April 13, 2010
In Tiger Woods' career, he's only had four years without a major title to his credit. The first was in 1998, when he was going through a swing change. The same could be said between 2003 and '04, the worst stretch of majors he's ever had. The only other time was '09, when Tiger had a chance to win the PGA Championship only to fall short to a relative unknown.
So, the question must be posed, even if it means we hold Tiger to a standard in majors that nobody, not even Phil Mickelson, must live up to; is his current "slump" of two majors wins in the last 13 played cause for concern, and is the Jack Nicklaus record still obtainable?
The question seems silly at first. Of course he can still get to 19 majors, right? He had eight in his first six years on tour, and then rallied off five more in a three year stretch. He has 14 majors, four shy of Jack's 18, and five shy of the 19.
For argument's sake, why don't we say he wins one of the next three majors, since two are at favorable courses for Tiger (Pebble Beach and St. Andrews). That puts him at 15 before he turns 35. Now, in Tiger's career, he has won 27 percent of the majors he's played in (Ed. note: That's insane). Now, why don't we say that Tiger has a chance to dominate the majors like he has until he is 40. By math, that means he wins five more majors and is at 20.
The snag there is simple; lately, Tiger hasn't been as healthy or as lucky. He has missed two of his last seven majors, and if the knee ever acts up again, he will miss out on more. Also, it seems lately that when there is a bad side of the tee times, Tiger gets it (See, Turnberry, 2009). So, since we need to factor in him getting older, some younger players doing better in majors, and the fact that he won't be as healthy, we could say he wins four more. That puts him directly at the 19 mark.
What does all this math tell us about Tiger? It means that he can't afford another long layoff from winning majors if he really wants to push Jack's record.
When he first burst on our scene, the record seemed like nothing, another number Woods would easily roll over on his way to being the greatest golfer ever. After his struggles to win at Augusta the last few years and his personal problems, that 18 might still be intact once Tiger leaves the game. Insane to think, but it's very possible.