Did Tiger Woods beat a bunch of nobodies to win his 14 majors?
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Did Tiger Woods beat a bunch of nobodies to win his 14 majors?


Legendary writer Dan Jenkins said this week that Tiger Woods "beat a bunch of nobodies" in winning his 14 (to date) major championships.

"Incidentally, there’s much more talent at the top (and the bottom) (today) than there was during Tiger’s peak years," Jenkins said to the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. "Tiger beat a lot of nobodies to win most of his majors. Yeah, there was Phil [Mickelson] and [Ernie] Els around, in and out, but go back and look who was second to him in those majors and tell me where they are now."

Woods did beat several nobodies and never-was-es, including Bob May, Chris DiMarco and Woody Austin, who all finished second to him in majors. The runners-up in majors probably shouldn't be the rubric by which the value of any major winner's competition should be decided, but let's carry out a thought experiment to its logical end.

Woods has won 14 majors, and here are the players who finished second to him and how many majors they have won in their careers:

Tom Kite (1997 Masters) - 1 major
Sergio Garcia (1999 PGA Championship) - 0 majors
Ernie Els (2000 U.S. Open, 2000 Open Championship) - 4 majors
Miguel Angel Jimenez (2000 U.S. Open) - 0 majors
Thomas Bjorn (2000 Open Championship) - 0 majors
David Duval (2001 Masters) - 1 major
Retief Goosen (2002 Masters) - 2 majors
Phil Mickelson (2002 U.S. Open) - 5 majors
Chris DiMarco (2005 Masters, 2006 Open Championship) - 0 majors
Colin Montgomerie (2005 Open Championship) - 0 majors
Shaun Micheel (2006 PGA Championship) - 1 major
Woody Austin (2007 PGA Championship) - 0 majors
Rocco Mediate (2008 U.S. Open) - 0 majors

GRAND TOTAL: 16 majors, counting Els' four majors twice; 12 majors for all runners-up combined, or 0.92 majors each

Now, we're going to look back to look forward. Let's look at Jack Nicklaus' 18 majors and the runners-up in those:

Arnold Palmer (1962 U.S. Open, 1965 Masters, 1967 U.S. Open) - 7 majors
Tony Lema (1963 Masters) - 1 major
Dave Ragan (1963 PGA Championship) - 0 majors
Gary Player (1965 Masters) - 9 majors
Gay Brewer (1966 Masters) - 1 major
Tommy Jacobs (1966 Masters) - 0 majors
Doug Sanders (1966 Open Championship, 1970 Open Championship) - 0 majors
Dave Thomas (1966 Open Championship) - 0 majors
Billy Casper (1971 PGA Championship) - 3 majors
Bruce Crampton (1972 Masters, 1972 U.S. Open, 1973 PGA Championship, 1975 PGA Championship) - 0 majors
Bobby Mitchell (1972 Masters) - 0 majors
Tom Weiskopf (1972 Masters, 1975 Masters) - 0 majors
Johnny Miller (1975 Masters) - 2 majors
Ben Crenshaw (1978 Open Championship) - 2 majors
Raymond Floyd (1978 Open Championship) - 4 majors
Tom Kite (1978 Open Championship, 1986 Masters) - 1 majors
Simon Owen (1978 Open Championship) - 0 majors
Isao Aoki (1980 U.S. Open) - 0 majors
Andy Bean (1980 PGA Championship) - 0 majors
Greg Norman (1986 Masters) - 2 majors

GRAND TOTAL: 47 majors, including the 21 from counting Palmer's seven majors three times; 32 majors for all runners-up combined, or 1.6 majors each

Now, let's look at the last 16 major championships and look at the runners-up:

Phil Mickelson (2015 Masters, 2013 U.S. Open, 2011 Open Championship) - 5 majors
Justin Rose (2015 Masters) - 1 major
Jordan Spieth (2014 Masters) - 1 major
Jonas Blixt (2014 Masters) - 0 majors
Angel Cabrera (2013 Masters) - 2 majors
Louis Oosthuizen (2012 Masters) - 1 major
Erik Compton (2014 U.S. Open) - 0 majors
Rickie Fowler (2014 U.S. Open, 2014 Open Championship) - 0 majors
Jason Day (2013 U.S. Open, 2011 U.S. Open) - 0 majors
Graeme McDowell (2012 U.S. Open) - 1 major
Michael Thompson (2012 U.S. Open) - 0 majors
Sergio Garcia (2014 Open Championship) - 0 majors
Henrik Stenson (2013 Open Championship) - 0 majors
Adam Scott (2012 Open Championship) - 1 major
Dustin Johnson (2011 Open Championship) - 0 majors

GRAND TOTAL: 22 majors, counting Phil Mickelson's five three times; 12 majors for all combined runners-up, or 0.8 majors per runner-up

Obviously, modern runners-up in majors can still potentially win more majors. Then again, Woods could beat Mickelson in a major or two. The bottom line here is that the all-time greats are just as likely to beat nobodies and guys with major pedigrees and that the average runner-up finisher in a major typically doesn't have a major title.


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