Best career record vs par

I read a USA Today article that talked about how Tiger Woods is nearly 2000 under par* for his career. I’ve tried searching, but how does this compare to others all-time?

1 Answer

In regards to the score versus par number referenced, it’s difficult to ascertain a specific answer about how it compares against other greats. However, I think we can safely say that Tiger’s number is the lowest in history for the following reasons.

Yearly Scoring Average

Looking at the list of Vardon Trophy winners shows a list of the lowest scoring average for golfers each year as far back when Jimmy Demaret averaged 69.90 for the year in 1947. Viewing these numbers, Tiger Woods won this award and subsequently held the lowest scoring average 9 times (1999 – 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2013) with an average over those 9 years of 68.39. Only 14 other golfers won the award more than once. Additionally, no other golfer on the list even scored as low as the AVERAGE of Tiger’s 9 years in a single year. Before 1988, there were only 10 years in which the lowest yearly scoring average was lower than 70.

This strongly suggests that no one in history has come close to touching Tiger’s historic low scoring records.

Scoring In Majors (versus Jack)

The widely-regarded top 2 golfers in history are, of course, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. Jack is the most likely to have a chance to match Tiger in this career score versus par considering his long-term success in majors and the PGA Tour in general. This link from 2014 sought to compare Jack and Tiger over their first 14 major tournament wins. The stats near the bottom of the page tell the tale quite well.

Scoring Average: Jack 71.41, Tiger 70.82

Score Versus Par: Jack +78, Tiger -109

Even in a small sample of 14 wins each, Tiger outscores probably the second best in history by 187 strokes — or an average of more than 13 strokes better per major. It’s hard to imagine a scenario that Jack finished with a better career scoring total versus par considering these numbers.

Prior to 1947, stats are somewhat harder to come by, but a quick look at some of the greats from that era show that scores were much higher during those times. Additionally, match play was much more common in the majors during those times so an accurate number would be impossible to measure. However, Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones are the best regarded golfers of that era and looking at even a few of their winning scores shows that they were nowhere near the level of low scoring seen in today’s Tour.

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