Open for Debate: Best Modern PGA Tour Players

by Jeff Skinner

Oh boy.  Looking for something to debate other than Peyton Manning’s place in NFL history or whether or not Richard Sherman deserves his lambasting on Twitter?  Here it is: Golf World’s 100 Best Modern Players.

Brett Avery of Golf World has used the data recorded by the PGA Tour since 1980 to come up with the best PGA Tour players in the modern era.  From his article:  Briefly, our Modern 100 sought to:
• Intensely focus on performance, keeping subjectivity to a minimum.
• Give majors 50 percent added value, but reward day-to-day, week-to-week excellence.
• Use a formula designed to highlight a player’s best golf.

As with any listing of “greats” there is bound to be some argument and this list, though statistically based certainly is no different.  There is plenty of data to look at and Avery and the boys at Golf World present an impressive argument.

Here’s my one-sided, biased take on their top ten best modern players.

1.  Tiger Woods:  There is no debate here…Woods has beaten the pants off the PGA Tour (and many others) since 1997.  Some call him the greatest ever but in my opinion that book isn’t finished yet.

2.  Greg Norman:  The Great White Shark was an impressive figure and was number one in the world for six years.  But he choked away more major victories than anyone in the game.  On the biggest stages the best players perform they don’t throw up on themselves.

3.  Phil Mickelson:  Phil’s five majors and 42 career wins puts him in elite company in the modern era but like many he had the misfortune of playing in the Tiger Era. 

4.  Jack Nicklaus:  It’s odd to see The Greatest of All Time anywhere but at the top of the list but the 80’s marked the end of Jack’s dominating career.  He still won three majors in the 80’s and the ’86 Masters win is one of the most memorable in history.  Oh yea, and remember who still had a chance to win with Jack in the clubhouse?  Greg Norman.

5.  Vijay Singh:  Vijay’s three majors, 31 Tour wins and ability to win in his forties has put him in the Hall of Fame and made him one of the great players of the modern era.  But his recent deer antler spray fiasco and his past history makes me wonder if there was more than just practice that got him here.

6.  Ernie Els:  The Big Easy travelled the world more than any modern player and still won 19 PGA Tour events including four majors.  Again, Els is another player cursed with Tiger as an opponent.

7.  Tom Watson:  Watson won five of his eight majors after 1980 and from 1980-83 won five majors.  He had 21 PGA wins and 19 second places.  How is that not better than Els?  Watson needs to be higher on this list.

8.  David Duval:  Some may have forgotten what a great player Duval was.  During the late 90’s he threatened Tiger and finally unseated him as number one with his 2001 Open Championship.  But then he disappeared.  How he sits this high on the list is confusing.

9.    Rory McIlroy:  Six PGA wins and two majors gets Rory his spot at number nine and with decades still ahead he has the opportunity to become one of the greats of all time.  He is by far the youngest in the top ten.

10.  Nick Faldo:  Faldo had only nine  PGA Tour wins in his career.  But six of them were major championship: thee Masters and three Open Championships.  Those numbers make you one of the great modern players no matter how pompous and annoying you are.

Check out the full article and ranking here.  It’s bound to start an argument.


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