Golf Channel is running an online tournament featuring the 16 greatest players of all time. Randall Mell wrote the article introducing the event, but I suspect that the players were ranked by the Golf Channel’s panel of “experts.”
The players appear in brackets on their site, so I shuffled them to create Golf Channel’s Top 16 list, from top to bottom. I have included my comments, which may lead to rounds of applause and/or jeers and catcalls.
1 Jack Nicklaus – With 18 majors and 19 seconds he belongs on top.
2 Tiger Woods – Would be Best Ever is definitely not there yet.
3 Ben Hogan – Solid pick for third best, record hurt by war, injury.
4 Bobby Jones – Did not play enough against pros to justify this ranking.
5 Sam Snead – Pretty swing and longevity biases lead to overrating.
6 Arnold Palmer – Founder of GC given a boost. Top 10 maybe, but not top 6.
7 Byron Nelson – Benefits too much from the streak against weak fields.
8 Walter Hagen – Belongs in Top 5 with 11 majors – 16 with Western Open Ws.
9 Gary Player – The best world golfer ever should be 2-3 spots higher.
10 Tom Watson – The Yin: 5 Opens. The Yang: Only won 3 other majors.
11 Gene Sarazen – Third best of the 1920-30s is in about the right spot.
12 Billy Casper – Mr. Underrated has now become Mr. Way Overrated.
13 Lee Trevino – Beat Nicklaus 4 times & Open double in 1971.
14 Nick Faldo – The 6 majors we hear about endlessly warrant this spot.
15 Seve Ballesteros – Overrated because of his genius at the short game.
16 Phil Mickelson – With a better mental game he would be in the top 10.
Players to Add
Harry Vardon, the first legitimate Best Ever, won 7 majors in an era with few available starts (travel, and no PGA and Masters).
Ernie Els* (for anchored putter) belongs in the Top 16 if Mickelson does as their overall records in the majors are nearly identical, and because Els won his on four different courses compared to only two for Mickelson.
Players to Cut
Billy Casper gets cut because of his relatively poor record in the majors (he is the only player in GC’s Top 16 to win fewer than 4 majors) as he ignored the Open for so many years while playing for money first, history second.
Seve Ballesteros gets bumped because his overall record in the majors (which gives weight to wins and close finishes) is not nearly as strong as Mickelson’s and Els’.
In my opinion, the five players below should be moved two or more places up or down the rankings.
Most Overrated Players
Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Billy Casper
Most Underrated Players
Walter Hagen, Gary Player