Whos Better Tiger or Jack

By Frank ThomasOctober 8, 2009, 12:42 am


Thanks for sharing your insights and your book, Just Hit It, with those of us who appreciate a philosophical insight into the game and unbiased information about equipment. It is a wonderful service you provide to golfers.

My question relates to how equipment and technology have changed professional golf over the years, giving today’s player a huge performance advantage over those players from 30 and 40 years ago. Because of the differences in equipment, can we really compare the performance of Jack Nicklaus with that of Tiger Woods?

I would really appreciate your insight.

– Clive 


Thank you very much for you kind words and I am pleased you have enjoyed my book.

I too have often wondered how valid a comparison it is between two great golfers separated by so many years, different course conditions, and significant differences in equipment.

We do have some interesting statistics and information which allows us to compare their performance and provides a relatively valid comparison as to how Jack would perform if he was in his prime – as he was in the late 1960s – playing against the present fields today.

We need to recognize that there are more quality golfers today then there were in the 60s and 70s, which in itself makes it more difficult to excel on any sort of continuous basis. However, Tiger seems to have done this and has dominated the PGA Tour as Jack did in the mid-60s and 70s.

Let’s review Jack’s stats in 1968 compared to Tiger’s today:

1968 2009
Jack Nicklaus
Tiger Woods
Statistic Field Rank Statistic Field Rank
Driving Distance 276 yards 2 Driving Distance 298.4 yards 26
GIR 75.6% 1 GIR 64.5% 11
Accuracy 67.1% 75 Accuracy 64.66% 75

Putts/Round 30.8

Best in Field 29.5


Putts/Round 28.38

Best in Field 27.88


Putts/GIR 1.81

Best in Field 1.78


Putts/GIR 1.74

Best in Field 1.725

Score/Round 70.1 2 Score/Round 68.86 1

This gives us some idea about the performance of each golfer and how they ranked against the field.

If we review the above stats, we find that Jack was better than Tiger in greens hit in regulation (GIR) and fairways hit (Accuracy). Tiger ranks better statistically in putting, even though they both ranked #10 in the field in putts per GIR.

Now let us see what Jack would have done with today’s driver compared to Tiger:

  Jack Nicklaus (1968) Tiger Woods (2009)
Loft 10.5 degree 10.5 degree
Shaft Length 42 3/4' 44'
Shaft Material True Temper Dynamic S Steel Shaft Mitsubishi Diamana Graphite Shaft
Head Material Persimmon (solid) Titanium (hollow)
COR 0.78 0.83
Head Volume 210cc 380 cc
MOI Low High
Weight ≈389 grams ≈340 grams
Launch Conditions ≈10.5 degrees & 3000+rpm ≈12 degrees & 2500 rpm

Note that both Tiger has and Jack had shorter drivers than the average on Tour at the time.

The major advantages that Tiger has over Jack are the longer, lighter weight shaft – by almost 50 grams – and the higher COR (spring-like effect) and MOI (forgiveness) head, even though he is using a 380 cc driver – the max allowed is 460 cc.

Tiger also uses the new low spin multilayered ball, which, along with other factors, gives him the ability to achieve optimum launch conditions for his ball speed. These all important launch conditions were not achievable by Jack or any other players using the equipment available in 1968.

Knowing that both golfers hit the ball with similar clubhead speeds, it is estimated that if Jack had today’s equipment he would have driven the ball approximately 30 yards farther than he did in 1968, and more accurately because of the more forgiving driver, low spin and better quality ball.

It is not surprising that the irons used by both golfers are similar in most respects as iron technology for the elite golfer has not changed very much over the last 40 years.

Bottom line – given the same equipment and conditions – I give Jack the edge, even though Tiger is fitter than Jack ever was, he is a better putter and seems to have the ability, through training, to focus and get into the zone at will. This mind set is an essential element in the make-up of a great golfer. Jack also had this element derived from pride, tenacity and a Bear-like attitude.

Clive, thank you for the question, which I personally enjoyed researching. Please have your say by clicking here and voting for who you think is the best golfer. Real-time results can be viewed on our home page at www.franklygolf.com.

– Frank 

Frank Thomas logo Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf. Thomas is chief technical advisor to GolfChannel.com. He served as technical director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN system and introduced the Stimpmeter. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com


Frank Thomas

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.