Tale of the tape

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On the heels of Tiger Woods’ recent victory in the 2007 PGA Championship at Southern Hills, I will compare Tiger’s game to golf’s all-time great Jack Nicklaus. The only significant golf that I watched of Jack Nicklaus was during his victory in the 1986 Masters. Amazingly, I thought golf was boring back then. Although I’m not a expert on Jack Nicklaus, I’ve read a number of articles on his game and I’ve seen a number of video clips of him playing during his prime.

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DRIVING

Tiger has the advantage of technology on his side. With the new drivers in the marketplace today, even mis-hits can go straight. Although Tiger could outdrive Jack any day of the week, his accuracy is a big issue. Jack played mainly with persimmon wood drivers and, accuracy-wise, he was very consistent with them.

Edge – Jack

IRONS

I’ve heard Jack Nicklaus had a great iron game, but Tiger is pretty much deadly from 150 yards and in.

Edge – Tiger

PUTTING

Putting is perhaps the only part of golf that gives little or no advantage with each new advancement in technology. Basically, to be a good putter, you need to have good, consistent technique. Although he’s not always the top ranking putter in the PGA, percentage-wise, you’ll rarely see Tiger 3-putt. When he needs to hole a putt win tournament or close a major, Tiger normally gets the job done. I have no doubt that Jack had to hole a few key putts to win his majors, but this is not even close.

Edge – Tiger

MENTALITY

Tiger’s desire to dismantle his opponents’ mental game is stone-cold. Whether it is by holing a 30-foot putt and giving is patented fist pump, or driving his ball 30 yards past his opponents’, Tiger’s opponent is at his mercy. Further, Tiger usually is not affected by the huge galleries that follow him during the final round of a major. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about his playing partner, who usually wilts under the pressure. I’m sure Jack was equally unmerciful to his opponents, however, given the fact that Jack had 19 2nd place finishes in major, leads me to believe that Jack suffered from the choke-factor, to some extent.

Edge -Tiger

ATHLETICISM

Looking at old pictures of Tiger, he was a skinny kid coming out of college and his golf clothes looked baggy and bigger than he was. It was only till his caddy Steve Williams got him into an exercise fitness routine that we now see the bulked-up Tiger playing now. Most of the Tour pros now follow Tiger’s lead and they now have fitness regimens and even personal trainers.

Jack had almost a reverse transformation. Jack was kind of pudgy in his early days. He even admitted he was over-weight during the time he was winning his first few majors. Eventually, Jack slimmed down, but never achieved that muscular-build that Tiger possesses now.

Edge – Tiger

PERSONALITY

I’ve seen Tiger play a few times in-person, and he seems to be not as approachable as the other Tour professionals, in terms of talking to the galleries and signing autographs. I’ve also seen him dropping F-bombs, after a few of his wayward drives. However, this just could just be a sign of Tigers’ ultra competitiveness and desire to focus entirely on his golf game on that particular day.

Jack, on the hand, was the consumate professional. Galleries always warmed to Jack and Jack always warmed to the galleries.

Edge – Jack

MARKETABLITY

Everything that Tiger touches usually turns to gold – from Nike golf clubs, Nike balls, his own clothing line, to video games, to endorsements, etc. When Tiger first became a Tour professional, Nike came out with the slogan, “I am Tiger Woods”. This inspired millions of kids and adults to take up golf -“… if Tiger can do it, why can’t I?”

Whenever a tournament that Tiger is playing is televised, the ratings are usually higher than if he weren’t playing. When he is leading the final round by 10 strokes, the ratings are still through the roof.

Lastly, all the Tour professionals are benefiting from the Tiger-effect, because most of the winnings per tournament have increased ever since Tiger turned pro. Jack has had his share of endorsements, but he started his own Golden Bear brand, rather joining a large sports company like Nike or Adidas. Even his clubs are sold at Costco, not a high end golf shop.

Edge – Tiger

MAJORS

According to Tiger, the number of major wins in his career, will define his legacy. As a child, he tracked his golf idol’s (Jack’s) major wins. He always told his dad, Earl Woods, that he will break Jack’s record. As of August 2007, Tiger has 13 major victories. Jack ended up with 18 major victories.

Edge – Jack

SUMMARY

Considering all the golf categories above, Tiger has the lead over Jack 5-3. Unfortunately, I agree with Tiger in that golfing “greatness” is defined by the number of major trophies on one’s mantle. In this case, Jack has 18 and Tiger has 13. Congratulations, Jack Nicklaus, you are the greatest golfer in history…until 2010. 😉

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