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Golf Channel’s rankings go beyond major wins only

January 25th, 2013 · 8 Comments

It has long been assumed that if Tiger Woods passes Jack Nicklaus in majors won that he will be automatically become the Best Ever. This follows the logic that players should be ranked in order of major victories.

Interestingly enough, however, this logic does not apply in ranking the All-Time Greatest golfers from the third position on down, as shown by Golf Channel’s rankings. Walter Hagen has won the third (or even second) most majors, and yet he is ranked eighth. Gary Player is ninth, below four players who won 5-7 majors. Billy Casper, with only three majors, ranks ahead of Lee Trevino and Nick Faldo, who each doubled his total with six. Putting Casper in the twelfth position makes him one of the three most overrated players in history.

That the “experts” at Golf Channel did not follow major wins only in creating their rankings says that they obviously feel that other criteria are relevant in ranking the players. Following the GC’s logic (which makes sense), Tiger Woods would not necessarily become the Best Ever if he passes Nicklaus’ 18. In addition, there could be more to Nicklaus’ record, and that it could be much stronger than his major wins indicates. And it is, as shown by: 19 seconds, 9 thirds, and 73 top tens in the majors,  and his longevity (1962-86 first to last), five double major winning seasons, and on and on.

In sum, either Golf Channel and others who rank the All-Time Greatest need to change their rankings and use majors won only, with some method for breaking ties. Or, they need to factor in a player’s complete body of work using the most level playing field possible – which happens to be the majors. Using this approach, Woods could become the biggest major winner ever, yet still not become the Best Ever.

Golf Channel Rankings – Majors Won
1  Jack Nicklaus – 18
2  Tiger Woods – 14
3  Ben Hogan – 9
4  Bobby Jones – 7
5  Sam Snead – 7
6  Arnold Palmer – 7
7  Byron Nelson – 5
8  Walter Hagen – 11(16)*
9  Gary Player – 9
10  Tom Watson – 8
11  Gene Sarazen – 7 (8)*
12  Billy Casper – 3
13  Lee Trevino – 6
14  Nick Faldo – 6
15  Seve Ballesteros – 5
16  Phil Mickelson – 4
*If we count their Western Open majors

Tags: The Game · The Majors · Tiger vs. Jack

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8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 BD // Jan 27, 2013 at 8:55 am

    What you say is true in theory, but the reality is that most current pros already consider Tiger to be the greatest ever based on his ability to dominate the game in an era when the equipment, among other factors, makes everyone a threat to win. They may rank Nicklaus higher (as I did, below), but that’s only because of his 18 majors. IF that record falls (and it may not, obviously), I can’t see a plurality of people in the golf universe holding out for Jack as greatest ever. I can’t even see Nicklaus taking that position.

  • 2 Phil // Jan 27, 2013 at 9:15 am

    Current pros may lean towards Tiger, on balance, but many still choose Jack – and all suffer from the My Generation is the Toughest Bias. As you know, the Nicklaus Era, particularly the 70s, was one of the most competitive ever. If Tiger wins 19 majors, many will automatically make him #1, but I think, for many reasons that I have elaborated on in this blog, and others, that that would be a mistake. I will call Tiger the Best Ever if he wins 21 majors, maybe if he wins 20, but not at all with “only” 19.

  • 3 BD // Jan 27, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Everyone is entitled to his opinion, and you have obviously done much more than most to back up your opinions with research and reason. Nevertheless, when we talk about about greatest ever, it’s basically a matter of group consensus, and it seems very clear to me that the “group” will be more than ready to pronounce Tiger #1 if he gets to 18 or maybe even 16.

  • 4 Phil // Jan 28, 2013 at 5:17 am

    BD, I wonder who is in this group? If it is a small group of unbiased experts, I might accept their choice. If it is a voting of the fans or current day pros, then the group could easily get it wrong. In a poll for best ever conducted in 2006, 30% of the voters chose a player not named Nicklaus or Woods. If Tiger could be the best with fewer majors than Nicklaus, then Nicklaus, by the same logic that other factors count, could remain the best even if Woods wins 19 – or more.

  • 5 BD // Jan 28, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    There is no OFFICIAL “greatest ever,” and even if there were, people could still personally regard a different player as the all-time greatest. I think what we are talking about, however, is a player that can be routinely mentioned as the greatest ever without anyone getting overly upset about it. . Actually, it’s not at all clear that either Jack or Tiger will emerge as the greatest (even assuming nobody else comes along). Fifty years from now, people may refer to each of them as “the player many consider to be the greatest ever,” — in other words, an acknowledgment that the issue is still debatable. I actually think this is close to the situation we have now.

  • 6 Phil // Jan 28, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    There isn’t an official greatest ever, but naming one would be a cool idea for generating buzz in the game – providing the player was chosen by a respected body of experts, not a vote of the fans. As you said, players who are referred to as the greatest should come from a very short list for whom a valid argument can be made. For me. that list has Nicklaus and Woods. And, fifty years from now, I would expect that at least 2-3 more players will emerge as viable candidates. In this new world, if the competition at the top of the leaderboard in a typical major becomes very condensed, a player who wins 12 majors might be the best.

  • 7 BD // Jan 29, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Seems like every golf magazine, along with other sports outlets, takes an occasional stab at the question of “greatest ever,” usually by assembling a panel of experts. I’m not sure any sport has an “official” greatest ever (although they all have Hall of Fame selection committees, which is similar, I guess). I don’t see why golf should attempt to name an official greatest ever, especially since the two best candidates for the title are still living and all sorts of politics and influences could come into play. I doubt it could even be done without seeming contrived. Also, while I’m not sure about Woods, I feel confident that guys like Bobby Jones (if he were alive) and Jack Nicklaus would be repulsed by the idea of an OFFICIAL “greatest ever.”

  • 8 Phil // Jan 29, 2013 at 11:43 am

    Well, so since so many say we have to do this and that for the good and the growth of the game, then becoming the first sport to have an official best ever could be another step towards giving our sport the boost so many feel is needed. Would Jack be repulsed by the idea? I don’t know – he comes off as so modest (too modest IMO) in public, so he might not like it. On the other hand, Jack the competitor might love it. I think it would be fun as long as there was some meat behind the decision, and it would give the fans something to argue about – which we (especially you and me) love doing.

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