Tiger vs. Jack, head to head in majors

By Brandel ChambleeJuly 16, 2014, 11:00 am

The late Frank Chirkinian hated it when anyone would try to compare Jack Nicklaus to Ben Hogan. “All comparisons,” he would bellow, referring to those that involved athletes of different generations, “are onerous."

The longtime CBS producer, hailed as the “father of televised golf,” was right, of course. But that has never stopped golf fans from debating who is the greatest of all time. And as Tiger Woods returns to major championship competition with this week’s British Open, resuming his pursuit of Nicklaus’ 18 majors, the debate is officially rekindled.

There are any number of ways to compare Woods and Nicklaus. In this case I have limited the discussion to majors and will focus on the question, “If Jack and Tiger were both in their primes, who wins?”

Neither needed a breaking-in period when it came to majors. Tiger won his first major as a pro, the 1997 Masters, at age 21, destroying the rest of the field by a record 12 shots. Jack won his second major as a pro, the 1962 U.S. Open, at age 22, beating Arnold Palmer in a playoff. So we’ll start the comparison in those years, and compare each man’s first major with the other’s first major, second to second, and so forth.

Photos: Tiger Woods through the years

Photos: Jack Nicklaus through the years

With one exception, that comparison neatly pits Masters against Masters, U.S. Open against U.S. Open, etc., for the first 17 years of each man’s career as a pro – taking Nicklaus to the end of 1978 and Woods to the end of 2013. The exception is 1971, when the PGA Championship was played in February in Florida and was that year’s first major, not its fourth. Because I’m comparing majors by the specific number they were in each man’s career, I have compared the 1971 PGA, Nicklaus’ 37th major, with the 2006 Masters, Woods’ 37th major.

After the 1971-2006 comparisons, the tournaments fall back in line until Woods’ 2008 season, when after winning the U.S. Open, he missed the British Open and PGA while recovering from injury. Obviously Woods should not be punished in this comparison for missing tournaments, so they are not counted in this quest to determine who was more dominant in his era. 

At their best, both were nearly untouchable. Tiger won eight of his first 22 majors; Jack won seven of his first 22. Tiger won four majors in a row from the 2000 U.S. Open through the 2001 Masters, a “Tiger Slam” instead of a Grand Slam only because all four wins did not come in the same calendar year. Nicklaus, though the most consecutive majors he ever won was two, came within a Lee Trevino chip-in of holding all four major titles at the same time in 1972. Nicklaus had won the 1971 PGA, played in February as a concession to the South Florida heat, then added the 1972 Masters and U.S. Open titles. He had the claret jug in his sights at Muirfield, but he finished second by one shot to Trevino, who chipped in on the 71st hole.

In 1963, Jack became, at 23, the youngest to win the Masters. When he won a green jacket again in 1965 by nine shots over Palmer and Gary Player (the only time the Big Three would ever finish in the top three together in a major), he shaved three strokes off the scoring record of 274 set in 1953 by Hogan. Jack broke another Hogan scoring record at the 1967 U.S. Open in winning by four shots over Palmer. In the 70 majors that Jack played from the ’62 Masters to the ’79 U.S. Open, he was out of the top 10 just 16 times while winning 15. 

When Tiger won the 1997 Masters his score of 270 broke by one shot the record that Jack had set in his 1965 rout. Tiger's 15-shot win in the 2000 U.S. Open set a record for widest margin of victory, but his score of 272 only tied the record (since bettered by Rory Mcilroy) that Jack set in the 1980 U.S. Open. When Tiger was 24 he completed the career Grand Slam at the 2000 Open Championship, two years ahead of the age that Jack was when he completed the feat in 1966, also at the Open Championship. Of the 64 majors Tiger has played as a professional, he¹s finished outside of the top 10 some 26 times while winning 14.

Because of injury Tiger has missed six majors spanning from the 1997 Masters to the 2014 U.S. Open, which means Tiger and Jack would've gone “head to head” 64 times in the game's four biggest championships. Jack finished higher 38 times to Tiger's 22, with the two greats tying four times. At his best Tiger might have the slightest edge over Jack in the majors during this time period, but the majority of the time even these two weren't at their best and in that case Jack was easily the winner.

It must be noted that this comparison involves only majors; if you expand it to include regular Tour events Tiger wins easily. He has a career winning percentage of 25 percent; Jack's winning percentage through the end of 1979 was 18 percent. Clearly when it comes to the week-to-week grind of the Tour, Tiger has no equal. I dare say that his winning percentage is the most untouchable of all of his accomplishments. 

It’s tricky comparing athletes from different generations. Even in a sports such as sprinting, where numbers on a stopwatch tell what appears to be a cut-and-dried story, there’s more than meets the eye.

For instance, Usain Bolt is faster than Carl Lewis was and Carl Lewis was faster than Jesse Owens. But the circumstances of a time and generation do not provide a level playing field. Jesse Owens faced more hurdles than the 3 ½-foot-tall barriers on a track. He also had to deal with bigotry, segregation and poverty. When he won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin he single-handedly crushed Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy. The fact that over his career he didn't win as many medals as Carl Lewis does nothing to convince me that Carl was better. 

Usain Bolt made me look harder at the careers of Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens. While one can point to improvements in technique for the evolution of speed, one can also point to lighter, improved shoes, more aerodynamic clothes and better track conditions, to say nothing of the improvements in nutrition and the effect that has had on the size of athletes. Jesse Owens was 5-10, Carl Lewis is 6-2 and Usain Bolt is 6-5.

But back to golf. The answer to the question, “Who is the greatest of all time?” is “It depends.” In the majors, Jack wins. In the majors with a cutoff of the 2008 U.S. Open, after which Woods began missing tournaments because of injury, It’s dead even. In a particular major where they are both playing their best, Tiger wins in a playoff. At a Farmers Insurance Open or Andy Williams Classic as it was called decades ago or any other regular Tour event, Tiger would've beaten Jack like Jack beat Arnold. 

The Golden Bear would have an encore in the ’80s, winning three more majors to bring his total to 18, a number as well known to golf enthusiasts as the batting average of .406 is to baseball lovers. Tiger is still a man at work. He may yet silence all critics (myself included) who rank him a slim tissue thickness behind Jack with the work he does over the next decade. If he does, it would be to the sport’s utter delight.

Here's a chart of their majors as professionals, in order and head-to-head:

No. Jack's majors Result Tiger's majors Result Better Tally
1 1962 Masters T-15 1997 Masters Won Woods 1-0, Woods
2 1962 U.S. Open Won 1997 U.S. Open T-19 Nicklaus 1-1
3 1962 British  T-34 1997 British T-24  Woods   2-1, Woods
4 1962 PGA T-3   1997 PGA T-29  Nicklaus 2-2 
5 1963 Masters Won (2) 1998 Masters  T-8   Nicklaus 3-2, Nicklaus 
6 1963 U.S. Open MC  1998 U.S. Open  T-18   Woods 3-3 
7 1963 British 3rd  1998 British 3rd  Tie  3-3-1 
8 1963 PGA Won (3) 1998 PGA T-10  Nicklaus  4-3-1, Nicklaus 
9 1964 Masters T-2  1999 Masters  T-18  Nicklaus  5-3-1, Nicklaus 
10 1964 U.S. Open T-23  1999 U.S. Open  T-3  Woods  5-4-1, Nicklaus 
11 1964 British 2nd  1999 British T-7  Nicklaus  6-4-1, Nicklaus 
12 1964 PGA T-2  1999 PGA Won (2) Woods  6-5-1, Nicklaus 
13 1965 Masters Won (4) 2000 Masters  5th  Nicklaus  7-5-1, Nicklaus 
14 1965 U.S. Open T-31  2000 U.S. Open  Won (3) Woods  7-6-1, Nicklaus 
15 1965 British T-12  2000 British Won (4) Woods  7-7-1 
16 1965 PGA T-2  2000 PGA Won (5) Woods  8-7-1, Woods
17 1966 Masters Won (5) 2001 Masters Won (6) Tie  8-7-2, Woods 
18 1966 U.S. Open 3rd  2001 U.S. Open  T-12  Nicklaus  8-8-2 
19 1966 British Won (6) 2001 British T-25  Nicklaus  9-8-2, Nicklaus 
20 1966 PGA T-22  2001 PGA T-29  Nicklaus  10-8-2, Nicklaus 
21 1967 Masters MC 2002 Masters  Won (7) Woods  10-9-2, Nicklaus 
22 1967 U.S. Open Won (7) 2002 U.S. Open  Won (8) Tie  10-9-3, Nicklaus 
23 1967 British 2nd  2002 British T-28  Nicklaus   11-9-3, Nicklaus
24 1967 PGA T-3  2002 PGA 2nd  Woods  11-10-3, Nicklaus 
25 1968 Masters T-5  2003 Masters  T-15  Nicklaus  12-10-3, Nicklaus 
26 1968 U.S. Open 2nd  2003 U.S. Open  T-20  Nicklaus  13-10-3, Nicklaus 
27 1968 British T-2  2003 British T-4  Nicklaus  14-10-3, Nicklaus 
28 1968 PGA MC  2003 PGA T-39  Woods  14-11-3, Nicklaus 
29 1969 Masters T-24  2004 Masters  T-22  Woods  14-12-3, Nicklaus 
30 1969 U.S. Open T-25  2004 U.S. Open  T-17  Woods  14-13-3, Nicklaus 
31 1969 British T-6  2004 British T-9  Nicklaus  15-13-3, Nicklaus 
32 1969 PGA T-11  2004 PGA T-24  Nicklaus   16-13-3, Nicklaus
33 1970 Masters 8th  2005 Masters  Won (9) Woods  16-14-3, Nicklaus 
34 1970 U.S. Open T-49  2005 U.S. Open  2nd  Woods  16-15-3, Nicklaus 
35 1970 British Won (8) 2005 British Won (10) Tie  16-15-4, Nicklaus 
36 1970 PGA T-6  2005 PGA T-4  Woods  16-16-4 
37 1971 PGA Won (9) 2006 Masters  T-3  Nicklaus  17-16-4, Nicklaus 
38 1971 Masters T-2  2006 U.S. Open  MC  Nicklaus  18-16-4, Nicklaus 
39 1971 U.S. Open 2nd  2006 British Won (11) Woods  18-17-4, Nicklaus 
40 1971 British T-5  2006 PGA Won (12) Woods  18-18-4 
41 1972 Masters Won (10) 2007 Masters  T-2  Nicklaus  19-18-4, Nicklaus 
42 1972 U.S. Open Won (11) 2007 U.S. Open  T-2  Nicklaus  20-18-4, Nicklaus 
43 1972 British 2nd  2007 British T-12  Nicklaus  21-18-4, Nicklaus 
44 1972 PGA T-13  2007 PGA Won (13) Woods  21-19-4, Nicklaus 
45 1973 Masters T-3  2008 Masters  2nd  Woods  21-20-4, Nicklaus 
46 1973 U.S. Open T-4  2008 U.S. Open  Won (14) Woods  21-21-4 
47 1973 British 4th  2009 Masters  T-6  Nicklaus  22-21-4, Nicklaus 
48 1974 PGA Won (12) 2009 U.S. Open  T-6  Nicklaus  23-21-4, Nicklaus 
49 1974 Masters  T-4  209 British MC  Nicklaus  24-21-4, Nicklaus 
50 1974 U.S. Open  T-10  2009 PGA 2nd  Woods  24-22-4, Nicklaus 
51 1974 British 3rd  2010 Masters  T-4  Nicklaus 25-22-4, Nicklaus 
52 1974 PGA 2nd  2010 U.S. Open  T-4  Nicklaus  26-22-4, Nicklaus 
53 1975 Masters  Won (13) 2010 British T-23  Nicklaus  27-22-4, Nicklaus 
54 1975 U.S. Open  T-7  2010 PGA T-28  Nicklaus  28-22-4, Nicklaus 
55 1975 British T-3  2011 Masters  T-4  Nicklaus 29-22-4, Nicklaus 
56 1975 PGA Won (14) 2011 PGA MC  Nicklaus  30-22-4, Nicklaus
57 1976 Masters  T-3 2012 Masters  T-40  Nicklaus 31-22-4, Nicklaus
58 1976 U.S. Open  T-11  2012 U.S. Open  T-21  Nicklaus 32-22-4, Nicklaus
59 1976 British T-2 2012 British T-3  Nicklaus  33-22-4, Nicklaus
60 1976 PGA T-4  2012 PGA T-11  Nicklaus  34-22-4, Nicklaus
61 1977 Masters  2nd  2013 Masters  T-4  Nicklaus  35-22-4, Nicklaus
62 1977 U.S. Open  T-10  2013 U.S. Open  T-32  Nicklaus  36-22-4, Nicklaus
63 1977 British 2nd  2013 British T-6  Nicklaus  37-22-4, Nicklaus
64 1977 PGA 3rd  2013 PGA T-40  Nicklaus  38-22-4, Nicklaus
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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.