A Question Of Eras

By Richard Kent
Updated: April 18, 2009

CONNECTICUT — Is Tiger Woods the greatest golfer of all-time. Probably. Only Jack Nicklaus is even close but there is a point about Tiger and the era in which he plays that needs to be made and rarely is made.

The quality of golfers whom Tiger is competing with pales in comparison to the golfers which Nicklaus competed with. When Tiger takes to the course he has most of the players — especially Phil Mickelson — beaten mentally before the first shot is hit.

Not so with Nicklaus and he was every bit as tough mentally as Tiger. The difference is that Nicklaus competed with much better and tougher golfers than Tiger and that isn’t even close.

Consider who Nicklaus played against. Let’s start with Arnold Palmer who won seven majors and 92 Tournaments. Sure he made some bonehead shots, but few were tougher mentally,especially on the greens in his prime.

Speaking of green, he won four Masters which is nothing to sneeze at.

Tom Watsonwas one of the most clutch golfers ever, especially at the British Open. He has eight majors and five British Opens to his credit. He beat Nicklaus more than once head to head at the British. He would have beaten Tiger as well on occasion.

Lee Trevinowas hungry. He won six majors and sunk as many clutch putts as anyone. He would never have backed down to Tiger, especially since at the start of his career he was dirt poor and had to fight for every dime.

There are many other golfers in the 1960′s who were superior to most of Tiger’s competitors today. Take Billy Casper who beat Palmer at the Open head to head in San Francisco. Consider Art Wall, Jr., Dow Finsterwald and a host of others.

Sure Tiger has Mickelson to contend with, but if anyone has ever been counted on to make a key mistake in the clutch it is Phil. Sergio Garcia has never lived up to his potential and Vijay Singh was simply too old when he started to win.

There are few youngsters coming up now to compete with Tiger who is in his prime. Will Tiger eventually beat the Nicklaus record in majors? Sure. He will shatter it.

The question is how would Tiger have performed if he had to compete with Palmer, etc. Certainly well, but he would not have won at a rate of 38% as he has up to this point in his career.