For all the numbers that are tossed around on the golf course, the one that matters, that truly matters, is 19. That's the number of major championships Tiger Woods will have to win to surpass Jack Nicklaus as the all-time majors winner. It is a number that seemed insulting to Tiger when he was pulling in majors by the handful at the turn of the century, but as things have slowed, it seems further and further away.
Tiger is currently sitting at 14, and although some people feel he has no chance of reaching that number, he does, and admitted it on Thursday at the Barclays.
Asked after his post-round news conference if he still believes he will break Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major titles, Woods told ESPNNewYork.com, "Absolutely."
"I look at it this way," Woods said. "[Ben] Hogan won all nine of his [majors] at my age and older. I think for every kid out there, the goal is to get there. That is the benchmark in our sport, and that's still my goal."
I think you can take his point two ways. The first is going to be the crowd that screams about a Hogan comparison, since he won his majors in the '40s and '50s when golf was a totally different beast, but why not use a modern comparison, like Phil Mickelson.
People stand on soapboxes and yell about Tiger's age, and how he is 34 and 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, I'm not saying that. 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.
I'm sure that every major that passes without Tiger winning means Jack steps a little closer to that chilled champagne, similar to the '72 Dolphins when the last undefeated team is about to drop a game, but I still think Woods will get to 19 before it is all said and done.