When we all looked over the 2010 slate of majors a few years back, we figured that if Tiger Woods hadn't caught Jack's total of 18 majors by now, he almost certainly would this year. After all, he's won, and won convincingly, at three of the four major sites of the year.
Of course, a few years ago — even a few months ago — we didn't know what was going on once Tiger left the course, let alone how that might affect his work inside the ropes. We know now — in exhaustive, seemingly never-ending detail — and we can see the dramatic effect that his personal troubles have had on his game.
Sure, Woods made the cut in all three majors, and finished T4 at the Masters and the U.S. Open. But anyone who points to those figures as any way supportive of Tiger is fooling themselves. Tiger's not a T4 player, he's a first-place-by-four-strokes player. Anything less simply won't do.
So now, once again, it's time to ask: Is Woods going to catch Nicklaus?
I still think it's likely. Woods has at least ten years of quality golf left in him, given his conditioning and innate talent. That's 40 majors; he only has to win a bit more than 10 percent of those and he'll have the record.
Certainly, he's facing a talent pool that's not as deep as the one Nicklaus faced, but far wider. Nobody active outside of Phil Mickelson has four majors, and only three guys — Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Padraig Harrington — have three.
Thing is, all it takes is one Louis Oosthuizen — or one Y.E. Yang — to come out of nowhere and play the tournament of his life to derail Woods. The longer Woods goes without a major, the more opportunities these guys have to jump up and steal away the spotlight.
Woods' career isn't over, not by any means. But it's going to become more of a grind than a coronation. And you know what? That might end up being a hell of a lot more interesting to watch.