The sun hadn’t even gone down on that Sunday last month when Tiger Woods won the Masters, his 15th major, when certain golf writers (spoiler: it was me) began speculating whether Woods could match Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors after all.
For most of the decade, 18 majors looked like an unreachable mark. Woods, once on track to catch Nicklaus by 2011, jumped the rails through a combination of scandal, injury and bad decisions. Until last month, Woods seemed destined to end his career “stuck” on a “mere” 14 majors.
Now, though, everything’s back on the table. Nicklaus laughed that he was “shaking in [his] boots” immediately after the Woods victory, and now, a month later, he’s got plenty of thoughts.
“He has another 10 years of major championships,” Nicklaus said Tuesday in advance of his Memorial tournament. “Another 40 major championships in front of him that he'll be playing. And people say, ‘Well, he'll never win another one.’ Still, you've heard me say this in the pressroom. Don't count him out. He won major championships hitting it all over the world off the tee.”
Nicklaus said he didn’t ever subscribe to the idea that Woods was finished. “I didn't think that it made that much difference what had happened to him; once he sorted himself out mentally, once he believed that he could play again, he would win.”
As for the record? Well, Nicklaus said what we’d all believe: “From my standpoint, nobody wants their records broken. I don't want him to break my records, but I don't want him not to be able to play and not be physically sound to play. I mean, if he's physically sound and it's his desire to win and he breaks it, you know, well done. That's what it should be. That's what sports is all about.”
Nicklaus’s Memorial is one of the Tour’s most revered non-major stops, and this year, Woods will be using it as a tune-up to next month’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Nicklaus indicated that he didn’t believe Woods missing the cut would have any significance going forward.
“I thought he might play really well at Bethpage, although coming off a win as emotional as the Masters was for him, I think it's understandable that [missing the cut] would happen,” he said. “I don't think he's going to let that happen again. I think that was a wake-up call again for him. And I expect him to play very well this week. And I think he always plays well here. I think he'll play really well here, and I think he'll play well at Pebble.”
Woods and Nicklaus crossed paths Wednesday morning at the Memorial’s Pro-Am:
There were a few photo ops at the turn, but then the two of them spent a good 5 minutes just talking shop. Cool scene. pic.twitter.com/rfpLJhN9O1
— Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) May 29, 2019
Woods tees off Thursday at the Memorial, an event he’s won five times. He’ll hit the course at 8:26 a.m. ET, paired with Justin Rose and Bryson DeChambeau.
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