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

Greatest Golfer (GOAT)  

199 members have voted

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

    • Tiger Woods is the man
      1633
    • Jack Nicklaus is my favorite
      816


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Of course it was easier to win tournaments years ago.  In 1945 alone Byron Nelson won 18 tournaments, but congrats to Rory, and won $63k.

It was, and to some extent still is, a rich man’s sport.  But there is more access today and, someone with talent is able to play college golf and potentially find a career somewhere in golf.  It is a multiple billion dollar industry.

I know this is about Tiger and Jack, but one does have to wonder how many Hogan would have won if that Greyhound bus was never on that road.  His success after the accident might dwarf what everyone else has accomplished.

John

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10 minutes ago, 70sSanO said:

Of course it was easier to win tournaments years ago.  In 1945 alone Byron Nelson won 18 tournaments, but congrats to Rory, and won $63k.

It was, and to some extent still is, a rich man’s sport.  But there is more access today and, someone with talent is able to play college golf and potentially find a career somewhere in golf.  It is a multiple billion dollar industry.

I know this is about Tiger and Jack, but one does have to wonder how many Hogan would have won if that Greyhound bus was never on that road.  His success after the accident might dwarf what everyone else has accomplished.

John

He might have won a few more regular tour events, but it is really hard to claim that he would have won more majors than he actually did, considering he won 6 of the first 9 majors he player AFTER the accident. He was already over age 40 when he won his last major, the last of his 3 in a row.  Other than the rare physical specimen Snead, players rarely did much after 40.  Hogan stayed competitive in the majors after '53 and finished 2ND in a major 4 times, but it is more likely to have been nerve and age that kept him from winning, IMO, rather than the accident.

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2 hours ago, turtleback said:

He might have won a few more regular tour events, but it is really hard to claim that he would have won more majors than he actually did, considering he won 6 of the first 9 majors he player AFTER the accident. He was already over age 40 when he won his last major, the last of his 3 in a row.  Other than the rare physical specimen Snead, players rarely did much after 40.  Hogan stayed competitive in the majors after '53 and finished 2ND in a major 4 times, but it is more likely to have been nerve and age that kept him from winning, IMO, rather than the accident.

It was a miracle that Hogan could even walk after the head-on collision.  He couldn’t play many tournaments after his accident due to his injuries and was in pretty much constant pain.

I’m not saying Hogan would get to 18 majors, but as much as we applaud Tiger for his masters win, he wasn’t exactly scraped off the pavement.

Also when talking about the different eras, where would Tiger be with mid-20th century medical technology in getting him back on the course.

John

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5 minutes ago, 70sSanO said:

, he wasn’t exactly scraped off the pavement.

Well..he kinda was.

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39 minutes ago, 70sSanO said:

It was a miracle that Hogan could even walk after the head-on collision.  He couldn’t play many tournaments after his accident due to his injuries and was in pretty much constant pain.

I’m not saying Hogan would get to 18 majors, but as much as we applaud Tiger for his masters win, he wasn’t exactly scraped off the pavement.

Also when talking about the different eras, where would Tiger be with mid-20th century medical technology in getting him back on the course.

John

You're kind of missing the point.  Hogan had his best years for majors AFTER the crash and recovery.  He didn't win more majors because he didn't get good enough to dominate majors until he was too old to pile up that kind of total number. 

He didn't win his first major until he was 34, and that late start had nothing to with the crash.  As it was, he beat the odds by winning 3 majors in his 40s - tied with Jack for the most other than Old Tom Morris (who had 4).  To think that there was any real likelihood that he would have won even more majors after 40 and was only prevented from doing so by the injuries - that didn't stop him from winning 6 of 9 majors - defies logic and precedent, IMO. 

Coming back from his injuries to do what he did was amazing.  But what he accomplished stands on its own and really doesn't need any 'what if' puffery, just as Tiger's career speaks for itself and needs no 'what if' puffery to account for his lost 10 years.  

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Actually this thread is about Tiger and Jack, I only brought up Hogan because of the wins by era and his comeback.  And I never saw Hogan play.

For this generation, and looking back, Tiger is the greatest.  I like Jack more, but I think Tiger is better, especially with his comeback.

But no one should be deluded that 75-100 years from now there won’t be another player that will the the real GOAT in the mind of that generation.  Generations root for their guy/gal as the greatest, and they will have their stats to back up their position.

When we are all dead, no one will care about someone who played at the turn of the century.  Life moves on, celebrate the now and let it go.

John

Edited by 70sSanO

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4 hours ago, 70sSanO said:

I know this is about Tiger and Jack, but one does have to wonder how many Hogan would have won if that Greyhound bus was never on that road.  His success after the accident might dwarf what everyone else has accomplished.

This thread is Tiger vs Jack because Jack is basically the only golfer in history whose accomplishments are comparable to Tiger's IMO.

Hogan was a great golfer and probably better known today for his mystique, but let's not forget the fact that Hogan's accident occurred when he was 35. By 35, Tiger had already won 14 majors and 71 PGA Tour wins, both of which exceed what Hogan accomplished over his entire career.

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42 minutes ago, billchao said:

This thread is Tiger vs Jack because Jack is basically the only golfer in history whose accomplishments are comparable to Tiger's IMO.

Not really.  It is actually a thread to show why Jack is not comparable to Tiger.

John

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1 hour ago, 70sSanO said:

Not really.  It is actually a thread to show why Jack is not comparable to Tiger.

John

You're proving my point. Hogan isn't in this discussion.

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1 hour ago, billchao said:

You're proving my point. Hogan isn't in this discussion.

I don’t care about Hogan.  I just threw his name out as a what might have been.  He lost 3 years to the war and overcome even more medical issues than Tiger without 21st century medical procedures.  But his resume does not stack up.

At almost 7000 posts there has not been a single post, not one valid argument, that supports Jack being a greater golfer than Tiger.

Tiger is greater than Jack.  Jack’s strength of field will never be stronger.  But strength of field is always increasing, so who knows who the subjects of a future thread will be.  That is actually the best part of this.  All the words will disappear and eventually become irrelevant.

John

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2 hours ago, 70sSanO said:

Tiger is greater than Jack.  Jack’s strength of field will never be stronger.  But strength of field is always increasing, so who knows who the subjects of a future thread will be.  

 The rate at which the strength of field increases will slow down over time.

 

On 2/3/2018 at 4:26 PM, iacas said:

Ignoring the money, and the fact that players are thus trained from age 8 onward, even if we ONLY consider the number of players who play golf and attempt to play on the PGA Tour or have that as a goal, consider this:

  • If 125 people play golf in the world, all 125 will qualify for and play on the PGA Tour. You'll have both the best golfer in the world (who won't have to be that great given his competition), and the worst.
  • If you have 250 golfers, you eliminate the worst 125, and now you have the best 125 at 50%.
  • If you have 5,000 golfers, you're talking about the best 2.5%.
  • If you have 50,000 golfers, the best 0.25%.
  • In a graph, that looks like this:

field_strength.png

Now, we're well into the area to the right. The U.S. has had 500 golfers for a century alone.

But the math still holds up: every time the golfing population doubles, the field becomes stronger and deeper. You go from, say, the top 0.05% of golfers in the world to the top 0.025% of golfers in the world. Simple, basic math.

Now, as the curve approaches zero, the actual differences become smaller and smaller. The difference between the top 100% of golfers and a world with 500 golfers cutting it down to the top 25% is still 1/4, but it's also an improvement of 75%. The gap between 0.01% and 0.0025% is similarly 1/4… but it's also only a 0.0075% improvement.

In other words, the strength and depth of a field that takes 125 from a trillion contestants is virtually the same as a field that takes 125 from ten trillion contestants. The numbers are still basically 0.00{000}000125%.

But at the numbers we're talking about in the Jack/Tiger era, we're not to the point where things are basically 0. If there are 50,000 golfers who are +2 or better in 1970, and 150,000 in 2000… that's enough to take the 125 from 0.25% to 0.0833333%. That's significant.

This is what the modern era of golf looks like (not to scale or super exact… just illustrating the basic idea here):

strengths.png


In 1965, 49 players tried out for the inaugural Q-School. That number was quite a bit higher than that in 2005. From the U.S. alone, the USGA received 10,127 applications for the 2014 U.S. Open. They received quite a lot fewer in 1974.

The numbers simply add up. There are a hell of a lot more golfers now than there were in the 1960s and 1970s, not only in the U.S. but around the world. Golfers are better trained. They enter the tour at age 23 or 25 or whatever with 15 years of seasoning in highly competitive events.

Bruce Lietzke, as talented as he was, wouldn't stand a chance these days taking months off without even hitting a ball.

Now, note… the above graph alone doesn't settle "Tiger > Jack" or "Jack > Tiger" alone. After all, whichever one you think is the GOAT would still have been the GOAT in either generation. The top 1 of all time would have been at the top end of the top 125 of any given era.

But, in comparing the strengths and depths of field, some people (like me) can use the idea of this type of graph to "weigh" the achievements of both, given that their competition was the other "124 best" of the era, or whatever.


The graph above shows why it may take 12 majors and 70 wins for someone to have an equivalent or slightly better than Tiger-like career in the "Spieth Era". It explains why, to many/most, "14 > 18."

P.S. The graphs are likely not perfectly smooth like this, but again, if you're looking to nit-pick the graphs, the point they make is general, not specific. They're not exact, they're just an illustration to say in a picture what I've been saying in words.

P.P.S. I'd made a graph like this before, I believe, but it was faster to re-create it than find the other one.

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8 hours ago, klineka said:

 The rate at which the strength of field increases will slow down over time.

 

And it is worth discussing why this is.  There really are 2 different components to the increasing strength of field.

1) the first is the increase in the sheer numbers of golfers through globalization, i.e, and expanding pool.  There is still a fair amount of room for growth here.  As widespread as the growth of golf has been there are still some pretty untapped places with large population, like China and Russia.

2) the second applies to Tiger/Jack comparisons, but will not apply to Tiger/future comparisons.  And that is the concentration of the very best global players in the 8-10 most important events (i.e., the majors, the WGCs, and the Players.  It is hard for people to grasp the fact that until the very last days of Jack's competitive career neither he nor anyone else ever played in an event where substantially all of the best players in the world played.  Whereas now and, presumably for the future, virtually every one of the big events routinely draws all of the best players other than players sidelined by injury.

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On 11/14/2019 at 12:52 AM, 70sSanO said:

 

At almost 7000 posts there has not been a single post, not one valid argument, that supports Jack being a greater golfer than Tiger.

That's not true. I don't give absolute weight to "18 > 14" or 15 but it's a "valid argument." Just not one that sways me.

22 hours ago, turtleback said:

1) the first is the increase in the sheer numbers of golfers through globalization, i.e, and expanding pool.  There is still a fair amount of room for growth here.  As widespread as the growth of golf has been there are still some pretty untapped places with large population, like China and Russia.

There is, both theoretical and actually practical. At the same time, the odds of a strapping 25-year-old from Siberia becoming a world class golfer are also lower than from, say, Florida, so the practical is much lower than the theoretical.

22 hours ago, turtleback said:

2) the second applies to Tiger/Jack comparisons, but will not apply to Tiger/future comparisons.  And that is the concentration of the very best global players in the 8-10 most important events (i.e., the majors, the WGCs, and the Players.  It is hard for people to grasp the fact that until the very last days of Jack's competitive career neither he nor anyone else ever played in an event where substantially all of the best players in the world played.  Whereas now and, presumably for the future, virtually every one of the big events routinely draws all of the best players other than players sidelined by injury.

Yes.

@klineka quoted an old post I made, and I was reminded of things like 49 players in Q-School and stuff like that. Stuff I'd looked up once but have long since forgotten since nobody's made a compelling (to me) argument in favor of Jack since.

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8 hours ago, iacas said:

That's not true. I don't give absolute weight to "18 > 14" or 15 but it's a "valid argument." Just not one that sways me.

Actually that should probably include... or anyone else.

To me it is an honest assessment of a head-to-head in their primes, (And I realize a lot of stats are trying to do just that).  But Jack was from my era and there is no way Jack, in his prime, could consistently beat Tiger, in his prime; Tiger wins the majority of them.  And I think Jack would feel the same way.

Take Gretzky, no one would ever think he would be displaced as the greatest of all time, but I can see a time when Crosby could do just that.  Regardless of the numbers, every sport is getting bigger, faster, and better.  And there is no way Gretzky puts up the same numbers in this era.

And, at the risk of being sacrilegious, I can see someone displacing Tiger as the greatest, regardless of the numbers.  It might even be 12 > 15 > 18.  I don’t, but that’s sports and no era has a monopoly on who future generations crown.

John 

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13 minutes ago, 70sSanO said:

Actually that should probably include... or anyone else.

No. Some people are completely sold on that.

And Lemieux was a better hockey player than Gretzky.

Crosby is great but he’s no Lemieux.

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2 hours ago, iacas said:

No. Some people are completely sold on that.

And Lemieux was a better hockey player than Gretzky.

Crosby is great but he’s no Lemieux.

Can’t disagree with Lemieux.  And you of all people can appreciate that a good number of those points came as he played through pain.  Despite his stellar career, it still is a what could have been.

John

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Off topic, but under no circumstance or reasonable argument could anyone suggest that Mario Lemiux is better than Wayne Gretzky.  That’s just silliness.  
 

sure, Mario lemiux was extremely talented.  But even if you’re going to omit longevity, lemieux’s best single 199 point season was not as good as Gretzky’s best.  Or second best.  Or 3rd best.  Or 4th best. 
 

in the wide open early 80s Wayne exploited that space and time in ways no one had ever seen.  Or could comprehend.  In the 90s as the players got bigger and closed down the ice, Wayne still adapted and Was absurdly dominant.  Old, tiny, and not fast, and could still completely control space, possession, and the pace of the game.  
 

your only real chance of an argument would be to suggest that Mario was better than Gretzky in the ‘88-‘89 season, but even that would be debatable.  
 

keep that junk outta here.  Jack has a way better argument for being tiger than that nonsense.  

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