November 23, 2010
It was the only number that meant anything to Tiger Woods since he was a kid. Forget the 100-plus PGA Tour wins. Forget the cut streak. Forget all of it. Tiger's career is measured in majors and majors only. When he won the Masters in 1997, people started to look at Jack Nicklaus' major championship record of 18 and think if Tiger could surpass it.
It seemd for a while that it wasn't even a question, but his recent troubles have caused us to reconsider. So, can Tiger get past his current number of 14 and do it?
Here are some facts we examined back in August when Tiger used Ben Hogan as an example of the age he's at, and how many more he could win before it's all over. Tiger noted that Hogan won all of his majors at the age Tiger's currently at.
You can take that point two ways. The first is to talk about how hard it is to examine a golfer that played in the '40s and '50s, but Phil Mickelson was very much like Hogan.
People talk about Tiger's age, and how he is 34 and is sneaking past his prime. The thing is, Mickelson didn't start winning majors until he was 33, and has claimed four in the last six years. He's 40 now, and still very much a threat to take down a few more before his career is done. Also, Nicklaus won majors up to the age of 46, and we had a 59-year-old Tom Watson nearly sneak out of Turnberry with a British Open a year ago.
Is it likely that in 20 years, Tiger will be competing at majors? No, not really. What I am saying is that yes, it seems that at 34, Tiger can still win five majors before his career comes to a close. We've seen him win majors in bunches before, and while he is in a major slump (his last win was at the '08 U.S. Open), he still finished in the top five twice this season, with a chance at both the Masters and U.S. Open.
Tiger is still a great talent, but it takes a certain ability to win majors. He hasn't showed that lately, and if he went 2011 without another one, it would be really hard to imagine he could cash in on five more before his career really sputtered to a halt.
It's weird that something off the golf course might have actually stopped Tiger at taking down one of the most famous (and unreachable) numbers in sports. If Woods can't beat Jack's record, it seems that nobody will ever be able to.
That is, until the next Tiger really shows up.