Recently, I watched a program on the Golf Channel with Brandel Chamblee on which he stated the best player of all-time is Tiger Woods.
Immediately, I wondered if this was his form of an apology for his constant criticism of Woods over the past few years.
Chamblee has openly had an issue with the style in which Tiger swings the club. As he says,“Woods is not a good driver of the ball and never has been.”
Admittedly, he does say that Woods’ record in 2000 is second to none.
Mr. Chamblee’s reasoning for his selection of Tiger Woods is that “he won more, by a greater margin of victory, in a shorter time frame than anyone else has done.”
Surely, there is more to becoming the greatest of all-time than these criteria.
If doing something extremely well for a short time frame constitutes being the greatest of all-time then how did Chamblee overlook 1930 in which Bobby Jones won all four major championships available at that time?
Before you leap out of your easy chair screaming that he was an amateur and therefore, wasn’t subjected to the pressure of performing for money during his back swing you need to recall one small fact.
Jones was listed at 50:1 to win the Grand Slam before play started in June with the British Amateur. He bet on himself and won $60,000, which would be worth millions today, so he felt the pressure for several months not several days.
Remember too, that this is one year after the ‘crash of ’29.
Being judged the “greatest of all-time” is an exercise in futility.
Other than to conjure up discussions of legitimate contenders in comparison. it is impossible to select just one.
To begin with, equipment we use today is incredibly different from the equipment used in the 1800s. Courses are conditioned far differently from those of yesteryear and from a player’s perspective, methods of travel from days gone by also favor today’s competitors.
From 1916 when Jones first started to play in majors until 1930, there were often no events due to WW1 and 15 times, he elected not to play mostly due to difficult travel.
Back in the day, competitions were not always stroke play making comparison to today’s outcomes difficult, but Chamblee says, “Tiger won by such large margins. Therefore, he is the greatest”.
Jones won convincingly in both stroke and match play, but what if travel had been easier, or there was no war? Would he have won 30 majors?
One thing in Chamblee’s favour is that at least he didn’t try to compare scores shot by Jones with those shot by Woods.
Jones used wooden shafted clubs, a limited distance ball and did not have a sand wedge because it wasn’t invented until Jones had finished playing most of his career, retiring from competition at age 28.
Finally, Jones lost a major championship by one stroke after calling a penalty on himself which nobody else saw.
So who is the greatest golfer ever?
Chamblee didn’t even bring Jones name into the discussion. He thinks the issue lies between Nicklaus and Woods, but he skipped over Hogan, Snead, Nelson, Hagen, Sarazen, Vardon, Mickey Wright, Kathy Whitworth, Babe Zaharias, Annika Sorenstam and Joyce Wethered.
The greatest of all-time is a fascinating subject.
Here are some random picks on my part.
Honourable Mentions: Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Mickey Wright
Honourable Mentions: Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, Terry Sawchuk
Honourable Mentions: Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, Bob Gibson
Honourable Mentions: Sugar Ray Robinson, Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey
Honourable Mentions: Jim Brown, Lawrence Taylor, Tom Brady
Honourable Mentions: Roger Federer, Rod Laver, Steffi Graf
Honourable Mentions: Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain