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Strength and Depth of Field in Jack's Day and Tiger's Day


Phil McGleno
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Strength and Depth of Field  

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  1. 1. Loosely Related Question (consider the thread topic-please dont just repeat the GOAT thread): Which is the more impressive feat?

    • Winning 20 majors in the 60s-80s.
      12
    • Winning 17 majors in the 90s-10s.
      150


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1 hour ago, brocks said:

Yes, all that and more. 

But the biggest thing is increased talent pools.  The top 100 golfers out of a pool of 300 are not likely to be as good as the top 100 golfers from a pool of 2500, which in turn are not likely to be as good as the top 100 golfers from a pool of 8500.

Those numbers were not chosen at random --- they are the number of entrants to the US Open when Jones first won, when Jack first won, and when Tiger first won.  The population of the world, or the US, is not a good way to compare talent pools, because most people don't play golf.  Even the number of golfers in the world or the US isn't a good way, because most golfers are thrilled to break 90.

In the context of professional golf, "talent pool" means the number of golfers who are both talented enough to break par regularly, and are serious enough about golf to enter top-level tournaments.  Which is exactly what the number of entries to the US Open gives you. 

In 1962, there were 2475 such golfers.  In 2000, there were 8455, even though the USGA had lowered the maximum eligible handicap (1.4) by then. 

So the talent pool was over three times as large when Tiger won his first US Open as when Jack won.   And most of them had good coaching and tournament experience since junior high, rather than learning a swing by trial and error in their spare time from caddying duties.

There's always a chance that the state 5A football team champs would lose to the state 1A football team, but it's not likely.

And my perennial disclaimer: I claim that for this and many other reasons, it's a fact that the fields were stronger in the Tiger era than the Jack era.  I don't claim it proves that Tiger was better than Jack -- the only way to prove that is to have them play head to head, with both in their primes. 

But since Tiger was more dominant than Jack, over stronger fields, my money's on Tiger.

 

 

@Jack Watson So let’s hear it. And please not another ‘the equipment got better in all those pools.’ God please no.

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3 hours ago, brocks said:

But the biggest thing is increased talent pools.  The top 100 golfers out of a pool of 300 are not likely to be as good as the top 100 golfers from a pool of 2500, which in turn are not likely to be as good as the top 100 golfers from a pool of 8500.

Those numbers were not chosen at random --- they are the number of entrants to the US Open when Jones first won, when Jack first won, and when Tiger first won.  The population of the world, or the US, is not a good way to compare talent pools, because most people don't play golf.  Even the number of golfers in the world or the US isn't a good way, because most golfers are thrilled to break 90.

In the context of professional golf, "talent pool" means the number of golfers who are both talented enough to break par regularly, and are serious enough about golf to enter top-level tournaments.  Which is exactly what the number of entries to the US Open gives you. 

In 1962, there were 2475 such golfers.  In 2000, there were 8455, even though the USGA had lowered the maximum eligible handicap (1.4) by then. 

So the talent pool was over three times as large when Tiger won his first US Open as when Jack won.   And most of them had good coaching and tournament experience since junior high, rather than learning a swing by trial and error in their spare time from caddying duties.

There's always a chance that the state 5A football team champs would lose to the state 1A football team, but it's not likely.

Yep.

The equipment improvement that helped the non-stars more than it helped the absolute stars is a distant second to this.

In graph form, this looks like this:

strengths.png

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@Vinsk

I was unable to view the paper listed above.  I did take a look at some data though.  At the Masters from 1940 through 1994 there were 32 instances of final totals under 280 strokes.  From 95-present there were also 32 such instances.  32 in the first 54 years and 32 in the next 24.  From mid nineties to now scores dropped.  Why?

Equipment wise little really changed once it was steel shafts and wound ball and wood woods.  (1940 to 1994). Mid nineties to late nineties the transition happened to better golf balls and steel drivers by 2000 longer lighter drivers with titanium heads were in play along with solid core urethane covered golf balls.  Right during Tigers heyday the tech changed golf more than any advancement since steel shafts in the mid 1930’s. 

 

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4 minutes ago, Jack Watson said:
I was unable to view the paper listed above.  I did take a look at some data though.  At the Masters from 1940 through 1994 there were 32 instances of final totals under 280 strokes.  From 95-present there were also 32 such instances.  32 in the first 54 years and 32 in the next 24.  From mid nineties to now scores dropped.  Why?

Equipment wise little really changed once it was steel shafts and wound ball and wood woods.  (1940 to 1994). Mid nineties to late nineties the transition happened to better golf balls and steel drivers by 2000 longer lighter drivers with titanium heads were in play along with solid core urethane covered golf balls.  Right during Tigers heyday the tech changed golf more than any advancement since steel shafts in the mid 1930’s. 

Improved equipment continues to hurt your point. It strengthens/deepens and already stronger/deeper field.

And is not at all the main point of the conversation. You've conveniently continued to duck the simple math behind the main point of the argument: that PGA Tour golfers (and worldwide players) represent a much smaller percentage of the world's great golfers (for various reasons) today than ever before.

Jack was beating club pros and people almost entirely from the U.S. Tiger had to beat out guys from around the world (more so than Jack, less so than now) who trained from the age of 5 or 10 to be professional golfers (again much more so than Jack, and also less so than now).

Same in golf, man. To deny it at this point is to be a flat-earther.

And @Jack Watson, your posts amount to trolling at this point. You're posting to get a reaction, not to actually further the discussion. Your posts continually ignore the points made against you. You patently refuse to engage with the responses that call out the flaws in your posts.

Scoring averages remain a horrible way to compare eras; one could set up a course today so that PGA Tour pros shoot 65 or 75, just as they could in Jack's era.

You're operating with a very short rope.

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Yes. Players in every sport are better. Also things like equipment have created more parity which hurts the top players.  And even something like a yardage book gave Jack an advantage over his competition that doesn't exist today. And just the widespread knowledge of sports psychology and swing instruction is able to get more people to a higher level which means more random people are capable of winning on a given week. Plus golf is a more international game.

But most here are taking that waaaaaaaay too far.  For example, "Also, since you want names of players who are better than the players of the time of Nicklaus, how about I start listing some out for you?"

Tom Watson was a better player than every single person on that list except Phil. (And I am really only conceding Phil because it is at least debatable.) Rocco Mediate and Brian Watts are not better than Hale Irwin. It is prima facie wrong. I just watched the 1992 Masters. Raymond Floyd is not worse than  Bob Estes and Scott Hoch. In fact 50 year old Raymond Floyd was probably a  better player than a third of the people on that list in their best year.

There is even a thread where I see people wondering if Phil and Jack is a more apt comparison.  The answer to that is no and it isn't even remotely close. Phil and Watson is a good debate. Phil and Hogan is reasonable.

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10 minutes ago, Fidelio said:

Yes. Players in every sport are better. Also things like equipment have created more parity which hurts the top players.  And even something like a yardage book gave Jack an advantage over his competition that doesn't exist today. And just the widespread knowledge of sports psychology and swing instruction is able to get more people to a higher level which means more random people are capable of winning on a given week. Plus golf is a more international game.

But most here are taking that waaaaaaaay too far.  For example, "Also, since you want names of players who are better than the players of the time of Nicklaus, how about I start listing some out for you?"

Tom Watson was a better player than every single person on that list except Phil. (And I am really only conceding Phil because it is at least debatable.) Rocco Mediate and Brian Watts are not better than Hale Irwin. It is prima facie wrong. I just watched the 1992 Masters. Raymond Floyd is not worse than  Bob Estes and Scott Hoch. In fact 50 year old Raymond Floyd was probably a  better player than a third of the people on that list in their best year.

There is even a thread where I see people wondering if Phil and Jack is a more apt comparison.  The answer to that is no and it isn't even remotely close. Phil and Watson is a good debate. Phil and Hogan is reasonable.

Don't cherry pick your comparisons.  List an equivalent number of players from Jack's era and then we will see.  But if we want to cherry pick things, which Tiger era player would be comparable to Frank Beard, who won a money title right in the middle of Jack's career?  An upper level journeyman won the freaking money title!!!  Where do we see things like that in the tiger era?

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4 minutes ago, turtleback said:

Don't cherry pick your comparisons.   

I responded to the exact quote.

 

Quote

An upper level journeyman won the freaking money title!!!  Where do we see things like that in the tiger era?

An upper level journeyman winning the money title would actually help Jack's strength of field case. Do you see why?

Edited by Fidelio
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@Fidelio, you're presenting an emotional argument, not one based on any facts. You think Tom Watson was a better player than Phil Mickelson, but that's just an opinion.

Tom: 39 PGA Tour wins, 8 majors
Phil: 43 PGA Tour wins, 5 majors

I give Phil the edge there. More wins against stronger competition. 8x ~= 5y? Yeah, I think so. And no, Phil's never been #1 OWGR or anything, but Jack wasn't really even the best player as often as Tiger was, and he's still in the conversation for GOAT, so that can't exclude Phil from #3 consideration.

Tom benefited from the same weak(er) fields as Jack did. A bit less so, as he was later, but still weaker than Phil's competition.

3 minutes ago, Fidelio said:

An upper level journeyman winning the money title would actually help Jack's strength of field case. Do you see why?

I'll let @turtleback respond to that, but no… it doesn't, really. I'm sure he'll tell you why.

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15 minutes ago, iacas said:

 @Fidelio, you're presenting an emotional argument, not one based on any facts. You think Tom Watson was a better player tan Phil Mickelson, but that's just an opinion.

Not sure the emotion you are referring to. I think Phil had the better career.  I have said that I think multiple times in my limited posting history. I think Phil is better than Watson for similar reasons that I put Jack numero uno.

I think this is the quote you are even referring to.

"Tom Watson was a better player than every single person on that list except Phil. (And I am really only conceding Phil because it is at least debatable.)

I do think Watson/Phil is  a fun highly debatable topic like Jack vs Tiger.  whereas I don't think feel as though the Tom Watson vs Dudley Hart comparison is a good one.  

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2 hours ago, iacas said:

Scoring averages remain a horrible way to compare eras; one could set up a course today so that PGA Tour pros shoot 65 or 75, just as they could in Jack's era.

Hard to understand how people who watch the Masters every year, and know about the Sunday pin placements, don't realize how easy it is to manipulate the scoring.


Tiger's winning score in the 2008 Buick Invitational, played at Torrey Pines: 67-65-66-71=269
Tiger's winning score in the 2008 US Open, played 4-1/2 months later at Torrey Pines in perfect weather: 72-68-70-73=283

They played the North Course one day out of four at the Buick, but Tiger didn't shoot 14 under that day, so there's some other reason for the difference in scores.

Another course where they sometimes have both a regular tour event and a major the same year is Pebble Beach.  The Pebble Beach pro-am is played on 3 different courses, but the final round is played on the same course they use for the US Open.

In 2000, the final round scoring average for the 60 pros who made the cut at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am was 71.63. Four months later, the final round scoring average at the same course for the 63 pros who made the cut in the US Open was 73.2. And that includes what most consider the single best major performance in history, when Tiger won by 15 shots with a final-round 67.

In 2010, the final round scoring average for the 69 pros who made the cut at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am was 73.2. Four months later, the final round scoring average at the same course for the 83  pros who made the cut in the US Open was 74.9.

The Pro-Am field is about average in strength for a regular PGA event, with a lot of the top guys skipping it.  The guys who make the cut in the US Open are the best players in the world.  And yet, the average score of the world's best, on the same course, in the same year, was nearly two shots higher than the average-strength field.

If you can't tell the quality of players by comparing their scores on the same course in the same year, how can you compare scores in events played 50 years apart, on courses that are either different, or have been so heavily modified that they might as well be different?

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1 minute ago, iacas said:

@Fidelio it’s pointless to compare one player against another in this topic. Tom and Phil were in the fields… as were 150 others.

Sure. I agree.  It is completely  useless.

But I noticed the guy who thought Dudley Hart was better than Lee Trevino wasn't  getting sufficient push back until the last few posts. I do see the post pointing out how useless stroke averages comparisons are now..

 

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3 minutes ago, Fidelio said:

Sure. I agree.  It is completely  useless.

But I noticed the guy who thought Dudley Hart was better than Lee Trevino wasn't  getting sufficient push back until the last few posts. I do see the post pointing out how useless stroke averages comparisons are now..

I replied four posts later to say scoring averages were pretty useless.

Things like the spread or standard deviation can occasionally illuminate but overall scoring averages are not great. Too many differences.

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10 minutes ago, Fidelio said:

I do think Watson/Phil is  a fun highly debatable topic like Jack vs Tiger. 

I guess I'm alone on this one.  I don't think Phil is anywhere near Watson on the all-time list.  Watson beat Jack every time they contended for a major, while Jack was still in his winning years.  Watson was the best player in the world for 8 years, and arguably more dominant than Jack, albeit for a shorter time.  Phil was never dominant, not even for one year.

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9 minutes ago, brocks said:

I guess I'm alone on this one.  I don't think Phil is anywhere near Watson on the all-time list.  Watson beat Jack every time they contended for a major, while Jack was still in his winning years.  Watson was the best player in the world for 8 years, and arguably more dominant than Jack, albeit for a shorter time.  Phil was never dominant, not even for one year.

To be clear, I do put Phil ahead of Watson. I just think it is debatable. I think Watson was a better player in his prime. He beat Jack head to head 4 times where they were first and second.

I view a person's career as one long round of golf.  I don't count dominance at all. But a lot of people clearly do think it is important so it makes for an interesting topic.

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26 minutes ago, The Recreational Golfer said:

I heard Ken Venturi say, or read it, that he thought it was easier to win in the late 50s and early 60s because there were only about 8-10 players you had to beat every week.

Yeah. But @fishgolf, @GrandStranded, @Jack Watson, and a small group of others can't process that. They can't fathom that in the 60s and 70s there was barely any international competition, let alone the fact that golf in the U.S. was nowhere near as popular.

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Really,  @iacas

you may as well come out and say that Hogan wouldn’t have a chance against David Toms.  After all Hogan’s best year was 53 and Toms beat better guys than Hogan in college.  Clearly in your view Hogan’s swing was inferior to Toms after all it was homemade at the caddy yard.

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