Outside of the Lebron James vs. Michael Jordan long-standing debate, there is no fiercer sports dispute than whether Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer in the game’s history. The answer is almost as elusive as a hole in one.
With a multitude of statistics to consider, a logical starting point might be the staggering number of tournament wins that they both have. Woods, currently tied for first with Sam Snead, has 82 career wins, while Nicklaus has 73 career wins. So why is Snead not also in the mix for the best of all time when he has the same number of total wins as Woods? His lack of major tournament wins hinders him. A victory in a major tournament, played only four times a year at the toughest courses in the world, is a much more coveted win than just a simple tour win. Snead’s seven major wins do not compare to Wood’s 15 and Nicklaus’s 18.
While Nicklaus has three more major victories than Woods, does that make Nicklaus the best of all time? One must look at more than stats.
To earn the title of the greatest of all-time in golf history, career achievements are noteworthy as well. Woods’s attainments include starting before turning professional, winning the United States Amateur Tournament three times, and earning the NCAA Championship while having the lowest scoring average. Woods is one of only five golfers to have won all four majors and the only one to do it in a row. Furthermore, Wood’s currently holds the all-time record of 142 cuts, once again outdoing Nicklaus’s 105.
Nicklaus has made 39 consecutive cuts in major championships, holds the record for most Top-10 finishes in majors with 73, and possesses the most runner up finishes in majors with 19. However, Nicklaus’s consistency does not match Woods’s dominance.
Though Nicklaus has won more majors, Woods’s career is more spectacular because, in his prime, Woods was nearly mentally and physically unstoppable. Arnold Palmer, another golfing legend, said, “we can argue about major championships and whether Woods will ever surpass Jack’s 18 majors, but what can’t be argued is this: Tiger Woods is the most dominant, most skilled player we’ve ever seen.” Many other professional golfers on tour have said in interviews that if Woods was in the tournament, they knew they were playing for second. The fear that Woods instilled in his opponents further implants him as the greatest golfer ever.