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Technically, Tiger Already Holds The PGA Tour Victory Mark

Updated on January 21, 2015

Tiger Woods hardly seemed like golf's greatest player at the 2014 British Open, where his 72-hole score of 294 (six over par), was a whopping 23 strokes behind the champion, Rory McIlroy.

Woods, making his second appearance since having back surgery in March, was clearly not ready for major championship golf. Nonetheless, his poor showing at the Open, and the fact he hasn't won a major since 2008, do not diminish that he is indeed the sport's finest player of all time.

Critics will be quick to dismiss this claim, and point to Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors. Woods is currently 'stuck', as many golf observers would like to say, at 14. Never mind that only one other person has even reached 14 majors, and that is Nicklaus.

My point is Woods doesn't have to win 19 majors to surpass Jack as the game's greatest. Although 18 majors is golf's holy grail, there are extraordinary circumstances that can even top it.

One of them is the all time victory plateau, where Woods has already surpassed Nicklaus (73 wins) with 79 wins. The PGA Tour's record book will say he is three behind Sam Snead, the all-time leader at 82.

Actually, in my mind, and others who follow golf, Woods already owns that record. But first, let's be clear here that Sam Snead was a marvelous player, and owned a swing every bit as good as what you see today, and he crafted that swing without the benefit of modern day technology.

However, Snead played on a segregated Tour that only allowed white men to play. The PGA Tour's constitution said the game was to be played by members of the Caucasian race only.

Almost anywhere else that would deserve an asterisk. How can you say Snead, or any of the other champions of that era would've beaten Ted Rhodes, golf's greatest black player of the 40s and 50s, and other outstanding black golfers such as Charlie Sifford or Bill Spiller?

There is no doubt Rhodes, Sifford and Spiller could play at that level, and may have taken a title or two from Snead. Maybe even more.

Meanwhile, Woods has played against the best golfers from all over the world. Today's game is international. Adam Scott, the No. 1 player in the world, is from Australia. You can find great players from Fiji, Japan and Korea on today's tour.

Snead played almost entirely against American golfers, and once a year a few from England. To a lessor extent, Nicklaus did the same, with the notable exception of the great Gary Player from South Africa, the winner of nine majors.

Now, in addition to playing segregated courses, there was also shoddy record keeping back during those times. Even some of Snead's victories are in question. It is for that reason that some have Snead's actual PGA Tour win count at 74.

In the end, this is a moot point. Woods will surely eclipse the 82 win mark. He won five times in 2013, and although injuries have slowed him last season, he has flashed enough to show the talent level is still there.

It is important to reiterate this is not a shot at Snead, or any of the players of his era. But if we are really to be honest about their accomplishments _ and let's remember golf is a game of honor and integrity _ it should be mentioned they played a segregated tour.

Not doing so is yet another slight to men like Rhodes, Spiller, Sifford, and more African-American golfers than you might think, who didn't get a fair chance.


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