By Steve Wade

If you sit around long enough amongst golfers anywhere in the world, sooner or later this question will come up. Who is the greatest of all time?

The accepted measurement of any golfer’s greatness for a hundred years has always been, how many majors? Until Tiger came along and exploded onto the scene in 1997 with a 12 shot margin demolition job at the Masters and then went on to a further 7 major titles in the next 4 years, the answer was always Jack Nicklaus. No one even came close. Tiger has gone on to get 15 major wins on his record up until now, including that fantastic comeback win at Augusta in 2019, but he remains 3 behind Nicklaus and even his greatest fan would have to say it looks unlikely that he can pass the 18 milestone now.

If we take a closer look at both of their records in the majors over the prime periods of their careers, both around 25 years, Jack win’s hands down. Not only did he win 18 times, he finished in the top 3 a further 27 times amongst 55 top 10 finishes. Tiger had 11 top 3 finishes amongst 26 top ten finishes alongside his 15 victories.

Looking back on Tiger’s career, after a win record in both the majors and other tournaments between 1999 and 2002 that is nothing short of miraculous his game goes into what for him was a slump in the next 2 years, where he never really competed in any major and even got displaced by Vijay Singh as the world number 1. After winning the US open in June 2002 he doesn’t win his next major until the masters in 2005 despite plenty of wins in other tournaments.

Jack Nicklaus on the other hand never had a slump. His record in more than 20 years in the majors is scarcely credible. He had twice as many top 10’s as placings outside it and expected to win every time he teed it up.

That’s not all there is to it though. Tiger has many more wins both in the US and worldwide. Both were completely dominant in their respective eras and both struck fear into their opponents. Basically if they were in the field and played well, they won. Not to mention the Nicklaus win at the Masters in 1986 and Tiger’s at the same venue in 2019, both when they were past their best and that represent for me the two best moments in golf.

I think it all comes down to when you first started watching or playing golf. I’m from the Nicklaus era and will always rate him as the GOAT but if you’re from the generations after me when Tiger was in his pomp, it’ll be him. But as I said at the top of the page, the accepted measurement of greatness is golf has always been and probably always will be how many major victories the player has. So sorry all you Tiger fans, it’s Jack for me.

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