Head To Head Is Tiger Woods the greatest player ever? Only the accomplishments of one man, Jack Nicklaus, stand between Woods and the title of a lifetime

July 14, 2002

Maybe Tiger Woods really is without peer. Maybe no one on the
PGA Tour or anywhere else has the titanium guts and the
bulletproof swing to challenge him as he merrily harvests major
championships. David Duval and Ernie Els aren't as consistently
competitive as they are alliterative. (Duval hasn't made a peep
since winning the British Open last year, while Els's strong
start in 2002 has become but a distant memory after his lost
weekends at Augusta and Bethpage.) Phil Mickelson? He's a great
pick to win the BMW Grand Slam--behind Mr. Woods. Ed Fiori,
Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjorn, a fearsome triumvirate if there
ever was one, have all beaten Woods when he's been leading or
tied for the lead going into Sunday. Trouble is, Fiori is all
but retired, and Clarke and Bjorn haven't shown even an inkling
that they can beat Woods again. So who's left? Charles Howell
can't putt, David Gossett is as menacing as the paperboy and
Bryce Molder doesn't even have his PGA Tour card yet. That said,
there is one golfer who still commands Tiger's respect, or at
least makes him stop and think before he dispatches the usual
nolo contenders. That golfer is Jack Nicklaus, the same player
whose accomplishments Woods once posted on his bedroom wall with
designs on bettering them all. How's he coming along on that
front? See for yourself.

JACK VS. TIGER

For the longest time Jack Nicklaus's record for most major
titles seemed out of reach, but Tiger Woods, who will be halfway
home with a win next week, is on pace to shatter the mark in
less than a decade

[Nicklaus]

'62
Age: 22

(1) U.S. OPEN
JUNE Wearing his lucky iridescent olive slacks for the final 54
holes at Oakmont, Fat Jack, 22, beats local legend Arnold Palmer
71-74 in a playoff to become the youngest U.S. Open winner since
Bobby Jones (21) in 1923. The victory is Nicklaus's first as a
pro, forever giving him a leg up on Tiger.

'63
Age: 23

(2) MASTERS
APRIL High winds and rain lead to the third-highest winning
score in Masters history, a two-under 286 by Nicklaus, who edges
a hard-charging Tony Lema by a stroke. At 23 Nicklaus becomes
the youngest Masters champion.

['63
Age: 23]

(3) PGA
AUGUST Blast-furnace heat (temperatures reached 110[degrees])
melts Bruce Crampton at Dallas Athletic Club as he loses a
three-stroke lead in the final round. Nicklaus joins Ben Hogan,
Byron Nelson and Gene Sarazen as the only men to win the
Masters, the U.S. Open and the PGA.

'65
Age: 25

(4) MASTERS

APRIL Playing Augusta's par-3s better than anyone
else--birdieing the 4th and 12th on Sunday--Nicklaus wins his
second Masters, this time by nine strokes. Nicklaus's margin of
victory is the biggest to date, and his 72-hole 271 beats
Hogan's tournament record by three shots.

'66
Age: 26

(5) MASTERS
APRIL At the end of a week during which 17 players held or
shared the lead, Nicklaus becomes the first Masters champ to
successfully defend his title, prompting Bobby Jones to quip at
the victory ceremony, "Cliff [Roberts] and I have discussed the
situation. We have decided you will just have to put the green
jacket on yourself."

(6) BRITISH OPEN
JULY After reaching Muirfield's 528-yard par-5 17th hole with a
three-iron and a five-iron, Nicklaus two-putts for birdie, then
wins by a stroke over Doug Sanders and David Thomas. After a
third in '63, a second in '64 and a 12th in '65, Nicklaus
confesses that the British was the one major he wasn't sure he'd
ever win.

'67
Age: 27

(7) U.S. OPEN
JUNE Nicklaus shakes his putting woes by borrowing a
center-shafted putter he nicknames White Fang. He hits a
memorable one-iron onto the 72nd green at Baltusrol, then makes
the 22-foot birdie putt for a final-round 65 to break Hogan's
72-hole U.S. Open scoring record with a five-under 275.

'70
Age: 30

(8) BRITISH OPEN
JULY Twenty pounds lighter after a rigorous diet, Nicklaus ends
a victory drought in the majors thanks to Doug Sanders, who
foozles a three-foot, downhill putt on the 72nd hole to force a
playoff at the Old Course.

'71
Age: 31

(9) PGA
FEBRUARY Due to a quirky scheduling requirement at the host
course, PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., the PGA is
played six months ahead of schedule but with a familiar result:
The Golden Bear leads wire-to-wire to become the first to win
each major twice.

'72
Age: 32

(10) MASTERS
APRIL Brimming with confidence after past successes at courses
that will host the majors this year--Augusta, Pebble Beach,
Muirfield and Oakland Hills--Nicklaus is thinking Grand Slam. He
shoots a 286 to become (after Palmer) only the second four-time
Masters winner.

(11) U.S. OPEN
JUNE Two down, two to go, as Nicklaus shoots a final-round 74 to
win, and the hype intensifies. Nicklaus repeats his standard
Slam refrain: "It's improbable, but not impossible."

GRAND SLAM ALERT: JULY 1972
Nicklaus shoots a 66 on the final day of the British Open, but
it's not enough as Lee Trevino edges him by a stroke. Nicklaus
jokingly suggests that Trevino go back to Mexico, but privately
he's crushed. From Jack Nicklaus: My Story: "The frustration and
disappointment were more intense than I care to remember even
now, a quarter century later."

'73
Age: 33

(12) PGA
AUGUST Including Nicklaus's two U.S. Amateur titles, this major
breaks Bobby Jones's 43-year-old record of 13 (six amateur)
wins. Jones retired when he was 28.

'75
Age: 35

(13) MASTERS
APRIL In one of the most thrilling final-round duels in Masters
history, Nicklaus outlasts Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf to
become the first five-time winner at Augusta. "I've never had
more fun in my life," Nicklaus says.

GRAND SLAM ALERT: JUNE-JULY 1975
Nicklaus bogeys the final three holes at the U.S. Open to miss a
playoff by two strokes. At the British he misses a playoff by
one after failing on an eight-footer for par on the 16th hole.
"It could be argued," he writes later, "that I had lost the
Grand Slam by a total of three strokes."

(14) PGA
AUGUST Three back of Bruce Crampton after 36, Nicklaus blows by
with a 67, to Crampton's 75, in the third round at Firestone.
The round features what Nicklaus describes as "the riskiest shot
of my career"--a nine-iron on the 16th hole that clears a
treetop by inches and a pond in front of the green by only a few
paces.

'78
Age: 38

(15) BRITISH OPEN
JULY On the way to being named SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's Sportsman
of the Year, Nicklaus beats Ben Crenshaw, Raymond Floyd, Tom
Kite and Simon Owen by two strokes to win at St. Andrews. Woods
will be the only athlete to be named Sportsman twice.

'80
Age: 40

(16) U.S. OPEN
JUNE Nicklaus ties Miller's 18-hole U.S. Open scoring record
with an opening 63 at Baltusrol and, along with tenacious
pursuer Isao Aoki, breaks the 72-hole record with a 272 (to
Aoki's 274).

(17) PGA
AUGUST With his seven-stroke win over Andy Bean--the biggest
margin of victory since the PGA switched to stroke play in
'58--Nicklaus ties Walter Hagen for the most PGA titles, with
five.

'86
Age: 46

(18) MASTERS
APRIL Nicklaus makes five birdies on the back nine on Sunday,
but his most memorable putt is a 12-footer for eagle at 15. He
embraces Jackie, his oldest son and caddie, after winning his
sixth Masters--one of his fondest memories on or off the course.

[Woods]

'97
Age: 21

MASTERS (1)

APRIL Drowning in his oversized, fire-engine-red sweater during
the final, a skinny, 21-year-old Tiger decimates the field at
the Masters--his 12-stroke margin of victory is the fifth
largest in Tour history--and, with rounds of 70-66-65-69, nukes
the 72-hole scoring record at Augusta as well. Woods is the
event's youngest champion and is younger than Nicklaus was when
he won his first major.

'99
Age: 23

PGA (2)

AUGUST Woods becomes the youngest player since Seve Ballesteros
to win two majors by holding off a high-flying Sergio Garcia at
the PGA at Medinah.

GRAND SLAM ALERT: APRIL 2000
Woods, who will go on to win the year's remaining majors, gets
off to a horrible start at the Masters, making double bogey on
the 10th hole and a triple on the 12th. Despite opening 75-72,
he finishes fifth.

'00
Age: 24

U.S. OPEN (3)
JUNE Woods wins the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by a
major-championship-record 15 strokes (Ernie Els is a distant
second), beating the previous record of 13 set by Old Tom Morris
at the 1862 British Open. Woods's 72-hole total of 272 ties the
U.S. Open mark shared by Nicklaus and Lee Janzen, but his
12-under score is the best ever in relation to par.

['00
Age: 24]

BRITISH OPEN (4)
JULY Woods wins the British Open by eight strokes, joining
Nicklaus, Hogan, Sarazen and Gary Player as the only holders of
the career Grand Slam. At 24 Woods is the youngest to win all
four majors.

['00
Age: 24]

PGA (5)
AUGUST Holding off a tenacious Bob May in a playoff to win the
PGA at Valhalla, Woods becomes the first man since Hogan in '53
to win three majors in a season. Like Jack after his epic
victory in the '75 Masters, Woods is energized by the hair-
raising finish, saying, "Birdie for birdie, shot for shot,
that's as good as it gets."

'01
Age: 25

MASTERS (6)
APRIL With a win at the Masters, Woods completes the so-called
Tiger Slam and becomes the first player to hold all four major
titles at the same time.

'02
Age: 26

MASTERS (7)
APRIL Woods successfully defends his title at Augusta, winning
there for the third time. Only Nicklaus won his third green
jacket at a younger age--by 24 days. In another category Woods
jumps ahead of Nicklaus, who didn't win his seventh major until
he was a year older, at 27.

['02
Age: 26]

U.S. OPEN (8)
JUNE Winning the U.S. Open by three strokes over Phil Mickelson,
Woods extends his separation from Nicklaus, who was 30 when he
got No. 8. At his current pace (eight wins in his first 22
majors as a pro), Woods will surpass Nicklaus's record of 18
major titles at the 2011 Masters or U.S. Open, when Tiger is 35.

TALE OF THE TAPE: JACK VS. TIGER AT 26

JACK TIGER EDGE

First Pro Win U.S. Open Las Vegas
Invitational JACK

Tour Wins 20 32 TIGER

Major Wins Six Eight TIGER

Sidekick Barbara Stevie JACK

Weakness Smoking Smokin'
cigarettes blondes TIGER

Fitness Regimen Fork lifting Weightlifting TIGER

Sartorial Regret Porkpie hat Overpriced '98 PUSH
at '65 Masters apparel line

Charismatic Foil Arnold Palmer Phil Mickelson JACK

Youthful Hairdo Blond buzz cut Blond buzz cut PUSH

Home Course Scioto Isleworth JACK

Biggest
Disappointment '72 British Failing to close the
Open deal with Tyra Banks JACK

Biggest Scandal Played Pine Stiffed President Clinton,
Valley on honeymoon Rachel Robinson TIGER

Butt-kissing
Mythologizer Jim McKay Stuart Scott JACK

Tour Earnings $527,365 $30 million TIGER

Endorsements Hart Schaffner American Express, Asahi,
& Marx, Buick, EA Sports,
MacGregor Famous Photography,
NetJets, Nike, TLC Laser
Eye Centers, Upper Deck,
Wheaties TIGER

Net Worth $1.5 million $69 million TIGER

Favorite Club One-iron Mandalay Bay JACK

Instructor Jack Grout Butch Harmon PUSH

Dad's
Contribution Encouraged Jack Published Training a
to play all sports Tiger JACK

TWO COLOR ILLUSTRATIONS: ILLUSTRATIONS BY ANITA KUNZ
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)