AUGUSTA, Ga. — Nice work getting to 15 majors, Tiger. Now … how about 18?
When Tiger Woods won the Masters on Sunday, he didn’t just put an exclamation point on one of the great comebacks in sports history. He reopened the chase for golf’s ultimate achievement: Jack Nicklaus’s 18 major victories.
Over the past three majors, Woods has recorded a T6 finish at the Open Championship, including a brief stint in the lead; a solo second finish at the PGA Championship; and now a victory at the Masters. That’s not a sign of a guy who had a couple of lucky breaks in a single tournament. Those are the numbers of a guy who’s playing golf at the highest levels.
“I can win majors now,” Woods said after his round. “My last three major championships have been pretty good, so that in itself gives me a lot of confidence going down the road.”
“I think 18’s a whole lot closer than people think,” a shellshocked Brooks Koepka said, still shaking his head at what he just saw in his second-place finish at the Masters.
Let’s run the numbers. Woods spent most of his early career ahead of Nicklaus’s pace, and the two were tied at 14 from age 35 to 37. But Nicklaus would go on to win four more after age 37, while Woods foundered and flailed. Nicklaus, of course, won his final major in 1986, also at Augusta. But Woods is in better shape than Nicklaus was at the same age, despite all the surgeries, and suddenly 19 majors doesn’t seem like such an absurd goal.
Difficult, yes. Unlikely, yes. But impossible? Come on. After what you just saw, who’s doubting Woods?
Certainly not Nicklaus himself. In the Bahamas on a fishing trip — he’d stopped by Augusta earlier to play in the Par 3 contest and hit the ceremonial first shot — Nicklaus called into the Golf Channel to comment on Tiger’s win.
“He’s got me shaking in my boots, guys,” Nicklaus said. And while that may not be precisely true, it’s a sharp contrast to what everyone — Woods included — thought just two years ago.
“I had serious doubts after what transpired [medically] a couple years ago,” Woods said. “I could barely walk. I couldn't sit. Couldn't lay down. I really couldn't do much of anything. Luckily I had the procedure on my back, which gave me a chance at having a normal life. But then all of a sudden, I realized I could actually swing a golf club again.”
And two years later, here we are, another major in the books, another step closer, though Tiger isn’t ready just yet to pursue the Jack Question.
“I’ll probably think of that down the road,” he said. “But right now, it’s too soon. I’m just thinking about No. 15.”
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