Looking at Tiger and Jack in their primes

Originally Published: April 2, 2007
ESPN.com/GolfDigest.com

Jack Nicklaus had Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson. Tiger Woods has Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Vijay Singh and Ernie Els.

Each man has had his share of tough competition, but how do the two stack up against each other? We asked the experts in this week's edition of Fact or Fiction.

Tiger Woods
Woods

Nicklaus had tougher competition in his prime than Woods has today.

Bob Harig, contributor, ESPN.com: FICTION. Not overall. Jack would probably be the first to admit that he did not have to take on players from all corners of the globe, some who seemingly come out of nowhere.

Jason Sobel, golf editor, ESPN.com: FACT. And FICTION. Let me explain: Jack had more rivals and tougher competition among the top five or 10 in the world, but Tiger deals with much deeper fields in each event he plays.

John Antonini, senior editor, Golf World: FICTION. Nicklaus probably had a few more topflight American rivals than Woods has now, but the quality of players from around the world is much greater now than it was in Jack's day.

Tiger Woods
Woods

Nicklaus had more rivals in his prime than Woods has today.

Harig: FACT. This is where Nicklaus had it more difficult. He had to compete against a slew of players -- namely Watson and Trevino -- who played in his era and won majors at his expense. Throw in Palmer, Raymond Floyd and Player -- and you have multiple major winners who prospered during the Nicklaus era.

Sobel: FACT. Of course, Woods isn't exactly ready to hang up his spikes just yet, either. Let's give it time and see whether some of the young guns can give Woods a run for his money -- at least on a few occasions -- in future majors.

Antonini: FACT. If only because Woods hasn't played as long as Nicklaus did. Over the first part of his career, Nicklaus counted Palmer, Player and Billy Casper as rivals. Later on, he had Trevino, Johnny Miller and Watson. Tiger's main rivals last months, not years. Anyone seen David Duval lately?

Tiger Woods
Woods

Today's fields are deeper than those of Jack Nicklaus' prime.

Harig: FACT. There are far more players who are capable of winning today, and they come to the tour with far more experience. They might not win as often as we would like, but there are so many more players with the capability of jumping up on any given week and being in contention.

Sobel: FACT. Hence the major championship trophies on the shelves of guys like Todd Hamilton, Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel.

Antonini: FACT. That's because of the strong international presence. The 1972 Masters, Jack's fourth green jacket, had fewer than 20 foreign-born players in the field. When Woods won his fourth in 2005, more than 20 made the cut.

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