Fact or Fiction: Tiger Woods Is the Greatest Masters Player, LIV Golfers Need World Ranking Recognition

SI Golf’s writers and editors debate who is the GOAT at Augusta National and the best Scandinavian player right now.

Apr 12, 2024; Augusta, Georgia, USA; Tiger Woods walks to the no. 18 tee during the second round of
Apr 12, 2024; Augusta, Georgia, USA; Tiger Woods walks to the no. 18 tee during the second round of / Adam Cairns, Adam Cairns / USA TODAY

Welcome to another Masters edition of SI Golf’s Fact or Fiction, where we can't imagine what we'd have shot in Friday's winds.

We’re here after every day’s play with a series of statements for writers and editors to declare as “Fact” or “Fiction” along with a brief explanation. Responses may also (occasionally) be “Neutral” since there's a lot of gray area in golf.

Do you agree or disagree? Let us know on the SI Golf X account.

Tiger Woods has now made a record 24 consecutive Masters cuts. The five-time champion is the greatest Masters player of all time. 

Bob Harig: FICTION. While 24 in a row is mighty impressive along with his five victories, he’s still one behind Jack Nicklaus’ six wins. The Golden Bear made 37 cuts overall, the most of any player and ahead of Fred Couples by six. He also played in the tournament 45 times compared to Tiger’s 26 times to date. So Jack still edges out Tiger here.

John Pluym: FICTION. Tiger’s won five Masters, his last at the age of 43. But Jack Nicklaus won six, including one of the greatest comebacks in the final round of the tournament, shooting 65 to win at age 46. Tiger might not be the greatest Masters player, but he’s definitely the greatest grinder in golf history, enduring pain to keep competing at the highest level. 

Jeff Ritter: FICTION. It’s getting closer, but edge Nicklaus for that one extra jacket and winning at an even later age than Tiger.

John Schwarb: NEUTRAL. Yeah, I’m weaseling out on this one. Jack Nicklaus can claim scoreboard, six to five on green jackets, but Tiger’s 1997 win at age 21 was a touchstone moment for golf if not the entire sports world. As Nick Bakay used to say, “Advantage: Push.” 

Eight of 13 LIV golfers made the cut at the Masters, and Bryson DeChambeau shares the lead. There are still two rounds to go but the Saudi-backed league is continuing to show it deserves recognition from the OWGR.

Bob Harig: FACT … but with a disclaimer. The OWGR debate is complicated and the view here is that both sides are to blame for not working it out. But all along, it was clear that LIV Golf has had numerous deserving players who could compete at the highest levels. The Masters signaled it won’t give direct spots to LIV so perhaps it’s time for LIV to go back and resubmit its OWGR in consultation with the organizers to ensure that it meets the standards.

John Pluym: FACT. It’s hard to dismiss the success of LIV golfers in the Masters. Jon Rahm won it last year, and Phil Mickelson finished second. If DeChambeau wins, the OWGR has to figure out a way to award points to LIV players. Yes, the LIV format is questionable but the players are not. It’s time the OWGR, Tour and LIV figure out a way to come together. 

Jeff Ritter:  FACT. There are too many top players on LIV to ignore. It sort of feels like LIV’s Rahm signing swung the balance to the point where if you lined up the top 12 players on each tour for a Ryder Cup-style match, it’d be a 50-50 bet.

John Schwarb: FACT. These arguments are often distilled down to LIV love or hate by fans, which completely misses the point. It’s a World Golf Ranking. Rank the golfers. It can be done and needs to be done for the majors to remain showcases for all the game’s best.

Rory McIlroy will be around for the weekend but at 4 over and 10 shots back a green jacket seems all but impossible. He is destined to join Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Phil Mickelson (among others) as a winner of three Grand Slam legs, not all four.    

Bob Harig: FICTION. I’m going with Tiger on this. Rory is too good not to win a Masters. Perhaps it happens when we least expect it. And perhaps that is the only way it will happen.

John Pluym: FACT. Augusta National doesn’t seem to be a good setup for one of the best players in the world. And at least for now, the Masters seems to bring out the worst in McIlroy in much the same way it brings out the worst in Jordan Spieth. Just too many horrific moments to overcome. 

Jeff Ritter: FACT. Rory has the tools, but time and again his psyche seems irreparably broken at Augusta National. Perhaps he’ll break through later in his career and snag a surprise jacket—there’s no reason to think he won’t be a great player into his 40s—so maybe Harig has the best scenario, where Rory wins when he’s fully off the list of pre-tournament favorites. That’s not happening for a long time, if ever.

John Schwarb: FACT. No matter how he adjusts his pre-Masters mojo–this year he played more leading up and found gratitude in competing–Augusta National has left deep scar tissue that he’ll carry forever. Doesn’t make him less of a player or person, just not a Grand Slam golfer.

Viktor Hovland is the defending FedEx Cup champion but is no longer Scandinavia’s best golfer right now—that’s Ludvig Aberg, who is in seventh place going into the weekend at his first Masters.

Bob Harig: FICTION. It’s too soon for that. Aberg, who is from Sweden is playing great and has proven himself to be an immense talent, already having competed in a Ryder Cup. But this is his first major. He’s yet to play a full year as a pro. We need a little more time on this one.

John Pluym: FICTION. Yes, Hovland is trying to find his swing and he’s not playing very well right now. Aberg sits in seventh place but it’s not time to give up on Hovland, who was an absolute stud in the Ryder Cup. Need to see more from Aberg before I dismiss Hovland. 

Jeff Ritter: FACT. The key to that question is “right now.” Hovland was Scandinavia’s best player last year, but what’s up with him in 2024? Aberg has been by far the better player since last fall’s Ryder Cup.

John Schwarb: FACT. Hovland was spotted on the Augusta National practice tee going through movements that looked like someone searching for a swing, not trying to contend for a major. Then a mental error at 15 late Friday—trying to rake in a short bogey putt and missing—helped send him home, which was not good. But the statement was “right now” and that can change anytime.

John Schwarb


John Schwarb is the senior golf editor for Sports Illustrated whose career has spanned more than 25 years covering sports. He’s been featured on ESPN.com, PGATour.com, The Golfers Journal and Tampa Bay Times. He’s also the author of The Little 500: The Story of the World's Greatest College Weekend. A member of the Golf Writers Association of America, John is based in Indianapolis.