Tiger Woods vs. Tom Brady: Who is the bigger GOAT?
Tiger Woods. Tom Brady. Two generational athletes who have been bestowed by many the title of GOAT in their respective sports long before their playing days are over. Heck, you can't spell Tiger Woods or Tom Brady without the letters G-O-A-T. But is there a way to officially determine the GOAT of GOATs or who is the GOATiest? Not really, although Michael Jordan sure tried to stake claim to the throne with that 10-part docuseries. Despite the challenges of ranking the challengers, though, we decided to take a try anyway before these two face off in The Match: Champions for Charity.
Before we begin, a quick refresher that GOAT stands for “Greatest Of All Time” and when it comes to titles it, too, is the GOAT. The term—or the equivalent goat emoji—tends to get tossed around a bit too liberally, but when you extend outside the world of sports and start looking at specific categories, there are GOATs everywhere.
Wendy’s, for instance, is the GOAT of fast food burger chains and their honey mustard is the GOAT of honey mustards. Their fries, however, are not the GOAT. That honor goes to McDonald’s. Yes, these are only one man’s opinions, but they are also the right opinions. Point is, there are many GOATs, but we’re focusing on Tiger and Tom.
There are probably some of you saying, “But they’re not even the GOAT in their own sport!” and you have every right to that opinion. But here’s where the term gets even murkier. Although, technically, a GOAT should be THE greatest, it’s evolved to mean more often that you’re in the GOAT conversation. Confused? Hopefully, our super-scientific 10-point GOAT scale broken down by our five super-scientific categories will help sort things out.
1. Are they actually the GOAT? (Maximum of 4 points)
First of all, is anyone actually 100 percent the GOAT in their sport? It’s easier to make such a declaration in an individual sport, especially one that is timed (See: Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt). But there will always be question marks when comparing players from different eras. Tiger’s biggest drawback is he “only” has 15 majors to Jack Nicklaus’ 18. Of course, just looking at those two numbers doesn’t tell the entire story as Woods has more overall PGA Tour titles and he played in a time of deeper fields and golfers who didn’t set up shop at the 19th hole after every round. But most old heads take Jack. We get it. They're stuck in their ways.
With Tom playing in the ultimate team sport, this is even tougher to evaluate. Not only are you comparing different eras, you’re comparing different positions. Is Brady better than running backs like Jim Brown and Barry Sanders? A wide receiver like Jerry Rice? A linebacker like Lawrence Taylor? And that’s not to mention all the great quarterbacks in NFL history from Johnny Unitas to Joe Montana to Peyton Manning to Eli Manning. Kidding. Tom gets the edge over Eli. As long as they aren’t playing on a neutral field in the world’s biggest sporting event, that is. Besides, Tiger has his share of tough losses to lesser players as well, including Rich Beem (2002 PGA), Michael Campbell (2005 U.S. Open), and Y.E. Yang 2009 PGA). Still, we’re giving Woods the nod here because Jack is the only other person in the golf GOAT conversation. And he won with a few different coaches so we know for sure he's not just a product of Bill Belicheck's SYSTEM.
Scores: Tiger (3.7); Brady (3.5)
2. Are they even the GOTE? (Maximum of 3 points)
That’s the “Greatest Of Their Era” and admittedly, the made-up phrase seemed a lot better before we realized it sounds exactly the same as GOAT. In any event, this distinction is important because it’s much easier to evaluate an athlete’s domination over his peers than trying to figure out how Shaq would have fared against George Mikan. (LOL. Shaq would have averaged 100 points per game against that stiff.) Anyway, here is where Tiger takes a bigger lead because he towers above his contemporaries. EIGHTY-TWO PGA Tour titles. FIFTEEN majors. Woods’ closest competitor in both categories is Phil Mickelson, Brady's partner in The Match, with 44 tour wins, including five big ones. Not even close.
Brady, on the other hand, was often ranked behind Peyton Manning, his foe along with Woods in The Match, throughout his career. And some even think Aaron Rodgers’ peak in Green Bay was better. Of course, Brady’s incredible longevity and continued postseason excellence has given him twice as many Super Bowl titles as those two combined. But only three times has he been named NFL regular season MVP or even First-Team All-Pro. Meanwhile, Tiger has been the PGA Tour’s POY an absurd 11 times. In other words, he's clearly the GOTE. OK, we're going to work on that one.
Scores: Tiger (3.0); Brady (2.4)
3. Records (Maximum of 2 points)
Where do we start with Woods? The four consecutive majors from the 2000 U.S. Open to the 2001 Masters. The 142 consecutive made cuts? The six straight USGA titles as a junior? The 89 consecutive rounds beating the field? The 683 weeks at No. 1 in the World Ranking? The 15-shot romp at the 2000 U.S. Open? The 12-shot win runaway at the 1997 Masters? You get the point. Tiger might be the GOAT of breaking records.
Brady hasn’t posted the same statistical dominance, but he is the only player to win six Super Bowl rings as a player. He also didn’t play in a dome for most of his career padding stats like Peyton and Drew Brees and when he finally got a good wide receiver, Randy Moss, Brady immediately had the greatest passing season in NFL history with 50 touchdowns. He still lost to Eli in the Super Bowl that year, but hey, you can’t win them all. Or any when it comes to Eli. Brady’s remarkable longevity will put him near the top of every statistical category when he retires. If he ever retires.
Scores: Tiger (2.0); Brady (1.5)
4. Controversies (Maximum loss of 1 point)
Tiger had a sex scandal that made the front page of the New York Post for 20 consecutive days—one more than the newspaper’s 9/11 coverage got. He also picked up a DUI in 2017. And he has an unfortunate love of mock turtlenecks. Rough.
Meanwhile, Brady’s biggest offense involves a cheating allegation of a different kind. In 2015, the NFL found the QB guilty of having footballs deflated more than allowed in cold weather conditions and suspended him for four games. For those thinking this isn’t a big deal, go back to the AFC Championship Game against the Colts when Brady was firing bullets and Andrew Luck couldn’t even throw a spiral. Anyway, Brady was suspended four games, but came back to win the Super Bowl that season. His six Super Bowl titles are also considered tainted by some since he plays for an organization that likes to make videos of other teams. But anyway, Brady makes up a little ground on Tiger here because he doesn’t have a mugshot floating around the Internet. Although, given his inauspicious start in Tampa, one might not be too far off.
Scores: Tiger (-.8); Brady (-.3)
5. Miscellaneous (Maximum of 1 point)
Tiger has been in the spotlight since he was two, when he appeared on the Mike Douglas Show. He was a phenom his entire life and his three consecutive U.S. Juniors followed by three consecutive U.S. Amateurs might be more impressive than the Tiger Slam as a pro. Point is, all these things just add to his mystique. He also became the first athlete to cross the $1 billion mark in career earnings and was at one point considered the most recognizable person on the planet. And despite all the controversy mentioned above, Woods might be even more popular now following his latest comeback to win the 2019 Masters. Again, storybook stuff.
Brady hasn’t had quite the same career arc. He was benched in college, was only a sixth-round draft pick, and only saw the field during the Pats’ first Super Bowl run because of an injury to starter Drew Bledsoe. The underdog narrative is cool, but it doesn’t do much for GOAT street cred. He also plays for arguably the most-hated team in sports. As for earnings, Brady has made his share, but he’s not even the family’s biggest earner. Then again, some might argue that marrying arguably the GOAT of supermodels should enhance one’s GOAT reputation. Either way, while Brady’s longevity is jaw-dropping, Woods gets him in this category too. If Tom had Peyton’s resume of commercials, this would have been closer. But Brady is also lucky we don’t deduct more for him copyrighting “TOMpa Bay” merch.
Scores: Tiger (1.0); Tom (.6)
After crunching all the numbers (good thing we kept it to simple arithmetic), Tiger tops Tom by a final score of 8.9 to 7.7. MJ might have next in this mythical GOAT tournament, but Tiger is the bigger GOAT in this particular battle of GOATs. Or the GOATier GOAT. It’s science. Sort of. Not really. Anyway, don't let it bother you, Tom. You're still pretty swell, you've still got Gisele, and if you win a Super Bowl in Tampa, we can talk.