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Can both Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods be described as a genius?

A genius or not a genius....that is the question?

So, in research for this article I googled genius and got a gazillion results. Picking my way through some of the lists of figures regarded as a genius some common household names regularly appeared.....Einstein, Da Vinci, Tesla, Shakespeare, Darwin, Edison, Galileo..... and many others!

All of these men were academics of one sort of another...mathematics, physicists, artists, astronomers, scholars, scientists.... and more recently in genetics and cell biology. 

This recognition list of geneii fail to recognise extraordinary achievements in sport.

Business Genius

Business founders are credited with genius status too.

Smart, financially savvy people such as Larry Page (one half of Google), Warren Buffet (investor/business owner), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Pierre Omidya (eBay), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Elon Musk (PayPal co-founder and lately Tesla & SpaceX), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Richard Branson (Virgin), Jack Ma (Alibaba) but are they really?

Each of these men have created world class businesses. They have the imagination to generate great ideas, to instil a believable vision in their staff, to hire, and then to manage very good people, and be able deal with all the attendant complexities of a growing organisation. Yes genius is the right word to describe these men too.

Sporting Genius

So the question of, 'whether exceptional sports stars should be regarded as genius', is worth asking....if it is, in our sport we have Jack and Tiger.

If a genius describes a person being able to accomplish things other people just cant, then Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are head and shoulders beyond any other golf professional to ever play the game, with no-one else near them in regards to Major Championships victories. 

Jack and Tiger aren't mentioned in any general genius list, neither for that matter, are other sporting icons worthy of the title. 

Muhammed Ali, Mike Tyson (boxing), Cristiano Ronaldo, Pele, Maradona and Lionel Messi (football), Jonah Lomu (rugby union), Donald Bradman (cricket) Michael Jordan (basketball), Roger Federer (tennis), Usain Bolt (sprinting) , Jerry Rice (NFL) and many others of course.

Golfing Genius

Its estimated that there are 60 million golfers in the world, and if we work back through the modern ages for people that stopped and started the game, it could be over 100 million. So over the decades there have been multi, multi millions of men and women who have tried to be good at golf.

Sorry astrophysicists, scientists, artists, mathematicians etc..... the competitive pool wasn't that big!

Also golf, (as well as all other sports) aren't a fresh idea that gains momentum, and can be built upon in the same way that a business can..... or in the way breakthroughs and discoveries have been. A sportsperson outperforming their peers (often for decades) deserves to ascend to genuine sporting greatness. 

In our game of golf, only by direct competition against all comers can a player be regarded as the Greatest Of All Time. You can hardly compare the achievements of people in business, academia, mathematics, science, arts etc (as magnificent as they may have been) in the same way that the relentless white hot atmosphere of sporting competition, separates the very good from the great.


Mark Zuckerberg formed Facebook with the intention of it being something that made college campus social connections easier, he didn't know at the time that the entire (almost) world would love it too. Whereas, sporting achievement is documented, the pinnacle of which is easy to see.

I don't mean to downplay the achievements of great men and women in business, because many have done something incredible, better than anyone else in their individual fields .

The complexities of running a huge successful business are many, but many people also help, its not just the performance of the figurehead. The heavy lifting isn't done by just one individual. So its undoubtedly an incredible skill to continue to build and build.....BUT there are HUGE companies run by super organisation. So that in itself isn't so rare. 


Jack and Tiger have played golf better than anyone else who ever lived, meaning they scored consistently lower more often than any other person who has ever played the game. Golfers have to go out and grab their greatness year after year.

Do you think what Jack and Tiger have done describes Genius?  

Unlike academia, the sciences and business, being good at sport doesn't follow a defined 'follow-able' path....How many golfers across the world, both amateur and professional 'wouldn't' have dreamed at one time or another that they could play like these 2..........? Millions! 

How many dreamed of being the next Einstein......? Nowhere near that many I think.

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