trevino.  But if you actually look at the data for each year, it turns out that you can't make a good case for Jack being the best in the world for even ten years, and you can only say he was CLEARLY the best for five of those years.

This is not meant to diminish Jack's legacy --- far from it.  Setting aside the old-timers who essentially only had one or two events a year with world class fields, I don't think anyone before Jack can match his number of years as the UNDISPUTED best --- not even Hogan or Jones.  But I think people should base their opinion on facts rather than legends, or fuzzy memories that tend to compress his accomplishments into an unending series of wins and top tens, with no slumps, or even bad weeks.  I will provide those facts in the next post.

 

Edited by brocks

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Part 2: The long introduction to this data is in the previous post.  Believe it or not, this is the short version.

Jack turned pro at the end of 1961, but played his first official PGA event as a pro in January of 1962.  His first win as a pro was at the 1962 US Open, beating Arnie in a playoff.  He won his last PGA event in 1986, at a little course in Augusta.

During that 25-year span, Jack compiled what many believe to be the greatest record in golf.  He has the most majors, and the second most wins, in the history of the PGA tour.  However, as time passes and memories dim, a lot of his fans also have the impression that Jack dominated that entire period, or at least up to the late 70's.  That is simply not true; although he was near the top of the game for most of those years, IMO he was not the undisputed best in the world for more than five years.  This post gives the data to back that up.

There was an official Player of the Year award every year of Jack's career except 1968, but he "only" won it five times, and IMO one of those was a gift. On the other hand, I think he clearly deserved in in 1965, when it went to Dave Marr.  

Contrary to popular belief, Jack was eligible every year he had a legitimate shot at it, beginning with 1963.  In that year, the voting results were published, and Jack finished a very distant second to Julius Boros, who got 943 votes to Jack's 253, even though Jack had 5 wins and 2 majors, while Boros had 3 wins and 1 major. And as you'll see below, I think Arnie had a better year than either of them.

So standards change.  They had different rules for the POY and the Vardon Trophy back then.  But that doesn't mean we can't reevaluate those years by our current rules and standards.  Many people today think two major wins in a year should trump anything else, and Harrington's 2008 POY pretty much proves that.  I disagree, but I can see the point, so I'll include each of Jack's two-major years in the list of those where he was arguably the best player of the year.

One other thing --- I'm going to give my opinion about who was the best golfer of each year, but it's just an opinion.  I'm giving the data for it, but you might weigh the data differently.  Fine with me, that's what makes a horse race.  I'm hoping to generate lively debate with this post, and I will be respectful of anyone who disagrees with me, as long as they reciprocate.

As always, if anyone finds an actual error in my data, please post it.  Additional facts that are relevant to the discussion are also welcomed.

So, on to the data.  For each year, I'll give the numbers for Jack, the official leaders in the important stats, the major winners that year, and my pick for the best golfer of each year.  I wish I had the data to do actual rankings using the current OWGR formula, but I've never seen any site that has complete scoring data for the 1960's.  In any case, I'd rather go year by year, instead of having a two-year window.

===================

1962 --- Jack: 26 starts, 3 wins, 3rd on money list.
POY -- Arnold Palmer.  Vardon winner --- Arnold Palmer.  Money leader --- Arnold Palmer.  Most wins --- Arnold Palmer (8).  Major winners (in order): Arnie, Jack, Arnie, Gary Player.

Jack had a very strong rookie year, debuting at number 3 on the money list.  But it was no contest - Palmer DOMINATED 1962, leading every category, and coming within one shot of winning three majors in a row.  He was clearly the best golfer in the world.

My 1962 POY: Arnie (dominant).
===================

1963 --- Jack: 25 starts, 5 wins, 2nd on money list.
POY -- Julius Boros. Vardon winner -- Billy Casper.  Money leader -- Arnie.  Most wins -- Arnie (7). Major winners: Jack, Boros, Bob Charles, Jack.

This is a very tough year to call.  Jack's two majors would make him a shoo-in today, but majors weren't as big a deal then, except for the US Open, which is the only conceivable reason Boros won POY.  Arnie had the most wins and most money, and Casper won the Vardon (and not even Jack claims this as one of the years he was jobbed out of it), so there was no dominant golfer.

I'm giving 1963 to Arnie by a whisker, for the following reason: the Western Open was bigger than the British Open back then, and Arnie won it in a playoff against Jack and Boros, his chief rivals for best of the year.  I consider that a pretty good tiebreaker, in a week they were all playing well.  However, I realize that many people think two majors trump everything, and bending over backwards to be fair, when I come back to recap the results I'll include 1963 as a year that Jack could reasonably be called the best in the world.

My 1963 POY: Arnie (Jack was close).
========================

1964 --- Jack: 26 starts, 4 wins, first on money list.  This is also the first year Jack claims he had the actual low scoring average, even though he didn't win the Vardon.
POY -- Ken Venturi. Vardon winner: Arnie.  Money leader: Jack. Most wins: Tony Lema (5).  Major winners: Arnie, Venturi, Lema, Bobby Nichols.

Once again, it seems that anyone who wins the US Open plus anything else is the automatic POY winner by the standards of that time.  But it appears to me that Tony Lema had the best year, with five wins including the Open (where Jack finished second by five shots).  Jack beat Lema for the money title only because the very limited-field Tournament of Champions (the equivalent of today's SBS/Mercedes) paid more than the Open, and the Open was unofficial money.  Jack's other wins were at second-tier events. Lema beat Arnie in a playoff for one of his wins, and if a tiebreaker is needed, Lema won another $50,000 in unofficial money by beating the other three major winners in the World Series of Golf that year.

My 1964 POY: Tony Lema (Jack contending).
==============

1965 --- Jack: 24 starts, 5 wins, first on money list, claimed scoring title.
POY: Dave Marr. Vardon winner: Billy Casper.  Money leader: Jack.  Most wins: Jack (5).  Major winners: Jack, Player, Peter Thomson, Marr.

Marr's PGA Championship was his first win in over three years, and the third and last win of his career.  It really makes you wonder what the voters were smoking.  At any rate, IMO this was the first of Jack's truly dominant years.  First in every important category.  Easy call.

My 1965 POY: Jack (dominant).
=====================

1966 --- Jack: 19 starts, 3 wins, 2nd on money list.
POY: Billy Casper. Vardon winner: Casper.  Money leader: Casper.  Most wins: Casper (4). Major winners: Jack, Casper, Jack, Al Geiberger.

Not much to say here --- Casper ran the table.  Jack had two majors, but one was the then weak-field British Open, which was still so little regarded that many Americans, including Casper, never played it.  The US Open that Casper won was much more prestigious.

My 1966 POY: Casper (Jack contending).
======================

1967 --- Jack: 23 starts, 5 wins, first on money list.
POY: Jack.  Vardon winner: Arnie. Money leader: Jack.  Most wins: Jack (5). Major winners: Gay Brewer, Jack, Roberto DeVicenzo, Don January.

Jack's first official POY, and he's obviously a worthy choice.  The flip side of this, and his inclusion in the 1969 Ryder Cup, is that it shows that any artificial restrictions on his PGA membership had been lifted.  His claim to six more scoring titles (1971-1976) is therefore totally bogus, and frankly embarrassing.

Not even Jack claims he would have beaten Arnie for the Vardon in 1967, so he didn't have Tiger-like dominance, but it was still a dominant year for him.

My 1967 POY: Jack (dominant).
============================

1968 --- Jack: 22 starts, 2 wins, second on money list.
POY: No award. Vardon winner: Casper. Money leader: Casper.  Most wins: Casper (6).  Major winners: Bob Goalby, Lee Trevino, Gary Player, Julius Boros.

A poor year by Jack's standards, not leading in anything.  And the PGA was apparently having some kind of hissy fit by not awarding a POY, but it's pretty clear that Casper was the best golfer of the year.  Only his lack of a major keeps me from calling his year dominant. He did play well in all of them, with three top tens, including solo fourth in his first-ever British Open.  The four major winners only had two other wins among them that year, and nobody knew that Trevino would become a Hall of Famer --- the 1968 US Open was his first PGA win.

My 1968 POY: Billy Casper.
=================================

1969 --- Jack: 23 starts, 3 wins, third on money list.
POY: Orville Moody.  Vardon winner: Dave Hill.  Money leader: Frank Beard. Most wins: Billy Casper, Raymond Floyd, Dave Hill, Jack Nicklaus (all 3 wins).  Major winners: George Archer, Moody, Tony Jacklin, Ray Floyd.

They should have had another non-award, rather than giving POY to Moody for his only career PGA win. But to be fair, this list of top achievers is amazingly lackluster, considering it occurs during the primes of Palmer, Nicklaus, Player, Casper, and Trevino.

I guess Ray Floyd and Dave Hill are the best of a weak lot, being the only guys who lead or co-lead in two categories. Floyd certainly went on to have the better career, but for 1969, it's too close to call between them, and really, who cares?  

My 1969 POY: Floyd/Hill (tie).
====================================  

1970 --- Jack: 19 starts, 3 wins, 4th on money list.
POY: Casper.  Vardon winner: Trevino.  Money leader: Trevino.  Most wins: Casper (4).  Major winners: Casper, Jacklin, Jack, Dave Stockton.

Now THAT's what I'm talking about!  Some big, big names leading the stats. Trevino and Casper stand out, but Trevino only won twice, and Casper won the Masters.  For once I agree with the PGA, and pick Casper.

And that's his third POY in five years, although the PGA showed us who was boss by refusing to award it in 1968.  I've always said that Casper is the most underrated player in golf, and IMO this proves it.  Since Jack turned pro in 1962, the Big Three was supposed to be Palmer, Nicklaus, and Player, but in the ten years from 1962-1971 the best player in the world was Palmer two years (one official POY), Nicklaus two years (one official POY), and Player zero years.  Casper beat them all, with three years (two official POYs).

My 1970 POY: Casper.
=======================================

1971 --- Jack: 18 starts, 5 wins, first on money list.
POY: Trevino. Vardon winner: Trevino.  Money leader: Jack. Most wins: Trevino (6).  Major winners: Charles Coody, Trevino, Trevino, Jack.

Jack is Back!  5 wins, a major, and the money title --- he dominated, right?
Wrong.  Trevino had 6 wins, two majors, and the Vardon.  Both players had great years, but Trevino's was better.  In a disturbing trend, I agree with the PGA for the second year in a row.

My 1971 POY: Trevino.
===========================================

1972 --- Jack: 19 starts, 7 wins, first on money list.
POY: Jack. Vardon winner: Trevino.  Money leader: Jack.  Most wins: Jack (7). Major winners: Jack, Jack, Trevino, Player.

Turnabout is fair play --- this year Trevino had a great year, with four wins, a major, and the Vardon, but Jack had a better year.  In fact, this was the best year of Jack's entire career, so it would be spooky if he wasn't the best player of 1972.  And he was.  I agree with the PGA for a record third consecutive year.

My 1972 POY: Jack (clear).
============================================

1973 --- Jack: 18 starts, 7 wins, first on money list.
POY: Jack. Vardon winner: Bruce Crampton. Money leader: Jack.  Most wins: Jack (7).  Major winners: Tommy Aaron, Johnny Miller, Tom Weiskopf, Jack.

Another great year for Jack, winning 7 events for the second consecutive year.  This was his high water mark.

My 1973 POY: Jack (clear).
========================================

1974 --- Jack: 18 starts, 2 wins, second on money list.
POY: Johnny Miller. Vardon winner: Trevino.  Money leader: Miller.  Most wins: Miller (8).  Major winners: Player, Irwin, Player, Trevino.

Poor year for Jack, but a great year for the tour, with nothing but all-stars leading the stats. Miller gets 8 wins, something not seen since Arnie's heyday, but contrary to many people's faulty memories, no major for Johnny this year. Player won TWO majors, but only one other PGA event.  Could Miller's 8 wins with no majors win POY over Player's two majors plus one regular event today?  Probably not, if Tiger's six wins with a major on one leg couldn't beat Paddy's two majors with Tiger out, plus zero other wins.  But since one of Player's majors was the Open, which was then still the weakest of the four, I'd say Miller could beat him back then.  And look, I was right!

My 1974 POY: Johnny Miller
======================================

1975 --- Jack: 16 starts, 5 wins, first on money list.
POY: Jack. Vardon winner: Crampton.  Money leader: Jack.  Most wins: Jack (5). Major winners: Jack, Lou Graham, Tom Watson, Jack.

After not figuring in last year's race, Jack roars back with another dominating year.  But his nemesis is looming, as Tom Watson wins the British Open!

My 1975 POY: Jack (dominant).
==========================================

1976 --- Jack: 16 starts, 2 wins, first on money list.
POY: Jack.  Vardon winner: Don January.  Money leader: Jack.  Most wins: Ben Crenshaw, Hubert Green (3 each).  Major winners: Floyd, Jerry Pate, Miller, Stockton.

This will probably be my most controversial opinion.  Jack won POY and the money title that year, but IMO he didn't deserve either of them.  Let me explain.

Jack won only two events and no majors.  Not a great year.  But he won the money title, and numbers don't lie, right?  

In this case, wrong.  One of the two events he won that year was the Tournament Players Championship.  It was only the third year of the Players, and the PGA was still very optimistic that they could make it the 5th major, so they went all out and offered the winner $60,000, when the Masters was paying $40,000 to the winner, and the British Open only about $13,500.  And like the other PGA events of the day, it was a virtually all-American affair.  The only way a non-PGA member could qualify was to win a US major in the last five years, or the British Open in the last one year (proving again the low status of the Open even as late as the mid-70's).  So Jack got 150% of a major purse for winning a strong PGA event.  But wait, there's more.

The other event Jack won in 1976 was the World Series of Golf.  THERE WERE ONLY 20 PLAYERS IN THE FIELD, but it still counted as an official win.  And the winner's check, counted as official money, was $100,000!  

In other words, those two events earned Jack way more than winning all four majors would have, even if the Open had counted as official money, which it didn't.  That huge paycheck for beating 19 other players made him the leading money winner, and his winning the Players was what made him POY, just like winning the PGA and nothing else was enough to make Dave Marr the POY in 1965.  I gave Jack the POY over Marr for 1965, and I'm giving Johnny Miller the POY over Jack for 1976.  Although the earnings don't show it, Johnny simply played better that year, with two official PGA wins, plus winning the Open over Jack and Seve by six shots.

My 1976 POY: Johnny Miller
=======================================

1977 --- Jack: 18 starts, 3 wins, second on money list.
POY: Watson. Vardon winner: Watson. Money leader: Watson.  Most wins: Watson (5).
Major winners: Watson, Green, Watson, Wadkins.

He's probably just a flash in the pan, but that Watson kid ran the table.

My 1977 POY: Watson (dominant).
==============================================

1978 --- Jack: 15 starts, 4 wins, fourth on money list.
POY: Watson. Vardon winner: Watson. Money leader: Watson.  Most wins: Watson (5).
Major winners: Player, North, Jack, Mahaffey.

To the annoyance of Tiger fans everywhere, Jack wins his 15th major, but falls to fourth on the money list for only the second time in his career.  Watson dominates again, and although he didn't win one, he played very well in the majors, with a couple of 2nd place finishes, but I stand by my prediction he will never amount to much.

My 1978 POY: Watson (dominant).
===============================================

1979 --- Jack: 12 starts, 0 wins, 71st on money list.
POY: Watson. Vardon winner: Watson. Money leader: Watson.  Most wins: Watson (5).
Major winners: Zoeller, Irwin, Ballesteros, David Graham.

Wow.  Jack didn't just have a bad year, he fell out of sight.  For the first time in his pro career, Jack goes winless, so he is tied with Arnie for the record with 17 consecutive years winning on the PGA tour.  

Watson is making it easy for me; I just cut and paste the same lines.  I'm starting to think he's the real deal.  And the European invasion has begun.

My 1979 POY: Watson (dominant).
=========================================

1980 --- Jack: 13 starts, 2 wins, 13th on money list.
POY: Watson. Vardon winner: Trevino. Money leader: Watson.  Most wins: Watson (7).  Major winners: Ballesteros, Jack, Watson, Jack.

Jack roars back with two majors, but those are his only wins.  It's now late enough in history to give majors more like the importance they have today, but it's also late enough to give Watson full credit for his Open win, as it's no longer the weakest of the majors.  Do seven wins with a major and the money title trump two majors with nothing else?  I say yes, but as before, I can see the point of those who disagree.  

My 1980 POY: Watson (Jack only if you think majors trump everything)
==============================================

1981-

That's really it.  After 1980, Jack only had 3 more PGA wins, and never more than one in a year.  The highest he ever got on the money list was tenth, and that only once.  His 1986 Masters win might have been the most exciting or inspiring or just plain awesome win anybody ever saw, but outside of that one week, he was never really in contention for being best golfer in the world, and certainly not for the entire year.

So let's sum it up.  In his winning span of 25 years:

Jack was ONE OF THE WORLD'S TOP GOLFERS* for 20 of those years.

*Since there were no world rankings as we know them, I am defining a top golfer as one who is either in the top ten on the year's PGA money list, or has won a major that year.  I realize that definition might not be valid today, but I think it is fair for Jack's day.  Jack was no lower than fourth on the money list for the first 17 years of his career, then fell all the way to 71st in his 18th year, and only got as high as tenth one last time, in 1983, for a total of 18 years in the top ten on the money list. To those years I add 1980 and 1986, when he won majors.


Jack was ARGUABLY THE BEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD**  in 1963, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976, and 1980  -- 9 years.

**"Arguably the best" means you can make a good case for Jack being the best golfer of the year, even if I can make as good a case for someone else. It includes years that I personally would lean toward somebody else.  For example, it includes every year Jack won two majors, every year he won POY, and every year he had the most wins, even if other golfers led in other categories that year.  It also includes every year he won the money title, except for 1964 and 1971 -- but I defy even Jack's biggest fans to say he had a better year than Lema in 1964, or Trevino in 1971.

Jack was MY PICK FOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR in 1965, 1967, 1972, 1973, and 1975.  That may seem severe, but note that I am giving him a POY in 1965, when the official winner was Dave Marr.

Jack was INDISPUTABLY THE BEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD those same five years.  

And Jack DOMINATED like we got used to Tiger doing (e.g. most wins, most money, Vardon Trophy, POY, and at least tied for most majors) only in 1965  -- just one year.

And even that one year is only achieved by ignoring the official Vardon and POTY winners, and awarding Jack a virtual Vardon and a virtual POY for 1965, since the standards for POY back then seem so strange today. If you go by official, rather than virtual, awards, Jack didn't have a single year as dominating as any of seven that Tiger had.  


STOP READING NOW IF YOU HATE TIGER

Tiger's stats are much easier to find on the PGA website, which only goes back to 1980, so I won't go into the same detail with him.  But for comparison, by the same standards I used above for Jack, Tiger was ARGUABLY the best golfer in the world in every year he won the POY, plus 2008 (e.g., every year 1997-2009 inclusive, except for 1998 and 2004), a total of 11 years.  He was INDISPUTABLY the best golfer for those same years except for 2008 and 2003, or 9 years (even though Tiger's 2003 was less disputed than Jack's 1965, since Tiger won the official POY and Vardon).  And he DOMINATED, as defined in my previous post, the same 9 years except for 1997, when he was second in the Vardon; and 2009, when he didn't win a major.

As for being a top golfer, i.e. in the top ten on the money list, as Paul Harvey used to say, "Here is a strange:"

Like Jack, Tiger has been at or near the top of the money list beginning with his first full year as a pro.
Like Jack, Tiger has had two "off" years, when he fell to fourth on the money list.
And Jack's first year out of the top ten, he fell all the way to 71st.  At the completion of the 2010 British Open, Tiger was 71st on the money list.

  So the final score in years (up to now) is:

ONE OF THE WORLD'S TOP GOLFERS --- Tiger 13, Jack 20
ARGUABLY THE BEST -- Tiger 11, Jack 9
INDISPUTABLY THE BEST --- Tiger 9, Jack 5
TOTAL DOMINATION --- Tiger 7, Jack 1

In conclusion:
I have long favored domination, or at least the number of years indisputably the best, as the standard of greatness.  I contend that whether they know it or not, most people agree with me --- they just didn't realize that Jack had fewer years as the world's best than Tiger already has, and they consider his 18 majors as proof that he dominated for over 20 years.  I hope that this post disproves that mistaken impression.

Added April 2019: Since that post was written in 2010, Tiger has added three years (2012, 2013, and 2019) as a world top golfer as I defined above for Jack, and one year (2013) as arguably and indisputably the best, since he had the most wins (5), the money title, the Vardon, and was POTY that year.

So the updated final score is:

ONE OF THE WORLD'S TOP GOLFERS --- Tiger 16, Jack 20
ARGUABLY THE BEST -- Tiger 12, Jack 9
INDISPUTABLY THE BEST --- Tiger 10, Jack 5
TOTAL DOMINATION --- Tiger 7, Jack 1

Edited by iacas
requested edit made

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Anybody who reads this and still thinks Jack is the GOAT simply doesn’t have a solid touch with reality. Awesome post.

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On 4/19/2019 at 10:03 PM, saevel25 said:

Really? Jack won his last PGA tournament in his 25th year. Tiger is in his 24th year. Tiger has longevity.

Seriously? Of everything I said in that post, that's what you got hung up on?!

On 4/19/2019 at 11:20 PM, ChrisP said:

My bad. Didn’t know Jack missed seasons and gaps of playing time because of injuries.

And iacas didn't say that! He only said that jack had "down" years too! 

Jesus! If that's how nit-picky this thread has become f*** everybody! I'm out! 

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25 minutes ago, Buckeyebowman said:

Seriously? Of everything I said in that post, that's what you got hung up on?!

There wasn't anything else I would counter in that post. Well.... except that marginal players don't stick around long in sports. I think that is false, but that is maybe not on topic here. 

Yea, if longevity should count for something the Tiger has longevity, one year away from Jack if you define it by start of his career to his last win. 

 

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Here's a pretty remarkable coincidence on these two GOAT level players. Tiger won all 4 of Jack's final major appearances:  2000 U.S. Open, 2000 PGA, 2005 Masters, and 2005 British. That's incredible considering peak Tiger "only" won about 30% of the majors from 1997 to 2008. 

Edited by Dr. Manhattan

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On 4/19/2019 at 2:39 PM, turtleback said:

Why?  Because of WHAT, besides 18>15?  15 majors isn't enough but somehow 16 is?  Why?

And why does Tiger need to break Snead's record to satisfy you?  Jack never broke Snead's record and was acclaimed GOAT, why do you put that requirement on Tiger?  (although it is moot, since Tiger will automatically break Snead's if he breaks Jack's, it is still telling that you would even mention that)

Because it says in the Rules of Golf that if you break Snead’s win record and win 16 Majors you will have the greatest golf career of all time. It is just the threshold that I want to see before I consider Tiger’s career the greatest!! I have already said that Tiger had the most talent of all time but another major and a couple of additional tour wins would for me make his career the greatest in addition to being the most talented golfer of all time.

And just to calm you down, I have not been appointed by the R&A and USGA to select the golfer with the greatest career of all time.  

 

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Who faced the tougher competition?

 

My analysis covers the 20 Masters Tournaments Woods has played in as a pro (1997 – 2019), and the first 21 Masters Tournament Nicklaus participated (1960 – 1982).

 

The Masters Tournament was chosen because the Masters is the only event played on the same course—Augusta National—each year.

 

I have one underlying assumption with regards to Tournament scoring. Golfing technology and equipment have steadily advanced. However, after researching the USGA opinions and the course overhauls that occurred in response to the technological advancements, I believe course designers have done a job preserving the emphasis on the player skill. 

 

My assumption is that the efforts by executive committees to create more challenging courses has offset the permitted use of more advanced equipment. As a result I feel confident that the Tournament scores from the Nicklaus period in the sample (1960-1982) can be compared to the Masters leaderboards from the Woods period (1997-2019) within the margin of error of any statistical adjustment.   

 

I merged the field from Woods’ first Tournament in ’97 with the field in Nicklaus’ first Tournament in ’60, maintaining the cut line at the top 50 qualifiers. I simply repeated this process through the 2019 and the 1982 Masters Tournaments.

 

In this period that I assessed, Woods did not participate in three tournaments ’14, ’16, and ‘17. Nicklaus did not participate in one tournament in ’67. Although the Masters Tournaments in ’61, ’73, 2003-2007 were played in poor weather conditions, after reviewing the cut lines, only ’03 and ’05 seem to be significantly affected by weather. A slight adjustment was made to players scores to normalize the scores. 

 

After taking measure among the qualifiers during the merged tournaments displayed in the link, I found that the level of difficulty increased in the Woods’ era 28.1%.

 

·     68% of the top 50 lowest qualifying scores are from the Woods’ era

See 2ndsheet in link, labelled “top 50”

 

Additional Findings:

 

-      After merging the best of the two periods, Woods finishes with an estimated 4 green jackets and Nicklaus finishes with 2.

-      If Woods competed in the Nicklaus period, Woods would have an estimated 9 green jackets. If Nicklaus competed in the Woods era, Nicklaus would have an estimated 5 green jackets. *Note: Nicklaus finished his career playing in 15 additional Masters Tournaments beginning in 1983. Woods is still active as of 2019.

-      Woods finishes the 23 Tournament sample 106 below par. Nicklaus finishes the 23 Tournament sample 75 below par. Missing the hypothetical cut = +10 towards Masters career score. 

 

 

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6 hours ago, Lionel20 said:

 

Who faced the tougher competition?

 

My analysis covers the 20 Masters Tournaments Woods has played in as a pro (1997 – 2019), and the first 21 Masters Tournament Nicklaus participated (1960 – 1982).

 

The Masters Tournament was chosen because the Masters is the only event played on the same course—Augusta National—each year.

 

I have one underlying assumption with regards to Tournament scoring. Golfing technology and equipment have steadily advanced. However, after researching the USGA opinions and the course overhauls that occurred in response to the technological advancements, I believe course designers have done a job preserving the emphasis on the player skill. 

 

My assumption is that the efforts by executive committees to create more challenging courses has offset the permitted use of more advanced equipment. As a result I feel confident that the Tournament scores from the Nicklaus period in the sample (1960-1982) can be compared to the Masters leaderboards from the Woods period (1997-2019) within the margin of error of any statistical adjustment.   

 

I merged the field from Woods’ first Tournament in ’97 with the field in Nicklaus’ first Tournament in ’60, maintaining the cut line at the top 50 qualifiers. I simply repeated this process through the 2019 and the 1982 Masters Tournaments.

 

In this period that I assessed, Woods did not participate in three tournaments ’14, ’16, and ‘17. Nicklaus did not participate in one tournament in ’67. Although the Masters Tournaments in ’61, ’73, 2003-2007 were played in poor weather conditions, after reviewing the cut lines, only ’03 and ’05 seem to be significantly affected by weather. A slight adjustment was made to players scores to normalize the scores. 

 

After taking measure among the qualifiers during the merged tournaments displayed in the link, I found that the level of difficulty increased in the Woods’ era 28.1%.

 

·     68% of the top 50 lowest qualifying scores are from the Woods’ era

See 2ndsheet in link, labelled “top 50”

 

Additional Findings:

 

-      After merging the best of the two periods, Woods finishes with an estimated 4 green jackets and Nicklaus finishes with 2.

-      If Woods competed in the Nicklaus period, Woods would have an estimated 9 green jackets. If Nicklaus competed in the Woods era, Nicklaus would have an estimated 5 green jackets. *Note: Nicklaus finished his career playing in 15 additional Masters Tournaments beginning in 1983. Woods is still active as of 2019.

-      Woods finishes the 23 Tournament sample 106 below par. Nicklaus finishes the 23 Tournament sample 75 below par. Missing the hypothetical cut = +10 towards Masters career score. 

 

 

I merged your post with another thread that literally has thousands of posts on the same subject.

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Though your post supports Woods I don’t agree scoring is a good way to determine these things. The course and equipment changes are not exactly in step with weather or each other.

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1 hour ago, iacas said:

Though your post supports Woods I don’t agree scoring is a good way to determine these things. The course and equipment changes are not exactly in step with weather or each other.

I didn’t at first, but I now happen to think that scoring is the best measure. The courses that Woods and his contemporaries play on are much more difficult than the ones Nicklaus played. I believe that largely offsets the advancement in golf technology. 

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22 minutes ago, Lionel20 said:

I didn’t at first, but I now happen to think that scoring is the best measure.

No.

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27 minutes ago, Lionel20 said:

I didn’t at first, but I now happen to think that scoring is the best measure. The courses that Woods and his contemporaries play on are much more difficult than the ones Nicklaus played. I believe that largely offsets the advancement in golf technology. 

Just out of curiosity, what do you think makes the courses of today more difficult than the courses of previous generations?

 

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48 minutes ago, Hardluckster said:

Just out of curiosity, what do you think makes the courses of today more difficult than the courses of previous generations?

 

Length for starters.

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