The media is going beserk over Tiger getting his 50th win at age 30. And it is no doubt a major achievement. But I don’t think that it’s as earth shattering as it appears.
A little historical perspective here: Jack Nicklaus turned pro at age 22 and won his 50th at age 33. Tiger Woods turned pro at age 20 and won his 50th at age 30. Woods thus is only one year ahead of Nicklaus. And I’m not sure that is statistically significant. (Just let me say here that I’m not a Nicklaus fan. He was not my favorite player of that era—any more than Tiger is my favorite player of this era.)
I’ve also heard some comentators say that Tiger’s ten year rush to 50 is a record that will never be matched. Really guys. I’m sure that back in 1973 when Jack won his 50th at the PGA Championship, golf writers were saying that his eleven year rush to 50 would never be matched.
I’d also argue—and I think that golf historials would agree—that Nicklaus faced greater competition: first Palmer and Player, then Trevino and Watson. All four of those are on the short list of all time greats. There were also others who went on major hot streaks during Nicklaus’ reign: Johnny Miller comes to mind.
But where is Tiger’s competition? It’s certainly not coming from from the younger ranks. The guys who have been challenging him are in the latter halves of their careers. When guys like Chris DiMarco (38), Vijay (43), Jim Furyk (36), and Phil Mickelson (36) start feeling the effects of age, Tiger, six to twelve years younger is going to crush whoever remains (unless some of these younger guys start to show up to play).
The $50,000 question is whether the current crop of players appear as lesser talents because of Tiger’s greatness … or iwhether Tiger’s greatness in part due in part to the lesser talents. We won’t know for 50 years. But I’ll bet that aside from Tiger none of the current crop will make the list of top twenty golfers of all time in 2050.