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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


6,761 posts / 522861 viewsLast Reply

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19 minutes ago, iacas said:

I'm not going to spend much time on this right now, but I could. I just wanted to tag @turtleback and @brocks and have you both listen to Brandel Chamblee's podcast starting at 10:00 in to this one:

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Tiger or Jack? Who's the greatest of all time? Brandel Chamblee and Jaime Diaz weigh in on the...

You can play it right in your browser.

Now, in this podcast, Chamblee:

  • Says Tiger played the greatest golf ever from 1998-2002, with 2000 and even 2007 being very nearly the best golf ever in a single year.
  • Says Jack's "dominance" over a long period of time is what puts him ahead of Tiger as the GOAT. (Though Brandel has previously said Tiger is the GOAT).
  • Says re: dominance that "you have to look at the other tournaments when players weren't just winning but finishing fourth, or 15th, or whatever" to assess how "dominant" they were, too.
  • Says that Jack finished outside the top ten something like 5 times in the first whatever majors and says Tiger finished outside the top five 13 and 16 times during some runs.
  • Says that the Felber book "The Hole Truth" (https://thesandtrap.com/forums/topic/99594-the-hole-truth-by-bill-felber/) shows how "dominant" Jack was over Tiger.

Now, the problems I have with this whole thing are summarized in two points:

  • The Felber book doesn't account, AT ALL, for field strength/depth. We just saw a guy named Max Homa, ranked 400th in the world, pull off a big victory. That stuff happens all the time these days. Fields are DEEP and STRONG. Jack had to beat about six people… so of course his odds of finishing in the top ten were pretty good.
  • Jack wasn't anywhere near as "dominant" using the classic definition as Brandel seems to think. I think that match play thing about Tiger's ranked/sorted best years versus Jack's getting to year 11 or 12 before Jack wins a single "hole" carries a lot of weight here. Jack wasn't the best player for the year in more than about, what is the count, five years of his career, @turtleback/@brocks??

I'm tempted to turn the responses you guys might both have into a long series of tweets (giving you credit) to Brandel.

Please do. Brandel needs to hear this.

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Oh, and @turtleback and @brocks, just after 1 hour in, they talk about how "you can only compare players against their peers."

Which I find to be absolute bullshit, for reasons that are more than obvious.

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The bad news is that I am really strapped for time right now, because I'm hosting several family members from around the country as we gather for a funeral.  The good news is that I posted some material last month when you asked for foundational posts, that I think might translate well to twitter.  In particular, the year-by-year analysis of Jack's alleged dominance in post #6430

could probably be trimmed down into one tweet for each year, especially if you remove my editorial snark.  I've found that most golf fans are surprised to see how thin Jack's "dominance" was when you look at the Jack era year by year.  He really had only one year that compared in dominance to any of seven years of Tiger's career.  He had five years where he was clearly the best in the world (but not necessarily dominant), compared to 10 for Tiger.  He only wins when you look at how many years he was arguably in the wold top ten -- 20 years to Tiger's 16 (so far).  Being top ten in the world is very hard to do, but it's not domination.

And I am as puzzled as you are how Brandel can be so oblivious to the strength of the fields in the pre-1980's majors.  You only have to look at the Open.com website to see that in the 11 years 1959-1969, when the "Big Three" won five British Opens, there were never more than a dozen Americans in the field, and if you eliminate the amateurs and seniors, seldom more than half a dozen (zero in 1959, when Player won his first Open).  There were never more than 30 (including seniors and amateurs) all through the 1970's.

To be specific, look at 1968.  The British Open paid $7200 to the winner.  All but five regular PGA events paid over twice that much in 1968, and the Greater Milwaukee Open, played the same week as the British Open, paid the winner $40,000.  In today's terms, that would be like having a regular PGA event with a first prize of 11 million dollars played the same week as the Open.  There were 11 Americans in the field, but only six of any distinction, along with an amateur and four pros with a combined total of one career PGA win.  And as inconvenient as trans-Atlantic travel was then, it wasn't nearly as tiring or expensive as travel to Britain from Australia or South Africa, which meant that even though the Open had far more prestige outside of the US than in it, it was missing a large percentage of international stars, as well as 90% of US stars.

The field of the 1968 PGA Championship was described by Jack himself as "absurd and unfortunate," with about 50 touring pros and about 110 club pros.  Just about the only way a non-PGA member could get in was to win one of the other majors, so foreign players who didn't want to devote a year or more to the PGA Tour were effectively shut out.

The US Open was indeed open, but you had to qualify in the US a few weeks before the tournament, which meant that someone in Europe, South Africa, or Australia had to either commit to over a solid month of his time away from home, with no guarantee he would actually get to play, or make two overseas round trips in a month.  As a result, only a handful of international players entered.  All but one of Europe's leading money winners for the years 1955-1975 never played in either the US Open or the PGA Championship in their entire careers.  The one exception, Peter Oosterhuis, never did it before 1975.

After discounting amateurs and seniors, the 1968 Masters had only about 60 players in the field.  Credit to the ANGC, they did make an effort to invite international players, but the time and expense (plus the fact that majors weren't MAJORS then) caused many invitees to decline.  Peter Alliss was one of the best players in Europe for nearly 20 years.  He won the Order of Merit twice, and beat the biggest American stars like Palmer, Venturi, and Casper in his Ryder Cup matches, but he was invited to the Masters only five times, and he only accepted twice.  Too far to travel, he said.

The result of all this is that the US Open was probably the strongest event of the Jack era, but with a virtually all-American field, it was only about half as strong as a full field major today.   The PGA Championship, with two club pros for every touring pro, was probably no stronger than a regular PGA event of that era, and weaker than a regular PGA event of today.  The Masters, with only 60 touring pros, was not much stronger.  And the British Open, with just a handful of players from outside of Europe, was weaker than almost any regular tour event then, and much weaker than any of Tiger's official wins.

Since the GOAT debate though most of the 60's was between Snead and Hogan, neither of whom had as many majors as Hagen, there was nothing like the pressure of majors today.  A major was especially nice to win, but it wasn't a life-changing event like it is today.  "Most majors" wasn't the most important stat until around 1975, thanks largely to years of lobbying by Jack, the only man who played all four majors every year.

Note that this comparison doesn't depend on the fact that there is a much larger talent pool today, or that athletes in every sport have gotten much better than they were 50 years ago.  Even if the players of the Jack era were as good as the players today, from the best in the world to the 100th in the world, it's still an incontrovertible fact that it was rare for half of them to show up for any given major.

Also note that the relative strength of the US versus the rest of the world doesn't matter.  Today, the world golf rankings show a pretty even distribution of Americans and non-Americans in the world's top players.  But suppose it was 90-10 in favor of Americans in the Jack era.  That would make the US Open relatively stronger, but still nowhere near today's majors.  It wouldn't help the Masters or PGA much, since there were still only about 50 Americans in their fields.  And it would make the British Open even weaker.

The bottom line is, the reputations of the "Big Three" were built on winning majors with fields no stronger, and sometimes much weaker, than a regular PGA event today.  Jack was less dominant, for fewer years, over weaker fields, than Tiger.

 

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11 minutes ago, brocks said:

 And I am as puzzled as you are how Brandel can be so oblivious to the strength of the fields in the pre-1980's majors.  You only have to look at the Open.com website to see that in the 11 years 1959-1969, when the "Big Three" won five British Opens, there were never more than a dozen Americans in the field, and if you eliminate the amateurs and seniors, seldom more than half a dozen (zero in 1959, when Player won his first Open).  There were never more than 30 (including seniors and amateurs) all through the 1970's.

 To be specific, look at 1968.  The British Open paid $7200 to the winner.  All but five regular PGA events paid over twice that much in 1968, and the Greater Milwaukee Open, played the same week as the British Open, paid the winner $40,000.  In today's terms, that would be like having a regular PGA event with a first prize of 11 million dollars played the same week as the Open.  There were 11 Americans in the field, but only six of any distinction, along with an amateur and four pros with a combined total of one career PGA win.  And as inconvenient as trans-Atlantic travel was then, it wasn't nearly as tiring or expensive as travel to Britain from Australia or South Africa, which meant that even though the Open had far more prestige outside of the US than in it, it was missing a large percentage of international stars, as well as 90% of US stars.

The field of the 1968 PGA Championship was described by Jack himself as "absurd and unfortunate," with about 50 touring pros and about 110 club pros.  Just about the only way a non-PGA member could get in was to win one of the other majors, so foreign players who didn't want to devote a year or more to the PGA Tour were effectively shut out.

You under-rate the value of that kind of content, which could also translate very well to a Twitter stream.

I may edit it up and post it later on today. Maybe starting with a photo of the post you link to earlier, as that allows for a longer "word count". 🙂

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I sad it before, probably 230 pages back, but I don't understand why it matters enough to anyone to get to more than 350 pages of debate.  I loved watching Jack when he was playing.  He was my golf hero, through the 70's and well into the 80's.  Then a few years later came Tiger, and while I never saw him as a heroic inspiration (I was older by then and knew my own game better), I loved watching him play and rooting for him.... still do.  They have both provided hours and hours of entertainment for all of us who love this sport, and both are/were head and shoulders above their competition. 

Both have made shots that you saw it live and still couldn't believe what you just witnessed.  Tiger probably has more of those highlight reel moments than Jack, but then Tiger got far more TV air time than Jack did.  For most of Jack's career They would only televise the back 9 on Saturday and Sunday, with no TV at all from the first 2 rounds. 

Tiger's record has pretty much eclipsed Jack's now, and he still has time to stretch his lead a bit more as long as he stays healthy.  For me, that doesn't diminish what Jack did during his career, it only emphasizes just how good Tiger was in his prime. 

No matter who was actually the better player, I only see the fact that both players accomplished what they did as being a good thing for we the viewers, and for the game of golf.  

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44 minutes ago, Fourputt said:

I sad it before, probably 230 pages back, but I don't understand why it matters enough to anyone to get to more than 350 pages of debate. 

Then why have you participated? Anyone is welcome to debate who they think is the GOAT. That’s what this thread is about. But what’s not really sensible is to debate that it’s not a debate and how they can’t be compared. If that’s your stance fine.  But stay out of this one. That’s not the discussion.😀

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43 minutes ago, Fourputt said:

I sad it before, probably 230 pages back, but I don't understand why it matters enough to anyone to get to more than 350 pages of debate.  I loved watching Jack when he was playing.  He was my golf hero, through the 70's and well into the 80's.  Then a few years later came Tiger, and while I never saw him as a heroic inspiration (I was older by then and knew my own game better), I loved watching him play and rooting for him.... still do.  They have both provided hours and hours of entertainment for all of us who love this sport, and both are/were head and shoulders above their competition. 

Both have made shots that you saw it live and still couldn't believe what you just witnessed.  Tiger probably has more of those highlight reel moments than Jack, but then Tiger got far more TV air time than Jack did.  For most of Jack's career They would only televise the back 9 on Saturday and Sunday, with no TV at all from the first 2 rounds. 

Tiger's record has pretty much eclipsed Jack's now, and he still has time to stretch his lead a bit more as long as he stays healthy.  For me, that doesn't diminish what Jack did during his career, it only emphasizes just how good Tiger was in his prime. 

No matter who was actually the better player, I only see the fact that both players accomplished what they did as being a good thing for we the viewers, and for the game of golf.  

What you @Forputt  posted. This is why I have always labled them as. "GOTEs. "Greatest Of Their Era".

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38 minutes ago, Patch said:

What you @Forputt  posted. This is why I have always labled them as. "GOTEs. "Greatest Of Their Era".

Yes they are each the greatest of their era. But Tiger is the GOAT. 

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2 hours ago, Vinsk said:

Yes they are each the greatest of their era. But Tiger is the GOAT. 

 

3 hours ago, Vinsk said:

Then why have you participated? Anyone is welcome to debate who they think is the GOAT. That’s what this thread is about. But what’s not really sensible is to debate that it’s not a debate and how they can’t be compared. If that’s your stance fine.  But stay out of this one. That’s not the discussion.😀

My point is, why does it matter so much to you?  You state your position, then someone else states his, you discuss it for a couple of posts, and then you move on with life.  It really doesn't mean anything in the big picture which one is, or was, better.  But instead, anyone who has the temerity to state a different opinion, or the bigger crime of voicing no opinion at all, and you come back and climb on the train again, repeating the same points over and over. 

And then you even make the claim that I shouldn't have the right to state my opinion, since I choose NOT to pick one over the other, but to praise both of them for their contributions to our weekend entertainment and to the game we all clearly love.  I fail to see why that opinion is not perfectly within the bounds of this discussion.  

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43 minutes ago, Fourputt said:

My point is, why does it matter so much to you? 

His point is that why does it matter so much to you that you have to come in here and spend your time telling us that you don't care?

43 minutes ago, Fourputt said:

It really doesn't mean anything in the big picture which one is, or was, better.

What does playing golf really mean in the big picture, Rick? Why do you play at all?

Live and let live, man.

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2 hours ago, iacas said:

His point is that why does it matter so much to you that you have to come in here and spend your time telling us that you don't care?

What does playing golf really mean in the big picture, Rick? Why do you play at all?

Live and let live, man.

Not taking the easy way out @Fourputt, I just couldn’t have responded any better than this.

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19 hours ago, iacas said:

His point is that why does it matter so much to you that you have to come in here and spend your time telling us that you don't care?

What does playing golf really mean in the big picture, Rick? Why do you play at all?

Live and let live, man.

I'd be a lot more accepting of the GOTE folks if any of them could point to ANYTHING that showed they held that position prior to, say, 2000.  Prior to Tiger no one was saying Jack was the best of his era, they nearly unanimously proclaimed him best of all time.  But once a challenger emerged to THAT title, all of a sudden we have this best of his era nonsense..  

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19 hours ago, turtleback said:

I'd be a lot more accepting of the GOTE folks if any of them could point to ANYTHING that showed they held that position prior to, say, 2000.  Prior to Tiger no one was saying Jack was the best of his era, they nearly unanimously proclaimed him best of all time.  But once a challenger emerged to THAT title, all of a sudden we have this best of his era nonsense..  

I first approached this thread (and its related threads) many years ago with the argument that you can't cross-compare over eras. For what it's worth, your posts, and posts by iacas and others, convinced me otherwise - I accept that it's perfectly reasonable to examine the careers of players of different eras, and compare them to identify who was the better player, or had the better career.

On this one occasion, though, I think you're barking up the wrong tree, slightly.

Jack won his last major in 1986, Tiger had collected all 4 majors by 2000. That's only 14 years apart.

I think people tended to refer to Nicklaus as the GOAT (not GOTE) in 2000 simply because other than among determined golf fans, the public at large and the sporting press tend to use majors as the principal metric of greatness. And, in the year 2000, there was no real competitor to Nicklaus in that regard in living memory. He stood head and shoulders above his peers. Only real historians of the game would be debating whether Walter Hagen, a player from the 1920s, belonged in the conversation.

Jack and Tiger are from very different eras, but the time-span between their careers (one winding down, the other taking off) wasn't very long at all.

In other words, there was no need for GOTE conversation in early 2000, because Jack was the GOAT. There were no other contenders in people's minds.

There was just Jack, alone.

Then suddenly, there were Jack and Tiger.

And now there are Tiger and Jack.

If Jack is no longer the GOAT, then what is he? The 2nd GOAT? Perhaps. But even though we can compare across eras, the one thing we can't do (a typical GOTE-er complaint, here), is put Tiger in a time machine and send him back to the British Open in 1977 to compete in the Duel in the Sun or what-have-you.

Ergo, Nicklaus, no longer the GOAT, is the GOTE(1962-1986).

Edited by ScouseJohnny

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Some people believe that you can't compare athletes across different generations due to the multitude of variables that are involved.

I would suggest that it is also a valid response to "Jack vs. Tiger: Who's the Greatest Golfer?".

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30 minutes ago, Hardluckster said:

Some people believe that you can't compare athletes across different generations due to the multitude of variables that are involved.

I would suggest that it is also a valid response to "Jack vs. Tiger: Who's the Greatest Golfer?".

Except we can account for these variables.

In golf the only variable that matters across eras is the strength of the fields. Equipment and course difficulty are irrelevant because, funny enough, all players within an era use the same equipment and play the same course. The only differences are the people who are playing in each era. Tiger's era had exponentially stronger fields than Jack's era, so the reason you like to claim it can't be compared is because when the comparison is made your golden boy falls short.

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35 minutes ago, Pretzel said:

Except we can account for these variables.

In golf the only variable that matters across eras is the strength of the fields. Equipment and course difficulty are irrelevant because, funny enough, all players within an era use the same equipment and play the same course. The only differences are the people who are playing in each era. Tiger's era had exponentially stronger fields than Jack's era, so the reason you like to claim it can't be compared is because when the comparison is made your golden boy falls short.

You have made an assumption for which you have no facts.

I have never said that Jack was the GOAT.  I don't believe in the entire premise of GOAT (in any sport) and I never have. I do not think that Jack is the GOAT - I never have.

Your idea that the only difference that matters is strength of field is purely your opinion. I can respect it while at the same time disagreeing with it.

Debating which golfer is the GOAT can be entertaining (as evidenced by this extensive thread). It can also be very polarizing (also evidenced by this thread).

I'm just one person with an opinion, but I simply don't think that because I didn't pick either of the two golfers that my views should be excluded from the discussion.

Have a great day!

Edited by Hardluckster

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6 minutes ago, Hardluckster said:

Your idea that the only difference that matters is strength of field is purely your opinion. I can respect it while at the same time disagreeing with it.

If you believe that to be the case, why don't you go ahead and provide evidence for any other factor making a difference?

I have based my opinion on facts and evidence. So far you have backed up your opinion with nothing but, "because I said so".

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3 minutes ago, Pretzel said:

If you believe that to be the case, why don't you go ahead and provide evidence for any other factor making a difference?

I have based my opinion on facts and evidence. So far you have backed up your opinion with nothing but, "because I said so".

There are, in my opinion, innumerable variables that would prevent anyone from ever identifying the greatest golfer of all time.  You claim that equipment is not important - I disagree.  Nobody knows how good, or bad, Old Tom Morris would have been with a Pro V1 instead of his feathery golf balls.  How much better might Hogan have been had he had metal woods?  Course maintenance and conditions also factor into the discussion.  These are but two of the myriad of differences that I could list.

While none of these factors are important when discussing golfers of the same era, they definitely become important variables when trying to compare players from different time frames.  We can say, with a great deal of certainty, that Tiger and Jack were the best of their time.  They played the same courses, with the same equipment, and in mostly the same conditions as all of their contemporaries.  Crossing generations causes additional variables to come into play, whether you agree or not.

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