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Are we being realistic about golfers in different eras?

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I was talking to another guy and we were discussing the common golfing topic of who the best golfers of all time are etc.  An interesting point was made in that conversation.  Some of us are always trying to say that when the older legends played the field was so strong and the golfers today could never compete with them.

This gentleman said that yes they were great players, in their time. Yes they were great putters, during their time.  They were great green readers, during their time but let's not be silly and elevate them above the exceptional athletes we have today.

He gave an analogy of football players then vs today.  Those players were great, back THEN but put them on a field with these guys now and they don't even finish the season.  That is IF they can even make the team.  He was saying the same with the great golfers of Jack's time and before. These guys were the best of the best THEN but not the best of the best NOW.

The baseball pitchers that were so scary then, their pitches are softballs to these guys now. They'll get home run records broke on them with the current group of big hitters currently crowding the strike zone.

Remember the basketball greats in 1960s? Jerry Lucas, Bob Pettit, Walt Bellamy hell even Wilt Chamberlain! Those guys ain't getting it done like that in the current NBA. Chamberlain might still be good but he isn't making 100 in no game period!

As far as golf, yea I know people will say, "It's about intelligence to play the game and accuracy" and all that but I think as time goes on, we will breed even smarter and even more accurate golfers.  Oh yea, they will be more fit and hit the ball further on top of all that.

We get better at EVERYTHING as time goes on.  Doctors today are BETTER.  Hell, our Nurses today are better than the doctors were just a short time back.  Our second and third tier golfers today who don't even have a PGA win could probably compete on some of those sundays.

Ok, I'm done so let the insults fly!!!!!

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You are right that athletes now are better then athletes back then, in every sport probably. But you can also put it this way: if athtles back then had the training facilities, the knowlegde, the professional guidance in both training, medical threatment and mental coaching, basically the whole professionalism of the sport today, then they would also be a better sportsman now compared to the sportsman they were back then. And vise versa ofcourse. So you can never fairly compare their qualities or performance, but you can always compare the (positive) impact they had on the sport, how they behaved and basically what they meant for the sport. Without the good players back then, the sport might not be as big as it is today, and the players now wouldn't benefit from it. Hope I was able to make my point clear in my crappy English :)
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No insults coming from me. I think you have a very good point. Think about it from a numbers perspective. There is a lot more people on Earth than there was back then. And, they are playing for a lot more money. Now I understand that not all of the people on the planet are vying for a spot on the PGA tour. But I'll bet the number has grown exponentially for the same 125 spots.

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You are right that athletes now are better then athletes back then, in every sport probably. But you can also put it this way: if athtles back then had the training facilities, the knowlegde, the professional guidance in both training, medical threatment and mental coaching, basically the whole professionalism of the sport today, then they would also be a better sportsman now compared to the sportsman they were back then. And vise versa ofcourse.

So you can never fairly compare their qualities or performance, but you can always compare the (positive) impact they had on the sport, how they behaved and basically what they meant for the sport. Without the good players back then, the sport might not be as big as it is today, and the players now wouldn't benefit from it. Hope I was able to make my point clear in my crappy English :)

I agree

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No insults coming from me. I think you have a very good point. Think about it from a numbers perspective. There is a lot more people on Earth than there was back then. And, they are playing for a lot more money. Now I understand that not all of the people on the planet are vying for a spot on the PGA tour. But I'll bet the number has grown exponentially for the same 125 spots.

Yea, it is basically like a 1A High School Basketball team playing against a 6A team.  The bigger school has more talent to choose from and sometimes the starting 5 on a 1A team wouldn't even make the roster on that 6A team.  Plus as you said there is much more incentive to attract top athletes now.  Back then man, people had to work to take care of families.  You could not make a living playing golf like you can now.

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I was talking to another guy and we were discussing the common golfing topic of who the best golfers of all time are etc.  An interesting point was made in that conversation.  Some of us are always trying to say that when the older legends played the field was so strong and the golfers today could never compete with them.

This gentleman said that yes they were great players, in their time. Yes they were great putters, during their time.  They were great green readers, during their time but let's not be silly and elevate them above the exceptional athletes we have today.

He gave an analogy of football players then vs today.  Those players were great, back THEN but put them on a field with these guys now and they don't even finish the season.  That is IF they can even make the team.  He was saying the same with the great golfers of Jack's time and before. These guys were the best of the best THEN but not the best of the best NOW.

The baseball pitchers that were so scary then, their pitches are softballs to these guys now. They'll get home run records broke on them with the current group of big hitters currently crowding the strike zone.

Remember the basketball greats in 1960s? Jerry Lucas, Bob Pettit, Walt Bellamy hell even Wilt Chamberlain! Those guys ain't getting it done like that in the current NBA. Chamberlain might still be good but he isn't making 100 in no game period!

As far as golf, yea I know people will say, "It's about intelligence to play the game and accuracy" and all that but I think as time goes on, we will breed even smarter and even more accurate golfers.  Oh yea, they will be more fit and hit the ball further on top of all that.

We get better at EVERYTHING as time goes on.  Doctors today are BETTER.  Hell, our Nurses today are better than the doctors were just a short time back.  Our second and third tier golfers today who don't even have a PGA win could probably compete on some of those sundays.

Ok, I'm done so let the insults fly!!!!!

It's very difficult to compare eras. How the game is played, rule changes or how rules are enforced can make a big difference.

The basketball greats of the '60's did not get away with carrying the ball and travelling like the current players do. It's much easier to play

a more "athletic" game now than it was back then.

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The difficulty with these comparisons is we are extrapolating to analyze abilities.  We can compare golfers currently playing and interpolate data to predict how they will play.  But extrapolation is much less accurate for analysis.

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I was talking to another guy and we were discussing the common golfing topic of who the best golfers of all time are etc.  An interesting point was made in that conversation.  Some of us are always trying to say that when the older legends played the field was so strong and the golfers today could never compete with them.

This gentleman said that yes they were great players, in their time. Yes they were great putters, during their time.  They were great green readers, during their time but let's not be silly and elevate them above the exceptional athletes we have today.

The issue is that being an athlete is an advantage in golf. Tiger showed that when he first came out, and besides maybe Vijay was one of the few who actually worked out regularly. Now working out is all part of the sport of golf. Still, there are a lot of players who you wouldn't call athletes that can win on the PGA Tour. That can not be said for other sports. Look at it this way, you have guys drafted HIGH in the NFL who are just physical freak, and could start. There are guys who get bopped down to the 6-7th round because they are a few inches too short, or a half step too slow. Its the opposite in Golf. A physically gifted guy can't just pick up a club and compete on the PGA Tour. Still it is an advantage. Heck Rory has gained about 15-30 yards on his driving. He's hitting 2-3 clubs less into greens than he was when he first came out.

He gave an analogy of football players then vs today.  Those players were great, back THEN but put them on a field with these guys now and they don't even finish the season.  That is IF they can even make the team.  He was saying the same with the great golfers of Jack's time and before. These guys were the best of the best THEN but not the best of the best NOW.

The baseball pitchers that were so scary then, their pitches are softballs to these guys now. They'll get home run records broke on them with the current group of big hitters currently crowding the strike zone.

I disagree with that for some of the players. This argument came up this Monday in my golf league after the round. They were talking about how Jim Brown wouldn't survive in the NFL today. Jim Brown is 6'2" tall and weight 230 lbs.

Those people who don't think Brown wouldn't fair well, he qualified for the 1956 Olympics as a decathlete.

Average Running Back in the NFL today ranges from 200 lbs to 240 lbs. Jim Brown is pretty much prototypical NFL Running Back Size. He was known for his size and mobility. I think, behind a good NFL line, he would have been a top 10 running back. Would his career be shorter, I don't think so. I mean Jim played from when he was 21 till he was 29. That is pretty typical for a running back. Usually when a Running Back hits 30, things go down hill fast.

As far as golf, yea I know people will say, "It's about intelligence to play the game and accuracy" and all that but I think as time goes on, we will breed even smarter and even more accurate golfers.  Oh yea, they will be more fit and hit the ball further on top of all that.

We get better at EVERYTHING as time goes on.  Doctors today are BETTER.  Hell, our Nurses today are better than the doctors were just a short time back.  Our second and third tier golfers today who don't even have a PGA win could probably compete on some of those sundays.

Ok, I'm done so let the insults fly!!!!!

Are today's golfers better. I think so. That is my personal opinion. Its hard to quantify because of the quantity of quality players now. I know the point has been made that many of the tournaments in previous generations had club pro's play. Now you might get one of those as a Amateur in the US Open. Lets not forget golf now have something like the minor leagues, like the Web.com Tour. Players trying to make the PGA Tour. Just to show you how DEEP the level of play is on the PGA Tour. They don't have to go out and find local guys to fill spots in tournaments.

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It's very difficult to compare eras. How the game is played, rule changes or how rules are enforced can make a big difference. The basketball greats of the '60's did not get away with carrying the ball and travelling like the current players do. It's much easier to play a more "athletic" game now than it was back then.

it is easier to play a more athletic game when you are actually athletic to begin with... basketball really isn't the place you want to go with this argument... the vast majority of players in the 60's couldn't even sniff the floor for a major college team today, let alone an nba team, and it has zero to do with "rule changes"... also, i am aware of no major rules changes in golf that have significantly changed the way the game is played... what has changed is that there is a MUCH larger talent pool to draw upon... and that talent pool is groomed since birth to be a professional golfer... there are several golfers from the 60's who would keep their cards (and a few who would be "stars") in today's game... no doubt there... but today's fields are considerably more competitive than they were back then... oh,, and jim brown could play in the nfl today... :-D not so sure about some of those 225 pound linemen who were playing then though... :-P

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Different eras of any sport are just that . Different eras. IMHO, you will never be able to get the great players from past eras to play against the great players of the current era, on the same playing field, under "ALL" the same conditions. To say "so in so" is better than "so in so"  with age differences of 20, 30, or 40 years is just speculation. It's an entertaining topic of discussion, but still speculation because nothing can be absolutely 100% proven.

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it is easier to play a more athletic game when you are actually athletic to begin with... basketball really isn't the place you want to go with this argument... the vast majority of players in the 60's couldn't even sniff the floor for a major college team today, let alone an nba team, and it has zero to do with "rule changes"...

also, i am aware of no major rules changes in golf that have significantly changed the way the game is played...

what has changed is that there is a MUCH larger talent pool to draw upon... and that talent pool is groomed since birth to be a professional golfer...

there are several golfers from the 60's who would keep their cards (and a few who would be "stars") in today's game... no doubt there... but today's fields are considerably more competitive than they were back then...

oh,, and jim brown could play in the nfl today... not so sure about some of those 225 pound linemen who were playing then though...

I didn't "go there" I was replying o the OP. Really don't care about the topic either was just commenting on a reason why today's bball players are sooooo superior. :-P

As I stated in my post, rule changes or how rules are enforced . Players today get away with travelling and wouldn't know a palming violation if it bit them in the face. It's a lot easier to move with

the ball when you can carry it instead of dribble it legally. It's a big part of today's Athletiscm in basketball.

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Sure is a tuff question but great is great. Gale Sayers was 4.5 0 in pads on grass and full length cleats,Brown was the same, the Baltimore colts o line avg 295 pounds, whitey ford threw 90 plus for 9 innings, the bears 63 team d line was bigger then recent years, Nicklaus still holds the record for the PGA championship long drive, and jabars play dominated as a young man and still was highly competitive in his last few years. Phil Jackson and Pat Riley have recently commented that the nba has become watered down. They think there are more very good players then in the past but the quantity of great players has not increased while the number of teams has. Less great to go around. I think great in the past could learn to be great today and they would. Tiger would be great in 1960s and 70s, and jack would be great today. Average is better but greatness is always rare, and Dick Butkus will always be the nastiest meanest football player. Of course he would be suspended multiple games each season:).
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I recently watched Tom Watson hitting sand shots and pitch shots on Playing Lessons from the Pros. His results were good, but not great. I have seen Bobby Jones hit the same types of shots and his results were great, not just good.

Would Jim Brown be able to run the ball today? How about Chamberlain. Anyone think he wouldn't be able to dunk on people today? Great is great is spot on.

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I disagree. The golf pro's from any era, if you gave them today's equipment, would more than be a match on today's tour.

Can you imagine just how far Snead would hit it today? Or Jones, or Hagen?

Perhaps physically, todays pro are better, but smarter? Who today is smarter than say, Hogan? or Nicklaus? Jones?

I think Trevino's wife said it best, when he was wondering if he should play Senior Golf. She said, "Why not, those clubs don't know how old you are?", or words to that effect. He did just fine.

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I disagree. The golf pro's from any era, if you gave them today's equipment, would more than be a match on today's tour.

And I disagree with you. Today's players are better.

I think Trevino's wife said it best, when he was wondering if he should play Senior Golf. She said, "Why not, those clubs don't know how old you are?", or words to that effect. He did just fine.

… playing against other old guys.

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The reason I love these postings is that everyone has an opinion.  The old guys, like me, have seen the legends dominate in their day. Young guys, like I used to be, feel that their generation has the best athletes. I was born in 1950 and here are my top 3 athletes in the major sports in two categories, favorite players and most dominant players.

Baseball, most dominant - Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, and Willie Mays (I would have included Barry Bonds except for the steroids)

Baseball, favorite - Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski, and Willie Stargell (obviously a Pirates fan)

Football, most dominant - Dick Butkus, Joe Greene, Joe Montana

Football, favorite - Bobby Layne, Joe Namath, Lynn Swann

Basketball, most dominant - Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, LeBron James

Basketball, favorite - Connie Hawkins, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell

Hockey, most dominant - Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr

Hockey, favorite - Mario Lemieux, Bernie Parent, Sidney Crosby

Golf, most dominant - Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Bobby Jones

Golf favorite - Arnold Palmer, Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus

As you can see, the only current athlete that I have included in the most dominant category is LeBron. Reason? I just don't think today's athletes dominate like they did in prior generations. Today's athletes make astronomical amounts of money, and to be truthful, don't have to be at the top of their profession, so the incentive to get to the top of the mountain is not as great as older days.

As for my favorite athletes, that is influenced by my love of Pittsburgh sports teams. My all-time favorite athletes are Arnie Palmer, Bobby Layne and Connie Hawkins, because they were near and dear to my heart during my formative years growing up in Western Pennsylvania.

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The problem with comparing eras is that today everybody has a short memory.Its all about what have you done for me lately.You got people who watch players play today say oh these guys are so much better than those back in the day.Its not just sports,its movies,music etc.Football players back in day played with broken bones and in pain.Today players sit because of turf toe.Are you kidding?These golfers today withdraw because of some discomfort while Hogan limped around to win US open on crippled legs.Venturi almost died of heat exhaustion but still played.I couldn't stand Michael Jordan but even I admit hes the best basketball player ive seen but yet the young generation act like LeBron is the greatest.

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Give the past champions the same equipment as today, same training and nutritional information as today, they still win and win Majors. Palmer, Player Nicklaus , Watson, Hogan, Snead, where to good not to. Put tiger in the 60's-70's, same equipment, same training, he will win multiple majors, not 14. For all you doubters, Watson at 59 misses a pu t to win the open competing with the current field.

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