Table of Contents

    By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast

    The GOAT Debate In Golf

    With this week’s PGA Tour stop The Memorial being hosted by Jack Nicklaus, it has me pausing at this interesting junction in the game of golf to revisit the most popular of golf arguments at every 1st tee or 19th hole in your foursome. It’s 2023 and now that we’ve reached a point where Tiger Woods’ production on the golf course (professionally) has simmered, the debate on the greatest to play the game is very much open for discussion.

    Let me be clear: in no way am I counting out Mr. Eldrick Woods from doing the unthinkable and returning to major championship form or adding to his PGA Tour win tally. Now let me add in the colossal Stephan A. Smith “HOWEVAHHH” to say that if Tigers Woods’ career tallies for wins and jaw-dropping golf are done, the debate as it sits is quite compelling.

    The Figures

    If you’re looking at the raw data and numbers on the board, it’s a tightly contested seven-game series between these two legends in the game. Nicklaus’s backers will quickly look to the majors, where Nicklaus leads Woods by a tally of 18 to 15, and has amassed 20 more top-three finishes in majors than Tiger ever has (46-26). That set of figures right there will have you leaning towards Jack if we’re solely looking at trophies lifted and the frequency of being in contention on the biggest stage. The one X-factor for the younger generation of Tiger fanboys like myself to retort with is “Yeah – but look who Jack won those against.” It is undoubtedly that the level of competition, the level of athleticism, and the depths of fields in PGA Tour events are substantially more impressive than they were in Nicklaus’ time. As for the tally on PGA Tour wins: Tiger wins that count 82-72. If you’re major-centric like I am, it’s points for the Golden Bear here.

    In Their Era

    Comparing the different eras in the game of golf is difficult as advancements in golf course design and ball and club technology have changed the landscape of the game. Still, it’s worth reversing the roles for the sake of this debate and contrasting the state of the game for Jack and Tiger’s careers. Jack’s prime was in the late 1960s and early 1970s – the days when persimmon woods did the job, Spalding and Dunlop were leading golf ball manufacturers and 275 yards was a bombed drive. If you placed peak Tiger Woods in his best physical shape in those fields of the 1970’s he would run away with several tournaments a year and overpower golf courses, just like he did when he was young. Now, if you flip the script and take peak Nicklaus and place his game in a 2000s field of the world’s best? I’m not sure the dominance shines through as brightly. Nicklaus would still be a top-tier course management player in the game, but I would see more of a Jordan Spieth-type of career resume as opposed to 18 majors. He simply wouldn’t have the length or durability to mow down 156-man fields with the frequency that Tiger did. 

    Jack Nicklaus blasts out of the sand on the seventh hole of the Oak Hill Country Club during fourth round of the PGA Championship in Rochester, N.Y., Sunday, Aug. 10, 1980. Nicklaus won his fifth and final PGA Championship at Oak Hill. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)


    This is one category where Tiger wins by a touchdown or two. As we step off the course and think big picture on the most defining figure in the history of golf, Tiger Woods’ impact measured is second to none. Sure – Nicklaus was the best player of his generation, but five decades later you could argue that Arnold Palmer’s name brand, legacy, and even his tasty 19th hole drink carry a fonder memory and larger impact on the game than Jack Nicklaus. Add in figures like Lee Trevino, Gary Player, and Tom Watson who EACH got several majors of their own in the Nicklaus era, and it’s clear to see the “impact pie” was cut up a lot more across several golfers back in the day. As for the Tiger Woods era, it was more of a revolution for the game dominated by one man. It was just one golfer that broke social and racial barriers, galvanized a fleet of junior golfers to dream bigger and brought coolness to golf like no one ever has. He introduced strength and modern athleticism to the game of golf and left his prior generation in the dust. He overpowered so many courses and changed the game that “Tiger-proofing” a track became a known term amongst the golf community. With the game being as diverse and inclusive as it ever has been, there’s no secret it’s all stemmed from the impact of Tiger’s career.

    Personal Legacy

    This category is up for debate on merit but it has to be referenced in the conversation, as it speaks to the overall impact on the game as it’s seen through the world not just the world of golf. Let’s be real here – image matters in 2023 as it pertains to these conversations. Jack Nicklaus’ image is a man who dominated a sport, pioneered a post-golf business career that’s employed thousands, and he’s done it while being married to his wife Barbara for SIXTY-TWO YEARS. As for Tiger’s personal life…well that may not be as squeaky clean. What he is showing now as a father and as a golf mentor Charlie has been commendable and amazing to watch, but even Tiger knows he has work to do on himself both physically and mentally in the years ahead.

    The Verdict

    Despite being a Tiger fanboy and growing up in his generation, I laid out the T chart of arguments and I’ve got Jack Nicklaus as the goat. In horse racing terms, Nicklaus wins by a head bob. Who knows if the book on Tiger is fully closed.

    Golf FAQs

    How do PGA Golf Majors Pools work?

    In PGA Golf Majors Pools, member select six golfers to compete on a roster over the course of an event. The member with the best combined score from the six golfers wins.

    Can you include all four majors into one pool?

    Yes, but your commissioner can also customize these setting with RunYourPool. Pools can include up to all four majors, repicking golfers each time or adding bonus points for finishing positions

    How do I assemble a roster?

    Golfers are broken up in to six tiers, as members select one golfer per tier to be on their Major roster.

    What happens to golfers who miss the cut?

    Any PGA Player who does not make the cut will be given the highest score of Round 3 and Round 4, respectively.

    What are the four golf majors?

    The Masters is the first major of the season, in April. The PGA Championship and the U.S. Open follow, with the British Open ending as the final major.

    How do PGA One and Dones work?

    Members in a pool select one golfer to win a tournament, but can't pick that golfer again for the rest of the season. The member with the best score at the end of the season wins.

    What is a PGA One and Done pool?

    A PGA One-and-Done Pool is a contest similar to Survivor Pools, in which members can only select a golfer one time per season for events.

    Which tournaments are played for PGA One and Dones?

    Pool commissioners can set up the season for as many or as few tournaments as desired. Go crazy and do all of them! Or dial it back for the major events. As commissioner of a RunYourPool contest, you decide which events to play in!

    How to run a weekly golf pool?

    In order to run a golf pool, you must first crown yourself as Pool Commissioner. Begin by picking a game type like One and Done or Pick-X Pools. You'll want to establish rules before inviting friends, family, and colleagues to join. As commissioner, you make the rules and also need to enforce them equally and fairly.

    How do golf Pick-X Pools work?

    Members select a certain number of golfers per tournament, set by the pool commissioner. The member earns the total winnings that their selected golfer won for the tournament. Whichever member earns the most winnings over the duration of the season wins.

    What is a golf Pick-X Pool?

    A Pick-X Golf Pool calculates tournament winnings rather than strokes gained when deciding a winner. This amplifies the big name events that feature a higher prize purse.

    How to run a golf pool?

    How you decide to run a golf pool varies greatly depending on the game type. In each case, however, you'll want to determine the rules and settings before you begin inviting members to join you. You'll want to clearly establish how score will be kept, how tiebreakers work, and how winners are decided before anything else.

    What is a prop bet?

    Prop bets are any sort of pick or wager on a game that has nothing to do with the score or the final score outcome. Props can range from game types, to team types and even player types - such as who will score the game's first and last touchdowns? Other props, such as novelty or exotic, feature bets on things such as the coin flip or the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

    How do Masters Prop Bets Pools work?

    Pool members simply fill out a wide range of prop questions, each question worth a different value. Commissioners decide on the point value for each question, along with the amount of questions. Whichever member earns the most points based on corret answers wins the pool.

    When is the Masters?

    The Masters is typically in April and the first major of the golf season. The 2023 Masters is set for Thursday, April 6 and will run until Sunday, April 9.

    Where is the Masters played?

    The Masters is annually held at the Augusta National Golf Club located in Augusta, Georgia, USA.


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    About Author

    Alex Lauzon

    Lauzon is a podcast host, live broadcaster, analyst and betting extraordinaire for the Course of Life brand. After earning a degree in broadcast journalism at Quinnipiac University, he worked in ESPN and ESPN radio newsrooms. He has interviewed athletes and celebrities from all walks of life who often love to play golf. When he's not playing golf or talking about the game on Course of Life, Lauzon enjoys time with his wife and dog, checking off the next island vacation destination or counting down the days to the next Dell Match Play in his hometown of Austin, Texas.

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