Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Shane Bacon and national columnist Jay Busbee take a day's topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by hitting us on Twitter at@shanebacon and @jaybusbee. Today we talk Tiger Woods' 2013 season and if it was one he will look back on positively or negatively.
Bacon: The 2013 major season is done, and while a lot of big names were able to snag one of the four trophies, Tiger Woods was not. He said in his pre-PGA Championship press conference that this season is a success considering he has five PGA Tour wins, but is it? Is winning five events, more than twice as many as anyone else on tour, but no majors a good season for Tiger or a bad one?
Busbee: Were it anybody else, we'd be talking about one of the great regular seasons of recent years. But since it's Tiger, regular seasons matter about as much as preseason NFL football. This is the standard he's set, and we've bought into it: majors or nothing. It's a shame, because he's closing in on the alltime record for PGA Tour wins, but I think he'd trade all five this year for one PGA Championship, don't you?
Bacon: I think Tiger can say all he wants about having a good season, but I agree with you, he'd take every AT&T National win and every WGC event for a major at this point.
Now comes the fun part -- how many majors do you think Tiger wins before he's done? I know this is a question that is batted around quite a bit, but honestly, the guy has gone over five years without winning a major and anytime he's in contention now it seems the gas pedal goes missing.
Busbee: You can't set yourself up any better than he has this week, can you? Short of, like, standing on the 18th green with a five-shot lead on Sunday. He's come into tournaments feeling fit off of wins, he's come into weekends and even Sundays right near the top of the leaderboard, and yet it always seems to fall apart at the end. So he's not going to do it the easy way.
Here's my guess: 17. Why? Because I think 15 is going to be much harder to get than 16 or 17, but 18 is going to be damn near impossible. Figure at age 38 (next year) he's got another seven or eight years left, give or take (less at the US Open, more at Augusta), and you're looking at 30 or so majors. Surely he can snag a couple of those. Your thoughts?
Bacon: Yep, I totally agree. I actually think his best shot over the next decade is to win two or three British Open, because he doesn't have to be perfect there to win and it's the golf tournament that has been the kindest of late to the older guys.
Tiger will get at least two more shots at St. Andrews, which is always a good bet for him picking up a major, and while he didn't win there last time, he has dominated the course in the past.
I think 17 is a good number, but I'll go one fewer. I think, like you said, 15 is going to be really, really tough as we've seen the last five seasons, and when he gets that one, the pressure will be lifted, but it isn't ever going to be as easy for Tiger to win majors as it was in the past. Even at 15, he will still have to have a near-perfect week to get to No. 16, and then of course anymore.
Say he ends at 16 majors, with all those PGA Tour wins and the way he dominated an entire generation of talented golfers, not to mention the way he changed the game - is he still forever going to sit behind Nicklaus as the best ever?
Busbee: To me, I think he's already 1A, and if he's able to hit 16 or so, he moves to No. 1. You could make whatever argument you want, but here's mine: Nicklaus didn't have to contend with a field as vast as Tiger. Any given tournament, there are 50 guys who could step up and win, and another 20 who could have the round of their lives. Nicklaus had a much smaller pool of foes.
Plus, regardless of the fact that many of Woods' wounds were self-inflicted--the guy has come back to reclaim the No. 1 spot. We seem to forget that in the heat of the "why isn't he winning majors?" drama. But that was one hell of a comeback he's slowly put together over the last 18 months.
So, while some will be able to always point to the math should Woods fall short, the reality is, it's all right there for him to take, even still. And that's something that we wouldn't have believed a few years ago.
Bacon: I agree with a lot of your points on Nicklaus, but the bottom line is the guy has 18 major wins, the most of anybody, and considering what we just talked about with Tiger, majors are how we measure the serious successes of the best in the world.
Plus, Jack will always have 1986. Nothing will trump '86.