Woods Has Work to Do in Majors, but He's Far Ahead in Wins
Through last month's Masters, the 37-year-old Tiger Woods has 14 wins in 63 major championship starts as a professional; through the 1977 Masters, the 37-year-old Nicklaus had 14 wins in 61 major championship starts as a professional.
That's some amazing career symmetry right there, but it seems appropriate, given that Tiger came out of the gate with Nicklaus' major championship record as his ultimate target.
For a long time, Woods was well ahead of Nicklaus' career pace, but a drought that is nearing five years in duration has put a serious dent in Tiger's major aspirations. Of course, Nicklaus won his last major at age 46, giving Woods nine more years of viability on the major championship scene, a reasonable assumption considering the similarity of their career trajectories.
Here are the final four majors of Nicklaus' career, all of which came at age 38 and beyond:
1978 British Open (age 38)
1980 U.S. Open (age 40)
1980 PGA Championship (age 40)
1986 Masters (age 46)
Woods turns 46 in December 2021. Between now and then, there will be 36 major championships contested; Woods needs to win five of them to reach his career Holy Grail of 19 major championships.
Of course, Tiger has already moved well past Nicklaus into second on the Tour's all-time wins ledger. Tiger trails only Sam Snead, who won 82 times over a 30-year span; Woods has crammed his 78 wins into 17-plus stellar, occasionally storm-tossed seasons on Tour.
Jack thinks he'll do it. "I still think he'll break my record," Nicklaus said during the Honda Classic. "Tiger's talent, at 37 ... it's not that old. I won four after that. They were spread out. It wasn't that difficult. I don't think for Tiger to get four or five more — or six or seven — is that big a stretch.
"But that said, he has still got to do it. He hasn't won one in five years. He had better get with it if he's going to."
So let's look at the two legends — Tiger today, and Nicklaus at a similar point in his career.
Bottom line from the data presented here: Tiger's building the better overall career, but Jack remains the greatest performer in major championship history. That's the carrot that Tiger is still chasing, and he has time to get there.
Tiger Woods Jack Nicklaus Tournaments won(through 300 starts) 77 54 Tournament winning % (300 starts) 26.0 18.0 Majors won(first 63 starts) 14 14 Major winning % 22.2 22.2 Major top 5s 31 41 Major top 10s 37 48 Longest streak of top-5 in majors 6 7 Longest streak of top-10 in majors 8 13 Lowest scoring avg. 8 times 8 times Money leader 9 times 8 times
Some Twitter comedian observed that Tiger Woods apparently retained ownership of Sergio Garcia in his pre-nup with Elin. That's harsh, but this much remains clear: Even after his perceived struggles of the last few major-less seasons, Tiger is far more prepared for the big moment than Garcia.
Fourteen years after their memorable duel at the 1999 PGA Championship, their respective careers have taken wildly divergent paths. After yesterday's win at The Players Championship, Woods now has 78 career PGA Tour wins. Sergio has had his moments — eight Tour wins, 10 Euro wins, various Ryder Cup heroics — but did anyone really think that Sergio would survive the 17-18 gauntlet yesterday? The golf gods simple weren't going to allow it, especially after Garcia's Saturday whining about Tiger distracting him.
The amazing numbers from the weekend's festivities:
4 With the win, Tiger Woods is only four wins behind all-time PGA Tour wins leader Sam Snead, who won his final Tour event at age 52. Tiger is 37. I think he has time to get there.
13Garcia required 13 shots to navigate the final two holes at TPC Sawgrass, following up his quad at 17 with a double-bogey 6 at 18, where he rinsed another ball.
12 The win was Woods' fourth of the 2013 season, marking the 12th season of his career with four wins or more. Think about that: For most players, four wins denotes a career-making year. Tiger's had 12 of them.
53-4 Woods ran his career record to 53-4 when holding at least a share of the 54-hole lead. He's the Mariano Rivera of golfers; give him the lead, and it's Enter Sandman.
300Woods won the 300th start of his career. He also won the 100th and 200th starts of his career. Tiger apparently likes round numbers.
26Tiger has now won 26 percent of his career PGA Tour starts. More than a quarter of the time he's teed it up, he's won. For reference, after his 300th start, Jack Nicklaus had 54 wins, a winning percentage of .180.
+13 The day was not without drama, thanks largely to Woods' double bogey at 14. For his career, Woods is 13-over par on that hole.
10 TPC Sawgrass has historically not been terribly friendly to Tiger. This year marked the first time in 10 years that Woods completed four par-or-better rounds in one Players.
4Woods has his fourth victory, and it's only May 13. It's the earliest in a season that Woods has ever earned his fourth win.
3.25 Yesterday, the infamous par-3 17th claimed its share of victims. Players navigated the 137-yard hole in an average of 3.25 strokes on Sunday, the highest of the week. On Thursday, the average was 3.08; on Friday, 2.97; and on Saturday, 3.03. Of course, Sergio's 7 at the hole skews the Sunday average slightly.
CBS broadcast Ian Baker-Finch summed it up for his elated countrymen: From Down Under to the top of the world.
Adam Scott has his long-awaited first major, and Australia has its long-awaited first Masters, all on the strength of an anchored putter that for much of Masters Sunday had been nothing but dead weight for Scott.
"To make a couple of putts to win The Masters is just an amazing feeling," Scott said in Butler Cabin.
We don’t have footage of Gene Sarazen’s famous double eagle from 1935, but on Masters Sunday 2012, we saw something just as good and just as rare — Louis Oosthuizen's double eagle, the first at the par-5 second hole in Masters history. Later, Bubba Watson joined our countdown with his stunning recovery shot from the pine straw in the playoff. Here are our choices for the seven greatest shots in Masters history.
Athlon Counts Down the 20 Golfers to Watch for Majors Season
They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2013 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 20 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.
Born: Dec. 30, 1975, Cypress, Calif. | Career PGA Tour Wins:77 |2012 Wins (Worldwide): 3| 2012 Earnings (PGA Tour): $6,133,158 (2nd) | World Ranking: 1
Brandel Chamblee's Take
Tiger is still a threat to win every week, as he's shown with his three wins so far in 2013. And as he showed last year at the Memorial, when he pitched in on the 70th hole from behind the green en route to winning, he is still capable of producing mind-blowing magic. He is learning how to play a more conservative, less explosive and less versatile game, but that game was still good enough for three wins in 2012, and only Rory McIlroy was better. Still, he was plagued by inconsistencies on the weekend in the majors and with his short irons all year. The race for him to fully incorporate all the swing changes he and Sean Foley continue to work on before time runs out provide a sense of urgency to every round. That, combined with his quest to overtake Rory in the world rankings and win another major, makes it seem as if no one plays under more pressure than Tiger.
Major Championship Résumé
Masters - T40
U.S. Open - T21
British Open - T3
PGA Championship - T11
Best Career Finishes:
Masters - 1 (1997, 2001, 2002, 2005)
U.S. Open - 1 (2000, 2002, 2008)
British Open - 1 (2000, 2005, 2006)
PGA Championship - 1 (1999, 2000, 2006, 2007)
Top-10 Finishes: 36
Top-25 Finishes: 52
Missed Cuts: 4
Athlon's 2013 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 20 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, reigning FedExCup champion Brandt Snedeker, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.
Ever wonder what the members of the world’s golfing elite really think about some of the game’s hot-button issues? Sick of the clichéd answers they sometimes trot out in the effort to not make any waves? You’re in luck.
We took the occasion of the 2012 Tour Championship to pose an anonymous survey to 10 of the PGA Tour’s elite players, making sure to get a mixture from around the world, to find the unvarnished truth. Do guys prefer the company of Tiger or Phil? Is it truly time to ban the anchored putter? What, if anything, intimidates the best in the world?
Tiger Wins Arnold Palmer Invitational for Record-Tying 8th Time
Yep, Tiger Woods is back. In fact, he's just had one of the better days of a career that's had more shining moments than a decade's worth of NCAA Tournaments. Here's a rundown of Tiger's weekend, by the numbers. And I think we can officially retire that stupid question (Is he back?) once and for all.
8 Tiger's win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was his eighth in the event, tying Sam Snead's record for the most wins in a single event (Snead won at Greensboro eight times). Snead was 52 when he won his eighth Greensboro; Tiger is 37.
1 Woods returns to the No. 1 slot in the Official World Golf Ranking, passing Rory McIlroy and assuming the top spot for the first time since Oct. 30, 2010.
624 This week marks the 624th week of his career that Woods has spent as the No. 1 golfer in the world. That's 12 years. Four-time major winner Ernie Els has spent 19 weeks at No. 1. Phil Mickelson, zero.
6 The win is Woods' sixth in his last 19 stroke-play events.
43 Tiger has gone into Sunday with an outright lead 45 times, and he's won 43 of those tournaments, including this one. If he's had at least a share of the third-round lead, he's now 52-for-56.
+3.89 Tiger led the field at Bay Hill with +3.89 Strokes Gained Putting Per Round. His previous career best for a single tournament was +2.34. If he's putting that well at Augusta, it's over before it starts.
77 Woods has 77 wins at the age of 37 years, two months, 24 days. Sam Snead, whose 82 career wins Woods is chasing, earned his 77th win at the age of 45 years, three months, 10 days.
27 Tiger has now won 27 percent (77 of 284) of his starts on the PGA Tour.
7 Tiger's eight wins at Bay Hill are more than former World No. 1 players Lee Westwood and Tom Lehman have for their PGA Tour careers combined (seven). Throw in Colin Montgomerie, who was shut out on the PGA Tour, and it still holds. (h/t Paul Azinger)
2009 Woods has now won back-to-back starts for the first time since 2009 (Buick Open, Bridgestone Invitational).
18 Entering The Masters, Woods' major drought now stands at 18 consecutive majors (four which Woods did not enter). That drought is in mortal danger.
Woods' Cadillac Win Proves He's Still the Cadillac of Golfers
We all know about Tiger Woods' record in golf's major championships. For years now, we've been pounded over the head with Woods' pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' record major championship haul. But Tiger has a record of his own that even the Golden Bear would envy.