Ten players whose Major showings most impacted the all-time ranking of golf greats
Which players enhanced their status among the game’s all-time greats in 2020? Which ones sabotaged their reputations?
The simplest way to answer that question is to look at the 10 highest-ranking active players on the all-time rank for career performance.
The all-time rank is based on the accumulated standard deviation of every player’s performance in the four (or in the case of 2020, three) Major events. The standard deviation of a player’s performance is the ideal measuring tool because it normalizes for all the natural changes over time – in equipment, courses, weather, training – that would otherwise befuddle cross-era comparisons.
Because golf is a sport where a player improves as his score reduces, negative standard deviations are better than positive ones. A player’s cumulative standard deviation is simply the sum of the standard deviations of all his Major performances between his turning pro and his 50th birthday.
You can think of that score as his career dominance rating, a measurement of his superiority relative to his contemporaries.
For purposes of reference, the top five in career dominance entering 2020 were:
1 Jack Nicklaus, -108.71
2 Sam Snead, -82.23
3 Walter Hagen, -76.19
4 Tiger Woods, -61.90
5 Gene Sarazen, -57.57
The 10 current players are listed in the order of their position in the all-time ranking as of the end of the 2020 Major season. Two names you — perhaps surprisingly – will not see on this list are Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau. Mickelson turned 50 in June, freezing his all-time ranking at its mark as of the end of the 2019 season. At -13.93, he is 44th.
With his victory at the U.S. Open, DeChambeau improved his career score to +13.56. But for the moment, anyway, he is only 11th among current players on the all-time ranking.
Here is how their 2020 Major performances affected the status of the 10 best actives on the all-time ranking.