Friday, February 26, 2010

Is Tiger Woods Better Than Jack Nicklaus?

Point: Yes, Jack Nicklaus has more major championships than Tiger Woods simply because he played longer.

Counterpoint: I say no.  Nicklaus played against Hall Of Fame golfers like Gary Player, Tom Watson, and Arnold Palmer.  Who can top that today?

P: I hear that all the time.  Had Woods not so thoroughly dominated, guys like Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, and Ernie Els would have equaled the guys you named.

CP: You aren't seriously arguing that you would take your foursome over mine?

P: All day.  Also, tournaments today have much deeper fields to beat.

CP: I'm not sure the 50th best golfer of either generation makes a difference.

P: Of course they do.

CP: I agree that the worst players of Woods' era are better than the worst players of Nicklaus' era.  However, the ones that matter are at the top and there is no comparison.  Just look at the number of majors won by my foursome compared to yours.  It isn't close.

P: Well, the courses are tougher today.

CP: All golfers play on the same course.

P: Yes, but it is much harder to maintain consistency on more difficult courses.

CP: The equipment they use today is far superior to when Nicklaus played.

P: The high-tech equipment used today makes it tougher for the best player to separate himself.

CP: I don't buy that.  If guys like Johnny Miller or Seve Ballesteros had today's equipment they would have been even more formidable.

P: They all use pretty much the same equipment so you should find another argument.

CP: Really?  Tiger has his own club designer, his own branding, and his entire wardrobe is picked out before the year starts.  He is a top athlete but there has never been a more pampered great in any sport.

P: He does that because he can.  It doesn't give him any advantage.

CP: Oh yeah, don't forget the easier travel on Wood's jet, a lighter schedule, and he  has so much dough that he can pick and choose events much more than the the guys from Nicklaus' era.

P: Has Nicklaus won four consecutive major championships?


P: How about three majors in the same year?  Has Nicklaus accomplished that?

CP: Um, that would be another no.

P: You know...Woods won the U.S. Open by 15 strokes while Nicklaus's largest margin of victory in the U.S. Open was four shots.

CP: Well, now we're back to the quality of Nicklaus' opponents.  Nicklaus finished second in majors a record 19 times.  His competition was top notch.

P: Woods made 142 consecutive cuts vs. 105 for Nicklaus.

CP: I get it.

P: Woods won at least five tournaments in five consecutive seasons.

CP: Nicklaus did that for three years in a row.  Once again, this all comes down to the level of competition.  Nicklaus' competition would not be hyperventilating when Woods teed off.

P: Maybe not.

CP: Four times Lee Trevino beat Nicklaus at major championships.  Nicklaus had three major championships later in his career that were taken away by Tom Watson.  Who is Woods' rival?  Phil Mickelson?

P: Hey, Mickelson is a great player.  Are you saying that if Trevino and Watson weren't great, Nicklaus would have won 25 majors?

CP: We don't know.  A great player like that may be looming.

P: You don't dispute that Woods is a better chipper, do you?

CP: He probably is, but Nicklaus was an amazing putter and probably the best pressure putter ever.  Compared to the field, Nicklaus also hit the ball longer than Woods.

P: Did I mention that Woods has won eight tournaments in a season a ridiculous three times?

CP: No, but I don't dispute that he is a phenomenal golfer.  That is unquestioned.

P: Who do you think would win head to head?

CP: It would be close, but I'm sticking with Nicklaus.

P: I'll take Woods.  He is four major victories away from tying Nicklaus and five away from breaking a great sports record.  There is no doubt that he will do it.

CP: Not so fast, winning majors is a lot tougher when you are 35 vs 25.  Can you name the golfers who have won five majors past the age of 33?

P: I'm not sure.  I'll assume there is a long list.

CP:  Sorry, but wrong.  Jack Nicklaus is the only one and he won seven majors after he turned 33.  Also, Woods has had some injuries and personal problems to deal with.  That won't help.

P: It obviously can be done and Woods has plenty of time.

CP: Five major championships is a huge feat, considering that only eight men have been able to do that in the last 50 years.  I wouldn't assume that it will happen.

P: Too bad we can't actually settle this.

CP: Indeed, it was exhausting, but fun.

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