Great Debate: Jack Nicklaus still the best

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

Jack Nicklaus remains the greatest golfer to ever swing a club, and he will keep that distinction until his record of 18 major championships is surpassed.

With 13 major titles, Tiger Woods is gaining. Many people believe that it’s inevitable: Tiger will reach Jack’s mark and leave it in the dust.

At this point, that is nothing more than speculation.

Coronate Tiger when he eclipses Jack’s record — and not a moment sooner.

Nicklaus’ feat is one for the ages. Not only did he win 18 majors, but he took second another 19 times.

Nicklaus’ remarkable run took place during an era of fierce competition. Throughout his career, he faced players who had built up extraordinary rsums of their own.

Early in his career, Nicklaus faced the likes of Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, who combined for 18 major victories.

Later on, Nicklaus played against Tom Watson, Lee Trevino and Johnny Miller, who together won another 16 majors.

Time after time, Nicklaus and one of the aforementioned legends would go head-to-head in a 72-hole battle royale.

Paired for the final two days of a tournament, Nicklaus and his contemporaries would duke it out. By Sunday afternoon, one player would emerge victorious. Sometimes it would be Nicklaus, sometimes not.

Either way, major championships were often exactly what they should be: two Hall of Famers mentally wrestling for golf’s ultimate prize.

Tiger’s main rivalry is more media-made than actual. The golf world would love to see Phil Mickelson step up to the challenge of putting pressure on Tiger, but he simply hasn’t done that.

No one has.

Some folks believe it’s because Tiger is so dominant. But where are the other top players when Tiger isn’t playing well? Why haven’t Tiger’s opponents won multiple majors in his absence?

Simply put, the competition ain’t what it used to be.

Nicklaus’ 18 major victories during the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s are the supreme achievement in professional golf.

While Tiger is undoubtedly the top player in the game today, he is still chasing Nicklaus.

Tiger is unlike any other golfer. Next to his peers, he looks like he could play linebacker for the Denver Broncos. While his opponents wear baggy golf shirts over their ample midsections, Tiger sports skin-tight muscle shirts that show the contours of his pecs and abs. His fitness level is unprecedented in a sport in which chubby men have been called champions. By simply being in shape, Tiger has likely increased his longevity. If Tiger continues to bag one major a year, he’ll pass Nicklaus by 2013.

But the torch cannot be passed until that day.

The game of golf has changed significantly since the days when Nicklaus stared down his competition. The money was a sliver of what it is today, and over the past few decades equipment has advanced to the point where players are driving the ball 400 yards.

Good old-fashioned wooden drivers are being forgotten as relics from a bygone era.

“Out with the old, in with the new” is a fine philosophy for equipment, but not for the greatest golfer of all time.

When it comes to golf royalty, Tiger is the crown prince. But Nicklaus is still king.

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