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

Greatest Golfer (GOAT)  

192 members have voted

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

    • Tiger Woods is the man
      1635
    • Jack Nicklaus is my favorite
      815


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Saw an interview with Michael Jordan who was actually asked about whether his friend Tiger was greater than Nicklaus and he said “You can’t answer that. They’re both great.” He went on to say you can’t compare eras because they are all different. He basically said Tiger is the greatest of his era and Jack the greatest of his era and that’s all you can do is be the best of your era. There’s no such thing as being the greatest ever. You can’t compare other eras in sports in any sport because you just don’t know how that person would adjust and do in that specific era no matter how many numbers and stats you throw out there.

 

I thought it was a good point made by a guy I was always considered the greatest athlete I ever watched play sports.

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16 minutes ago, ChrisP said:

Saw an interview with Michael Jordan who was actually asked about whether his friend Tiger was greater than Nicklaus and he said “You can’t answer that. They’re both great.” He went on to say you can’t compare eras because they are all different. He basically said Tiger is the greatest of his era and Jack the greatest of his era and that’s all you can do is be the best of your era. There’s no such thing as being the greatest ever. You can’t compare other eras in sports in any sport because you just don’t know how that person would adjust and do in that specific era no matter how many numbers and stats you throw out there.

I thought it was a good point made by a guy I was always considered the greatest athlete I ever watched play sports.

So this is where the Jack supporters go to when they have no real other place to go.

Suffice to say I disagree with Michael Jordan.

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5 minutes ago, iacas said:

So this is where the Jack supporters go to when they have no real other place to go.

Suffice to say I disagree with Michael Jordan.

Well I’ve said many times I’m a Jack and Tiger supporter... and I’ve always held and will continue to hold that you can’t 100% prove that if either was in the other persons era Jack or Tiger would have more majors. You can speculate all you want, but no one can 100% prove it.

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20 minutes ago, iacas said:

So this is where the Jack supporters go to when they have no real other place to go.

Suffice to say I disagree with Michael Jordan.

It holds a lot of weight though.  I mean think about it, what if the great scientists and inventors of yesteryear had the internet or an iPhone.  Neil deGrasse Tyson is very smart, but the pioneers that came before potentially did/could have done even more.  But maybe not; perhaps air conditioning and video games would've ruined them for all we know.  Certainly a 2019 Ford Mustang is better than a 1964.5 Ford Mustang, but I think we give credence, as Jordan suggests, to great things for their time. 

This is the problem of the debate because the goal posts are hard to define and they will always move, not out of bias necessarily, but because the game and the competition changes.

As I've said before on this thread, I think Tiger is the greatest, but I also think in the future that there's a great possibility he could be passed by someone who has less statistical feats due to the even greater competition than Tiger faced.  Perhaps 7 majors and 50 wins trumps Tiger's accomplishments one day because every hits the ball like Cameron Champ.  Will you still then vouch that Tiger is the greatest?  How will you know if he has been surpassed?  What measurement do you use?

 

11 minutes ago, ChrisP said:

Well I’ve said many times I’m a Jack and Tiger supporter... and I’ve always held and will continue to hold that you can’t 100% prove that if either was in the other persons era Jack or Tiger would have more majors. You can speculate all you want, but no one can 100% prove it.

Agreed, but I think it's easier to make the Tiger argument simply because he has the numbers even with the competition.

Edited by ncates00

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27 minutes ago, iacas said:

So this is where the Jack supporters go to when they have no real other place to go.

Suffice to say I disagree with Michael Jordan.

There are people who simply believe this is true, whether you agree with it or not.

 

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26 minutes ago, iacas said:

So this is where the Jack supporters go to when they have no real other place to go.

Suffice to say I disagree with Michael Jordan.

I think you can compare numbers.
But I also think those numbers need historical context.
Equipment, course, competition, schedule, Medical science, etc....

I think this is a debate that will never be settled, similar to debates in almost any other sport that has a deep history. 

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I can't prove, 100%, that I am not Jesus Christ.  That doesn't leave open the possibility that I am.  100% certainty is neither practical or necessary in discussions such as these.  It is enough to state a case and offer opinions and evidence to support it.  

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The fields Woods was (is) beating were deeper, there's no doubt about that. But when Tiger burst onto the scene with his tournament record in the 1997 Masters he was playing pretty much the same course (pre Tiger-proofing) on which Nicklaus had set the previous record, just one shot more, more than thirty years earlier with vastly inferior equipment.

 

This is the problem with comparing great players from different eras. Nobody is ever going to persuade me that Woods, with his relative wildness off the tee, was going to beat Nicklaus in his prime playing with persimmon woods and, especially, those spinny balata balls. Woods fans will disagree, but we won't know because Woods has never had to prove himself in those conditions while Nicklaus was, for ten years with this equipment, the longest and straightest player in the world. And yes, I agree Woods had the best short game we've ever seen, he's a far better player than Nicklaus was from thirty yards and in.

 

I'd also make the point that one reason the fields are deeper is that the game is easier now. The ball and the driver permit distances that were unattainable before. More to the point, though, the PGA tour sets courses up to encourage big hitting and target golf. There's very little penal rough. If a lot of the contenders now were presented with conditions from the 60s and 70s, they wouldn't be contending. Doubt it? Look what happens to some of the supposedly great players when they're presented with courses they can't bomb, like at last year's Ryder Cup. 

 

Woods would probably beat Nicklaus in modern conditions if both were in their prime because he has a game adapted to those conditions. Playing in the 60s and 70s, Nicklaus every time. And I'll bet there were some old guys in the 1890s who'd have murdered both of them if everyone was playing hickory shafts and gutta-percha balls over unmanicured links courses. You get good at what you were brought up practising. The GOAT argument is a waste of time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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27 minutes ago, ncates00 said:

 

Agreed, but I think it's easier to make the Tiger argument simply because he has the numbers even with the competition.

Oh no doubt it’s easier to make the Tiger argument. But I always use the court analogy. It’s like the innocent vs proven guilty. You know a person is likely guilty, but unless you are 100% absolutely sure, they’re still innocent. And no one can say here for 100% fact that if Tiger and Jack squared off in their primes using the same equipment, that Tiger would come out with more majors. 

Edited by ChrisP

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32 minutes ago, ncates00 said:

It holds a lot of weight though.  I mean think about it, what if the great scientists and inventors of yesteryear had the internet or an iPhone. 

That’s beside the point.

Nicklaus accomplished what he did, and Tiger what he has.

We can - and do - compare them based on that.

7 minutes ago, ChrisP said:

Oh no doubt it’s easier to make the Tiger argument. But I always use the court analogy. It’s like the innocent vs proven guilty. You know a person is likely guilty, but unless you are 100% absolutely sure, they’re still innocent. And no one can say here for 100% fact that if Tiger and Jack squared off in their primes using the same equipment, that Tiger would come out with more majors. 

No, it’s beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s not 100%. It’s even less than “virtual certainty.”

The numbers lead me to conclude quite beyond a reasonable doubt that Tiger is the GOAT.

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1 minute ago, ChrisP said:

Oh no doubt it’s easier to make the Tiger argument. But I always use the court analogy. It’s like the innocent vs proven guilty. You know a person is likely guilty, but unless you are 100% absolutely sure, they’re still innocent. And no one can say here for 100% fact that if Tiger and Jack squared off in their prime using the same equipment, there’s not a shred of doubt Tiger would come out with more majors. 

I don't like the "what if they squared off" arguments.  Jack learned the game and used certain equipment to play the best he can. Tiger did the same thing with different equipment.  That equipment promotes different play styles.

Old days, ball striking had to be nearly perfect or you were screwed. Today there's a lot of forgiveness so you can afford to be a little wild. The game was played differently, hence the whole proposal of ball roll-back BS that happened last year.  As the game evolves, play styles evolve.  If Jack and Tiger had swapped places, the way they play the game would most likely be a bit different.

The only way to really debate this, imo, is versus field (Strength of field).  How they fared against the other players.  It's been beat to hell already, so no need for me to attempt (and most likely fail) at explaining it. Tiger dominated the field more so than Jack versus his field.

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34 minutes ago, Piz said:

I can't prove, 100%, that I am not Jesus Christ.  That doesn't leave open the possibility that I am.  100% certainty is neither practical or necessary in discussions such as these.  It is enough to state a case and offer opinions and evidence to support it.  

The problem, to me, isn't with the Jack v. Tiger argument; it's for future debate of who surpasses Tiger and how we measure it.  That's why I think it's important to clearly define our terms and what goal posts we're using.  See my point about future competition being even more stronger than Tiger's day, potentially leading to less facial statistical achievement being more impressive than either Tiger's or Jack's achievement.

No one has addressed this argument.  I agree @iacas on the Tiger argument.  It's a boring debate to me, as I agree with you that it's clear-cut.

6 minutes ago, phillyk said:

I don't like the "what if they squared off" arguments.  Jack learned the game and used certain equipment to play the best he can. Tiger did the same thing with different equipment.  That equipment promotes different play styles.

Old days, ball striking had to be nearly perfect or you were screwed. Today there's a lot of forgiveness so you can afford to be a little wild. The game was played differently, hence the whole proposal of ball roll-back BS that happened last year.  As the game evolves, play styles evolve.  If Jack and Tiger had swapped places, the way they play the game would most likely be a bit different.

The only way to really debate this, imo, is versus field (Strength of field).  How they fared against the other players.  It's been beat to hell already, so no need for me to attempt (and most likely fail) at explaining it. Tiger dominated the field more so than Jack versus his field.

Agreed and that easily makes Tiger's case.  That's not the interesting part to me.  It's the moving forward discussion when we have a superstar in, I dunno, 10, 20, 30 years and the fields are stacked even more than in Tiger's day and every player is a 180+ ball speed kid growing up with the best teaching, launch monitors, etc etc.  Maybe 7 majors and 50 wins trumps Tiger's feats due to strength of field.  What I'm getting at is we need to clearly define the goal posts in the Jack v. Tiger debate, not to show how Tiger wins (that's no no-brainer for Tiger), but to have the goal posts set for future debate of Tiger v. Next Star-golfer, or at least the guidelines to be able to convert the wins due to the strength of competition.  That's the only way to do generational analysis.  

Edited by ncates00

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2 minutes ago, ncates00 said:

No one has addressed this argument.  I agree @iacas on the Tiger argument.  It's a boring debate to me, as I agree with you that it's clear-cut.

For me, I need to see someone win 15-20% of their events but also stay within the top 25 or so every event they play for say 15-20 years (really just making it up).  No one is close yet to achieving true dominance over the field (other than Tiger in his career) so it's hard to say what goal posts need to be set. 

We could go back to those long posts of numbers and create a goal post, but I don't see the point of that until someone else gets close.

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2 minutes ago, ncates00 said:

That's why I think it's important to clearly define our terms and what goal posts we're using. 

Number of wins and number of majors while accounting for strength of the rest of the field is the largest comparison point for myself.

Tiger dominated better, deeper, and stronger fields more than Jack dominated the weaker, shallower fields.

There isnt a way to prove who would have had more majors if they played in each others' time periods so arguing that is pointless.

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1 minute ago, klineka said:

Number of wins and number of majors while accounting for strength of the rest of the field is the largest comparison point for myself.

Tiger dominated better, deeper, and stronger fields more than Jack dominated the weaker, shallower fields.

There isnt a way to prove who would have had more majors if they played in each others' time periods so arguing that is pointless.

You've missed the point nor come to a measurement.  See @phillyk's comment for something measurable.

2 minutes ago, klineka said:

here isnt a way to prove who would have had more majors if they played in each others' time periods so arguing that is pointless.

Not arguing this, but it is interesting even if pointless.

 

3 minutes ago, klineka said:

Tiger dominated better, deeper, and stronger fields more than Jack dominated the weaker, shallower fields.

agreed, but that's why we need something like @phillyk suggested.  Otherwise, we have no way to debate future stardom.  

 

4 minutes ago, klineka said:

Number of wins and number of majors while accounting for strength of the rest of the field is the largest comparison point for myself.

agreed, so we put come up with a mathematical formula to account for it so we can compare prospectively instead of this boring retrospective Jack debate.

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26 minutes ago, ncates00 said:

No one has addressed this argument.

That’s bull. We have addressed it many times.

And there’s no guarantee anyone is “next.” Tiger might be the pinnacle for several generations.

This curve approaches a limit…

strengths.png

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47 minutes ago, chazza said:

But when Tiger burst onto the scene with his tournament record in the 1997 Masters he was playing pretty much the same course (pre Tiger-proofing) on which Nicklaus had set the previous record, just one shot more, more than thirty years earlier with vastly inferior equipment.

This is not true. Look at this: https://www.golfdigest.com/story/the-complete-changes-to-augusta-national. There were a lot of changes to the course since Jack's -17 win in 1965. The course definitely got more difficult. I would agree that the course changed a lot more after 1997 than it did from 1965-1997, but they weren't playing the same course.

Plus, Tiger beat the field by more in 1997 than Jack did in 1965. In other words, the course played easier for the rest of the field in 1965 than it did in 1997.

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2 minutes ago, DeadMan said:

Plus, Tiger beat the field by more in 1997 than Jack did in 1965. In other words, the course played easier for the rest of the field in 1965 than it did in 1997.

A better field. 🙂

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