Capelle On Golf

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Capelle On Golf Celebrates its 5th Anniversary

February 19th, 2013 · 1 Comment

Today marks the fifth anniversary of my first post at Capelle On Golf. Wow, has that gone by fast!

So much has taken place in the last half decade. Tiger Woods won the 2008 U.S. Open on a bum leg. Paddy won two while he was gone, giving him three majors. Phil and Ernie each bagged their fourth and entered the HOF, along with a number of questionable selections. Tom Watson, when 59, almost became the oldest player, by far, to win a major in 2009.

While Tiger slumped following the scandal that broke in late 2009, there was a run of single major winners before Rory McIlroy put an end to this nonsense with his victory at the 2012 PGA. Yani Tseng won five majors before turning 22, and then Lexi Thompson won on the LPGA Tour at age 16, only to be bettered by Lydia Ko, who won the Canadian Open last year at age 15. And the great anchored putter debate was finally settled last fall when the USGA issued its ruling – or was it?

And speaking of history, this morning Golf Channel announced the results of their fan poll, which determined the winner of their 16 man match play event. Tiger Woods beat Jack Nicklaus 2&1 in the finals at Pebble Beach, an outcome that I suppose was generated by his 58.1% share of the 22,000 votes cast. Nicklaus received 41.9%. I would chalk up the pro Woods vote to a huge generation bias. If we adjusted for it by, say, waking up some Nicklaus’ fans from their graves, then the vote would easily swing over to Nicklaus’ favor, perhaps by a 65% to 35% margin.

In his post tournament coverage for Golf Channel, Woods super fan Randall Mell had this to say on Woods’ chances of becoming #1.

“The question whether Woods or Nicklaus is the greatest who ever played is a good debate even with Woods having 14 majors to Nicklaus’ 18, but if Woods ever passes Nicklaus, then Woods’ answer becomes definitive.”

In other words, Woods is a viable candidate for Best Ever, even with four fewer majors than Nicklaus. But if he wins even one more than Nicklaus, then he is the automatic Best Ever? I don’t think so. Not with Nicklaus’ 54 top fours in the majors, which is double Woods’ current total.

Two months into the new season, there is much to look forward to in 2013 as Tiger, who won at Torrey as he always does, seeks to end his major’s drought, Rory looks to make history with his new Nike sticks, and Phil and Ernie continue their battle for second best of the Woods Era. And I plan to continue writing about it as I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

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

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 BD // Feb 22, 2013 at 9:47 am

    Congrats on five years, Phil.

    There may be some generational bias afoot (both ways, actually), but I think the fans got it right in putting Woods above Nicklaus.

    There’s no doubt Jack is the “greatest champion.” I think there is serious doubt as to whether that makes him the greatest golfer ever.

    Jack played in an era when Europeans largely didn’t play in the three U.S.-based majors and Americans largely didn’t play in the Open Championship.

    If you look at Jack first two or three Opens, there were literally only something like 8-9 Americans in the field.

    By the same token, the majors played on U.S. soil tended to feature very few foreign players (Gary Player being the notable exception).

    Nicklaus was undoubtedly the best player of his era, but his mark of 18 majors was hugely assisted by the fact that practically every major he played in throughout his prime could be considered a “limited field event” by today’s standards.

    By contrast, every time Tiger and his contemporaries tee it up in the majors, or in the WGCs, or in the PLAYERS Championship, or in any number of other “significants,” they are going up against practically ALL of the best players in the world. Yet, against that competition, Tiger has won something like 25% of the events he has played!

    Jack Nicklaus himself wrote (prior to the Tiger Era) that the top players of his era were probably only as good as the middle-of-the-pack players of his era. So, the competition is much fiercer today than it was 40-something years ago and it is simply much harder to win a major now than in Jack’s day.

    It should also be pointed out that if winning majors were the sole criterion for deciding “greatest ever,” then Walter Hagen would have been the greatest ever from 1925 (when he equalled Vardon’s 7 majors) to 1972 (when Nicklaus equalled Hagen’s 11). I don’t know that anyone really thinks about Hagen in such lofty terms. He was a great professional and and an iconic legend, but greatest ever? That’s a tough argument to make.

    If most wins in majors ISN’T the sole criterion, then the case for Nicklaus over Woods becomes very shaky because Tiger has been more dominant than Jack against generally much stronger fields.

    Anyway, it continues to be a fun and fascinating debate.

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