by Jeff Skinner
Brandel Chamblee has blossomed into one of the most interesting voices in golf. His position on The Golf Channel has given him a very high profile among the golf media and he isn’t shy about voicing his opinion.
Chamblee also uses his resources at The Golf Channel as all of his editorials are chock full of facts and data that the Golf Channel research department has mined for him.
In Chamblee’s monthly column in Golf Magazine he states that Jack Nicklaus is the greatest of all time, and not Tiger Woods. Now that’s an opinion shared by many, myself included, but Chamblee presents a very detailed argument backed up with some interesting data.
Chamblee’s nominees for the Greatest of All Time were narrowed to Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. “Let’s begin with Woods, who after winning his 14th major in gutsy fashion at Torrey Pines in 2008 was almost universally heralded as the Greatest of All Time. That hype was based on the assumption that Tiger would pass Jack’s total of 18 major wins, as if the case should be settled purely on that stat. It shouldn’t. Even if Tiger breaks Jack’s major record, I wouldn’t call Tiger the best of all time. He wasn’t even the best over a short time.
Tiger’s stretch from 1999 to 2002, when he won seven of 11 majors that he entered, is considered by many to be the finest golf ever played. But from 1923-’30, Jones also won seven of the 11 professional majors he played in, he was runner-up in three others, and his average finish was second. From 1948-’53, Hogan won eight of the 12 majors he played in, and he too averaged a second-place finish. Tiger’s average finish from the ’99 PGA to the ’02 U.S. Open? Seventh. So if the discussion is about the best golf ever played, even over a short span, Woods trails Jones and Hogan. And so does Nicklaus.”
Chamblee also states that the level of competition and a player’s longevity in the game need to be considered and that is where Jack tops Tiger and all the rest. “Here, Nicklaus takes a bigger lead than Secretariat’s on the home stretch at Belmont. At various points, Jack faced Hogan, Snead, Palmer, Gary Player, Billy Casper, Lee Trevino, Ray Floyd, Tom Watson, Hale Irwin, Johnny Miller, Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman. Collectively, this group won 65 majors and 447 PGA Tour titles. Jack’s competition was the greatest any player has ever faced. In his record 19 runner-up finishes in the majors, Nicklaus was edged four times by both Watson and Trevino, twice by Palmer, and once by Player, Miller, and Ballesteros.
Conversely, Woods has just six runner-up finishes in the majors, and he has never finished second in a major to Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson or Padraig Harrington, the players who’ve shined the brightest in the Tiger era. Yes, Tiger has won 14 majors, but in golf winning is neither everything nor the only thing. If you finish second in football, you’ve lost; in golf, you’ve beaten 150 other players. So while Jack is only four majors ahead of Tiger, he’s 13 runner-up finishes ahead—against much stiffer rivals. A player can only beat the competition he plays against, but that doesn’t change the fact that Jack dueled legends. Tiger dueled Bob May.
Centuries ago in the Coliseum, the Romans pitted various animals against one another, including dogs, leopards and elephants. The one match considered a fair fight was between a bear and a tiger. One would kill the other as often as he would be killed. The Romans knew an even bet when they saw one. But my money? It’s on the Bear.”
Chamblee is right on the money here as Jack took on all comers, including a king, a hawk, a black knight, and a shark among others and still reigned as the best. Tiger may be the best of his generation but Jack Nicklaus still holds the title of the GOAT, the Greatest of All Time.