Golf Nerd Numbers: Is Scottie The Best Golfer Since Tiger?
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Golf Nerd Numbers: Is Scottie The Best Golfer Since Tiger?

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Golf Nerd Numbers: Is Scottie The Best Golfer Since Tiger?

No matter where you turn in the golf world, it seems like everyone wants to put Scottie Scheffler’s incredible past two years of play into context.

In particular, they want to know how his recent dominance compares to Tiger and other remarkable stretches we’ve witnessed in the past few decades.

Here is a statistical breakdown of how Scheffler’s run compares to other notable performances.

It’s Unfair To Compare Anyone To Tiger

The short summary is that pretty much any comparison to Tiger—outside of Jack Nicklaus—is a futile exercise.

Just consider that through his first 121 PGA Tour starts, Tiger had 29 victories, six majors and 57 top-five finishes. Scheffler, who just made his 121st start, “only” has 10 wins, two majors and 39 top-fives.

Our friends at Data Golf have a ranking (dating back to 1995) of which golfers were “the best at their best”—unsurprisingly, Tiger’s historic run in 2000-2001 is considered No. 1 with a 3.89 index. This indicates how many shots he was beating the field by per round.

Scheffler is currently No. 2 on this list, registering a 2.98 index. That ranks just ahead of Vijay Singh in 2004 (2.96) and David Duval in 1999 (2.88).

Tiger’s dominance at his peak was still miles ahead of where Scheffler is now relative to his competition.

If you ask me, there is no earnest comparison to be made between Scottie and Tiger. It would require Scheffler to continue dominating for at least another five years before we can have that discussion.

Scheffler Is Approaching A Post-Tiger Peak

Is Scheffler the best player in the post-Tiger era?

Yes. And no. He’s on pace to be but needs more majors to fully claim that spot.

I consider this era to be post-2013 when Tiger won five times and was the PGA Tour player of the year. Obviously he was still a factor beyond then but there was a new generation of players that took over as challengers for No. 1 in the world.

As noted earlier, Scheffler’s top gear is well ahead of where Jon Rahm (2.73), Jordan Spieth (2.67), Jason Day (2.62), Rory McIlroy (2.62) or Dustin Johnson (2.49) have been during their best golf.

That counts for a lot given the depth of talent around Scheffler in 2024.

Also, Scheffler’s top-five finish rate (33 percent) is ahead of where Rahm (32 percent), McIlroy (29 percent), Spieth (27 percent), Koepka (23 percent), Johnson (16 percent) and other top players since 2013 have been.

That is a critical indicator for me that Scheffler is in contention more often than his peers over the past decade.

When it comes to wins, Scheffler still has work to do compared to post-Tiger greats. His 10 wins match Spieth’s pace and are better than Rahm (seven) and Koepka (six) but he is behind where McIlroy (13) was through as many starts.

The other obvious deficiency in Scheffler’s resume is that he only has two majors, both of which were Masters titles. Also, all 10 of his wins have come in February, March and April.

McIlroy and Koepka had already reached four major victories through their first 121 starts. Koepka later added a fifth major at the 2023 PGA Championship.

At what point can we definitively say that Scheffler is the best post-Tiger player?

I think he needs to maintain his top-five rate above 30 percent while equaling or bettering Koepka’s major win total. Even in the case of a tie with Koepka on major wins, Scheffler’s greatness outside of the majors is a clear separator to put him ahead of Koepka.

Even if it took Scheffler another decade to reach those heights, it should be enough to definitively say that he is the best player in the post-Tiger era.

The Case For Scheffler To Continue This Run

A lot of players have gone on runs and then fallen off, Why is Scheffler any different?

The answer is two-fold.

It starts with a statistical profile that is downright scary. Scheffler has finished outside the top 25 just once since October 2022, proving his floor is higher than anyone else by a wide margin. His scoring average this season is 68.74, threatening for the all-time record. No PGA Tour player has ever broken 68 for a full season.

What really gets me is that Scheffler is not relying on one part of his game to get this done. He is No. 1 in Strokes Gained tee to green, off the tee and approach. When he misses greens, his chipping and pitching is world-class. He ranks No. 6 in Strokes Gained around the green.

Last season, all four of those metrics were nearly identical. He led the three main ballstriking stats and finished No. 5 in Strokes Gained around the green. He’s sustaining this over two years and change.

His putting is only slightly above the Tour average this season (No. 93), which is about in line with his career baseline. But even decent putting is winning him a lot of tournaments.

This profile is the most encouraging among post-Tiger stars. For example, Spieth’s memorable 2015 season saw him rank only 15th in Strokes Gained off the tee and 11th in approach play. McIlroy was outside the top 10 in three of the five major Strokes Gained categories when he won two majors in 2014.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Scheffler is winning without having performances that are well outside his baseline. He is contending almost every week, even when he’s not playing his best. Statistically, no other player since Tiger has been able to say that.

I think the other answer is more intangible.

Koepka was not motivated by non-majors but Scheffler is racking up Tour titles with ease.

Spieth, Rahm and McIlroy have all suffered from issues in their mental games at various points. We’ve yet to see that from Scheffler.

Day battled injury his whole career. Scheffler has stayed healthy.

What will stop him? It doesn’t seem like it will be boredom. After winning the RBC Heritage, he was asked if it ever gets boring to play outstanding golf.

“Hitting a really well-struck golf shot close to the pin is like an addictive feeling,” Scheffler said.

If he keeps chasing that feeling, it’s tough to imagine anything will stop him.

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Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean is a longtime golf journalist and underachieving 8 handicap who enjoys the game in all forms. If he didn't have an official career writing about golf, Sean would spend most of his free time writing about it anyway. When he isn't playing golf, you can find Sean watching his beloved Florida Panthers hockey team, traveling to a national park or listening to music on his record player. He lives in Nashville with his wife and dog (of course the dog's name is Hogan).

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm





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      Gordo

      3 weeks ago

      Scottie is the rage on a tear, no doubt. There has usually been one …. who makes golf looks easy. Maintaining that sharp edge is a difficult thing to do as “stuff” happens. The 12th at Augusta was one of those that happened for Jordan Spieth. I heard Nancy Lopez once talking about this and what golf became for Jordan after that happened. Subconsciously you’re always going back there to do it right – BECAUSE YOU KNOW YOU CAN. Jordan’s game has never been completely free from it. Tiger catching Jack’s major record is his “thing”. But remember Jack’s 18 wins and 19 runner-ups at majors and tell me if even Scottie can do that? I think the only negativity in Scottie is that he changed putters and found a “magic wand to win consecutively. I always think of the old “arrows and Indians” axiom about equipment changes being the answer. I think tinkering around has it’s subconscious draw backs at this highest level…. depending too much on an object other than ones talent. Scottie’s got talent. Tiger has done it but always goes back to HIS Scottie !!!

      Reply

      HikingMike

      3 weeks ago

      This is a quality analysis!

      Reply

      Tim

      3 weeks ago

      no,,,,,rory is….look at their records and its clear who is the best player since Tiger…..scheffler is having a nice little run but over the long haul its not even close

      Reply

      CB

      3 weeks ago

      I think most people are looking at things from a narrower perspective, such as what he has done this year alone, and it’s not about whether he’ll sustain the torrid pace for years and dominate for a long stretch like Tiger did, but just that his consistency and dominance in the short-term is reminiscent of Tiger. The fact that Tiger maintain such dominance over a long stretch is truly amazing. We’ve seen several golfers go on heaters for a season or a bit longer, but maintaining that edge is nearly impossible.

      As to what might slow Scottie down…..how about that child that’s soon to be born? We will see what happens when he starts wanting to spend even more time with his wife and family and practice starts taking a bit more of a back seat. He seems like a great human who will really be all in on being a father and I suspect some of his edge and dedication to dominance will fade some, bringing him back to the field a bit. That being said, I’d also rather see him be an attendant husband and father and win less than so focused on the golf such that his relationships suffer at all. Priorities.

      Reply

      peter

      3 weeks ago

      he has to win more 3 majors to even be in the conversation. Remember when Spieth was the next tiger? Remember when McIlroy was the next Tiger, etc, etc. Great run for sure, but how many times has this happened in the last 20 years? At least 5? some dude goes on a sick run and media loses it. Scheffler great but its he has another ten years to go lol. Golf is hard, things change, we’ll see.

      Reply

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