I could be looking at the rest of the Big11 conference right now(I’d rank it PSU-OSU-Ill-Wisc/Iowa, at the moment), but this piece from SI about the greatest golfers of all time caught my eye.
First, I’m not even going to bother comparing men to women. Ask Michelle Wie and Annika Sorenstam how that works out? Besides, I don’t know anything about women’s golf.
Second, I think making a 1-20 list is a pretty bad idea considering the different conditions in each era. Some guys games would translate(Hogan) others I don’t think would(Jones, Nicklaus?)
So I broke it down like this:
Best of the Era
Tiger Woods: I have no problem saying Tiger is the best player of all time. He is one of the greatest ball-strikers, the most in shape, beats the deepest fields, probably the best putter(although he has also played in an era with the best greens), definitely the best short game and most clutch, whatever that means.
Ben Hogan: Hogan unfortunately gets the rawest deal in terms of historical ranking in golf. If he had played with the TV audience of Arnie or Jack(or had the personality for that matter) he would be considered the second greatest player of all time. Hogan won a higher percentage of tournaments than Jack, missed a few years due to a car accident, and only played in one British Open. There is a reason that 90% of the tour(including Tiger) models their swing after Hogan and not Jack.
Jack Nicklaus: Dumb people say Jack is the best because of his most major wins. But, if you put Jack, Tiger and Hogan next to each other I guarantee most of your attention is spent watching Tiger and Hogan. Put them in similar coniditions and for my money Tiger and Hogan are better.
Second to the man
Bobby Jones/Walter Hagen: Don’t know much about them other than they both have a lot of majors. Jones was always the most famous player of his era, but I doubt there were incredibly deep fields in the 30s and he was an amateur while Hagen was a pro.
Gary Player: Player in my opinion has the second best resume of anyone who played against Jack. 9 major titles and a ton of worldwide victories. If he was American, I gaurantee people would give him the respect Arnold Palmer gets.
Ernie Els: Yup, I’m putting him ahead of Phil. I think 50 worldwide wins, some great duels with Tiger and an added few majors if Tiger wasn’t around puts Ernie among the 6 or 7 best golfers to play the game.
Sam Snead: 7 major Championships probably make him the best turn of the century golfer not named Hogan.
Tom Watson: For my money, Watson was a better player than Palmer.
Arnold Palmer: Palmer was Phil Mickleson good, can’t really knock his game, but it just doesn’t stack up with the other legends in the game when you get down to it. Of course, tremendously popular.
Lee Trevino: Trevino was one of the purest strikers of the golf ball that ever played.
Phil Mickelson: I don’t think Phil has had as good a career as Ernie, but in terms of talent, you could probably say Phil and Ernie may be among the 6 or 7 best players to ever play the game.
Push comes to shove, here is my list:
1. Tiger Woods
2. Ben Hogan
3. Jack Nicklaus
4. Gary Player
5. Sam Snead
6. Tom Watson
7. Ernie Els
8. Phil Mickelson
9. Arnold Palmer
10. Bobby Jones
11. Walter Hagen
12. Lee Trevino