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Tiger or Jack: Who is the greatest golfer of all time?

The question of who is the greatest golfer of all time comes down to two men: Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. For some, choosing one is almost an impossible task whereas others believe the answer is clear.


Let’s look at the numbers:

Most wins in golf

1

Tiger Woods
Sam Snead

82

3

Jack Nicklaus

73

4

Ben Hogan

64

5

Arnold Palmer

62


Tiger Woods is tied with Sam Snead for the most wins in golf with 82 – nine more than Jack Nicklaus.


So, unless you ask Phil Mickelson, the answer is clear: Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer of all time. Right? Not so fast. If choosing who the greatest golfer of all time was as easy as looking purely at win totals then we’d be discussing Tiger or Sam. Of course, we can’t decide on wins alone, as the elephant in the room cannot be ignored, because it’s a big elephant.

Most major wins in golf

1

Jack Nicklaus

18

2

Tiger Woods

15

3

Walter Hagen

11

4

Ben Hogan
Gary Player

9


Jack Nicklaus has the most major wins in golf with 18 – three more than Tiger Woods.


“Majors are everything” is basically the mantra for every PGA Tour player – wins are nice, but prestige is better. Tiger or Jack wouldn’t even be a debate were it not for Jack’s record, and this is due for two main reasons: major championship golf courses are always in the most difficult and perfect condition (now is not the time to get into the USGA), and the field of players is always the strongest compared to regular tour events. Simply put: golf majors are much more difficult to win; hence why they carry the most weight.


Ok, so unless we ask Phil again, it’s clear that Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer of all time. Most golf majors = GOAT. Right? Well, again, not so fast. If we can’t use total tour wins to decide, is it fair to only take total major wins and disregard wins or other categories?


Before we make that decision, let’s look at some more numbers:

Record for weeks at number 1 in golf

1

Tiger Woods

683

2

Greg Norman

331

3

Rory McIlroy

101

4

Nick Faldo

97

5

Dustin Johnson

92


Tiger Woods holds the record for the most weeks at No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR).


How can Nicklaus not even make the list, you ask? That’s because the OWGR wasn’t even introduced until 1986, the year that Jack won his last green jacket in historic fashion. No matter how you slice it, Tiger’s incredible 683 weeks at No. 1 is quite the feat, but how much weight can, and should, be put towards it when deciding the best golfer of all time? That’s a difficult question to answer, considering that Jack didn’t even have a chance to make the rankings.


Tiger also has better stats than Jack in other categories, such as having more US Amateur Championship victories than Jack, the highest win percentage ever to total starts, the longest ever streak for making the cut, and more.


But if you think Jack only has his major wins to lean on, think again, because not only did he win his 18 majors, he finished runner-up in golf’s toughest tournaments an astounding 19 times to Tiger’s 6.

Think about how close that is for both of them to have won more majors – hypothetically speaking, if all the stars aligned for each of them, Jack almost won 37 majors to Tiger’s 21. To add to this, Jack finished in the top seven in a major an eye-popping 68 times throughout his career. Jack’s weight is starting to get a lot heavier. If you don’t agree, you might want to watch some of the PGA’s biggest names reacting to some of Jack’s other records

So who is the greatest golfer of all time?

It’s time for you to help decide. Cast your vote in the comment section below for your choice on who is the GOAT in golf, and add any other important categories for readers to consider when making such a tough decision. Feel free to also share this post with your golfing friends and family so that we can try to, once and for all, put this debate to rest. Let’s go!

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