Posted on: March 12, 2009 10:29 am

Tiger Woods, Byron Nelson and the Media

Tiger is one of the most dominant golfers of all time and possesses the uncanny desire to win (much like Jack Nicklaus).  This always brings up the argument of "best all time".  I definitely believe that Tiger is the most hyped and media driven professional golfer of all time and I believe he is definitely in the top 5 golfers of all time.  However, (if you twisted my arm to make a comparison) in my opinion the most dominant golfer of all time would be Byron Nelson.  From 1942-1946 he had a streak of 65 tournaments where he finished in the top 10.  He won 34 of those and finished 2nd in 16 others.  He won 11 in a row and 18 in one year.  His scoring average over the 1945 season was an unbelievable 68.33. Unheard of at that time!  A scoring average like that would match Tiger's great 2000 season.  Imagine if he lifted weights or had better equipment.  Nelson won 6 times in 1946 and then retired from regular tournament golf to own a ranch in Texas at the age of 34.  Right in the middle of his prime when he was playing his best golf.  He said the reason for retiring so young was that when he started playing golf professionally, he had an amount of money in his mind he was determined to make in order to buy a ranch.  When he made that money, he stopped playing and moved on to the ranch lifestyle.  In only parts of 11 seasons of professional golf he won 54 times.  He also held the record for most consecutive cuts made at 113.  He would have inevitably extended that streak for much longer had he not retired.  Another thing to look at is "making the cut" in Nelson's day meant finishing in the top 20 (only those players received paychecks) and although Woods had a consecutive cuts streak of 145, 36 of those tournaments were "no-cut" tournaments meaning everyone makes the cut and receives a paycheck (like in this weekend's World Golf Championship event) and Woods also finished outside the top 20 many times but still made the cut.

That being said, I don't want to take anything away from what Tiger has accomplished in HIS era.  What makes Tiger so great is his ability to win.  People have this notion that he dominates the sport of golf every week.  While it is true that he is great, the casual golfer thinks he wins every tournament because the media makes it seem that way. The truth is he only wins 25% of the tournaments he enters (which is spectacular) and he has only lead the PGA tour in scoring 7 times in 12 years (Nicklaus lead the PGA in scoring 8 times in 12 years).  As amazing as he is.  I don't think it is possible to say he is the greatest ever.  It is like comparing Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle or Ted Williams to Griffey, Bonds or A-Rod.  I think it is safe to say he is the greatest in his era but I think we should only judge eras individually.


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