The great debate: Tiger vs. The Golden Bear

For the 76th time in his PGA Tour career, the headline read “Victory for Tiger Woods”. With some victories being more impressive than others, his win on March 10 may have dignified him as the greatest to ever play.
Eldrick (Tiger) Woods emerged onto the Professional Golf Association (PGA) tour in 1996, right at a time where golf was in dire need of a star. Woods quickly became the star the PGA Tour was looking for and in his 17th year on tour he is still demonstrating his dominance.
At the World Golf Championship (WGC) presented by Cadillac, which took place from March 7-10, Woods was on another level compared to his competitors. Woods won the tournament by two shots shooting 19 under par, with an amazing 27 birdies.
What made this victory even more impressive was that it came at a WGC event. The WGC tournaments are considered some of the most prestigious events in the world because they are an invite-only tournament consisting of the top 50 players in the world.
The WGC events came into play during the 1999 golf season, and since then there has been a total of 46 events played. Within these 46 events, Woods has won a staggering 17 of them, which translates to roughly a 40% winning percentage. In an event that only takes the top players in the world, beating the cream of the crop basically every other tournament is ridiculous.
Whenever Woods puts on a performance like he did at the Cadillac Championship, the debate on the greatest golfer to ever play comes into question. There have been some great golfers in history, but the debate always comes down to two players: Jack Nicklaus vs. Tiger Woods.
When comparing athletes, it is never really fair to compare accomplishments until their careers are both over, but in a game like golf, Woods’ career may not be done for another 20 years. With that being said, let the debate begin.
To start, the total number of major championships won is essential to look at. In this case, Nicklaus is the clear winner with 18 majors, compared to Tiger’s 14. However, The Golden Bear’s last four major championships came in between the ages of 38 and 46. Tiger turns 38 at the end of this year so he will have four chances to set a better pace than Nicklaus, and as a result, advantage Woods.
With respect to majors, in the span of 1962-1986 (when Nicklaus won his majors), there were only 17 different one-time major winners in 96 tournaments. This shows how there were only a few golfers Nicklaus really needed to worry about. In Tiger’s current span from 1997 to the present, there have already been 26 one-time major winners in just 60 tournaments.
This may not seem like a relevant statistic to an average golf fan, but it shows how widespread the game has become and how much harder the competition is today. With Tiger winning 14 majors in a time where the competition is so fierce and technology is so much greater it really puts things into perspective.
Also, in that same time frame, Tiger’s 76 career PGA Tour victories rank him second all-time, just six victories away from tying the record. Most would think that Tiger is chasing Nicklaus for the record for most career victories, however Nicklaus ranks third with 73 victories, next to Woods and Sam Snead.
As an avid golf fan, I have much respect to Nicklaus for commercializing golf and without him Woods may not have even started golfing. But for now, my answer as the best to ever play has to be Tiger, Tiger Woods, y’all.

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