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The Loop

Tiger vs. Jack

March 31, 2009

It is a futile debate, arguing whether Tiger Woods is better than Jack Nicklaus was, but columnist Tom Boswell tackles it anyway in Tuesday's Washington Post, beneath the headline: The Game Deprived of Woods vs. Nicklaus.

Boswell gives the nod to Woods, though he makes the argument that he's had an easier way of it:

"Tiger has faced no contemporary of historic consequence except (wrong-stuff) Phil Mickelson," Boswell writes. "Nicklaus got all of his major titles in the face of Hall of Famers in their primes. Woods has finished second in a major only five times. Part of the reason is that he knows how to finish. But part of the reason is who he's had to beat.

"When Nicklaus finished second (19 times), look who beat him: Tom Watson and Lee Trevino, four times each, Arnold Palmer twice, Gary Player and Seve Ballesteros once each. That's a dozen major titles where Nicklaus finished runner-up to Hall of Fame players, from three distinct golf generations, with better career records than anybody Woods has ever had to beat."

Conversely, one could argue that the modern game has substantially more depth, producing a greater variety of major championship winners. This is why the debate is pointless.

So we'll yield to Lee Trevino on the subject. "You can't compare them, he told the Sun-Sentinel. "Different equipment, different golf courses. The only thing you can go by is tournament wins and major wins. When Tiger beats Jack in tournament wins and major wins, then he's the best player. Until he does that, he's not the best player."

-- John Strege