As I watched a 73 year-old Jack Nicklaus hit clutch shots, and nut in a couple of long distance putts while playing with his son Gary at the PNC Father/Son Challenge on Sunday, I was reminded of what kind of fierce competitor he was on the PGA Tour. Once again, the question came to mind if Tiger Woods can ever catch, and surpass the Golden Bear’s record of 18 major championships. Being the true gentleman that Jack is, he is Tigers biggest fan.
The year was 1986. Jack Nicklaus was a ripe 46 years old when he rolled in the putt at Augusta National that would give him his sixth “Green Jacket”, and the final major of his storied career.
If I am doing the math correctly, Tiger Woods will turn 38 years old before we see the ball drop in times square in a couple of weeks, and that will leave the 14-time major champion only eight more years in which to catch and beat the record.
Now there is nothing saying that Tiger can’t win another major after he turns 46, however, it came as a surprise that Jack was able to win one at 46. But who’s to say Tiger can’t get one at…say age 50. Possible, but not very probable with all of the young guns out there, and more coming every year.
I made the call last year in many blogs, that If Tiger didn’t win at least one in 2013, he would never catch, or surpass the record, and I stand by that call. I don’t think at this point in his career, Tiger Woods has five more majors in his bag.
As the 2013 season got underway, I felt that his best chance was at Merion. He was struggling with the driver, but had the five-wood and his wedge play so dialed in that all he needed to do at the US Open was keep it in the fairway and make some putts. He destroyed the competition at Muirfield, but laid an egg at Merion.
As it turned out, his best chance in 2013 came at The Masters. Tiger came to Augusta on Friday morning, and had everything working. He was hitting fairways, and his iron play was so exacting that he really didn’t need his putter. They were working so well in fact that they produced the debacle at the 15th hole that virtually took him out of contention. Had he went on to win, it would have been tainted anyway.
Tiger Woods, in my estimation, has two opportunities to get that 15th major in 2014. He is always a threat at Augusta to get his 5th Green Jacket. His other opportunity will come at the PGA Championship. Valhalla is a place where he has won before, and a golf course he is familiar with. In 2000 he beat Bob May by one shot to win his second PGA Championship, and completed his career slam.
Five majors in eight years for an aging super-star with a bad knee is a tough nut to crack. I’m not saying it is impossible for Tiger Woods to achieve, but I think it will be tough. The lost years to injury, and his marital indiscretions were devastating to both his career, and his ability to surpass this record.
For many years, I was pulling for Tiger to set this new record. After all, records are set only to be broken. Babe Ruth had his famous 60 home run record beaten, and Tiger getting that 19th major is not out of the question. But as more time passes, and the competition gets tougher, I think this record may become like Joe DiMaggio’s consecutive hit streak, one of those records that will stand the test of time.
After watching Jack play again yesterday, I now hope his record becomes the one that is still standing long after I’m gone.
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