The Best Of The Best
We polled more than 30 PGA Tour players to get their take on who is the best now and of all time in six aspects of the game: driving, putting, short game, bunker play, iron play and mental game. Here are the results
April 19, 2012
Dustin Johnson. An incredible athlete, DJ has the ability to awe even his fellow pros with his distance. "He is so far out there," Davis Love III said. "And for being long, he's pretty close to the fairway."
Driving: All Time
Greg Norman. The Shark received an overwhelming majority of votes in this category -- a big reason why he spent a total of 331 weeks as the world's top-ranked golfer. "It was ridiculous how accurate he was with his strength," Robert Garrigus said.
Steve Stricker. How good is Stricker on the greens? Tiger Woods goes to him for putting lessons. "He's a hell of a good putter, for both long and clutch putts," Dustin Johnson said.
Putting: All Time
Tiger Woods. He may not be rolling them in like he once did, but no one has a collection of memorable makes like Woods. Perhaps his most famous one was the 15-footer for birdie on Torrey Pines' 18th (left) to get into a playoff at the 2008 U.S. Open. In the words of Stewart Cink, "Tiger Woods is the best clutch putter I've ever seen."
Short Game: Now
Phil Mickelson. Lefty grew up practicing his short game on a green in the backyard of his childhood home in San Diego. It certainly shows. Brendan Steele put it simply: "Phil has the most shots of anybody."
Short Game: All Time
Seve Ballesteros. Known for his wildness off the tee, it was Ballesteros' scrambling that led him to five major championships and made him a Ryder Cup hero. Not surprisingly, this vote wasn't close. "Hands down Seve for all time," Aaron Baddeley said. "He had an amazing short game.
Bunker Play: Now
Luke Donald. "He got to No. 1 in the world in great part because of his short game," Kris Blanks said. No doubt about that. Donald has finished in the top five in scrambling from the sand in four of the past seven years.
Bunker Play: All Time
Seve Ballesteros. The late great's touch from around the greens still has pros talking today. "From what I can tell, it was just pure natural instinct," Graeme McDowell said. "My coach, Pete Cowen, talks a lot about Seve's feel, and he spend a lot of time with Seve working on short game, in the bunkers, and his basics were instinctive. He just knew how to play every shot. He might not have known the technique, but he learned in it in his head and he was just a pure natural."
Iron Play: Now
Rory McIlroy. The phenom from Northern Ireland put on a ball-striking clinic during his eight-shot win at the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional. His buddy, Graeme McDowell, wasn't surprised. "He's a great iron player because he's got that flight," McDowell said. "It's long and they have a soft landing. He hits 4-irons like I can only dream about."
Iron Play: All Time
Ben Hogan. The nine-time major winner's range sessions were so legendary, fellow pros would often stop what they were doing to take them in. "You've got to go with Ben Hogan," Ricky Barnes said. "His swing and iron shots were beautiful to watch." We'll assume young Mr. Barnes is talking about watching video, but you get the point.
Mental Game: Now
Tiger Woods. This one was almost unanimous. Certainly, physical skills played a huge role in Tiger dominating the game in a way no one ever has, but his intimidation and will to win certainly didn't hurt either. Said Heath Slocum, "I've never seen anything like it."
Mental Game: All Time
Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. The players were split on this one -- and for good reason. "Hands down, with no question, Woods and Nicklaus," Brandt Jobe said. "It's hard to compare anyone to those two." Added Bill Lunde: "Tiger isn't showing it like he was, but we all know what he's capable of and Jack because he has the record for (major) wins. To be able to do that, yeah, a lot of it is ability, but that is as much of a mental test as it is talent and athleticism."