Nicklaus Says Tiger May Not Reach 18

Jack Nicklaus says that if Tiger doesn’t win at Pebble Beach or St. Andrews this year, he may never catch the record of 18 majors.

“He will be 36 next year and time starts to go. He has to win five majors. Phil Mickelson won his fourth at the Masters, but prior to that three was the next closest (active) guy.

“So Tiger has to win almost two careers (of a ‘regular’ player) in the next five or six years to do that and that is a pretty big chore.”

I don’t know how much of Jack’s statement is serious analysis and how much is wistful thinking. But he’s right in that five majors is a whole career’s worth of prizes.

I think that Tiger’s biggest chance was this year, with the majors at Augusta (as always), Pebble Beach and St. Andrews—three courses he loves and plays well on. Indeed, Tiger has won six of his fourteen Majors on just two courses—August and St. Andrews . Overall, by my count, Tiger has won 71 times in his U.S. PGA Tour career, yet he has trophies from only 24 tournaments. Vijay Singh has a far more diverse record, winning 31 times at 23 different tour events.

But it’s also true that in 1975, after winning his fourteenth major, Nicklaus went through a four year major winless streak. So its not all over yet.

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12 thoughts on “Nicklaus Says Tiger May Not Reach 18”

  1. Why did Jack say this ?  I think it is one of two reasons – 1) To give Tiger a wake up call to help Tiger win this year.  2) To shake Tiger and try and break him by adding pressure on this year so the record stands.  He didn’t say this because someone asked him a question- Jack is practicing course management, either for his legacy, or for Tiger’s.

    Whatever the reason – I do think Jack is right- Tiger wins at least one this year, or he doesn’t reach 18.  He isn’t coming back to win a Tiger slam over the next two years. 

    But, I do think that it is possible that one of our theories over the past couple years that Tiger will play a super limited schedule may be out the window.  With no wife or family, Tiger may decide to play more over the next years instead of less.  Of course he will be hung over on ambien, sex and liquour, but he will probably still win lots of tournaments, and that might boost his confidence enough to get those major victories.  It just won’t be as pretty or easy as it once seemed.

  2. It’s sounds like Jack’s trying to convince himself that Tiger’s going to be playing as a 36-year-old next year when, in fact, he won’t turn 36 until December fricking 30th. Hence, I think this is EXTREMELY wishful thinking on Jack’s part.

    Jim Dauer

  3. It isn’t just Jack that keeps thinking that Tiger is 35 now- I have heard it a number of places.  Not everyone’s birthday is in the first 6 months of the year.  For Jack, for 70 years, he has just figured out what year it is, subtract his birth year and he has his age – so he may just think about it that way (Jack’s birthday is like Jan 20th or something). 

    It is interesting when you look at the streaks and the breaks in both careers. 
    Tiger won his first at 21, Jack at 22
    Tiger streaked 7 between 23 and 26
    Jack streaked 6 between 23 and 27
    Both had two year breaks. 
    Tiger then won 6 from 29 to 32
    Jack won 7 between 30 and 35, with one year at 34 winning zero.
    Jack then won zero for two years at 36 & 37 – then won one at 38, two at 40, and one at 46.
    Tiger has won zero at 33 and so far at 34. 

    The other interesting thing to look at is what happened in the periods outside the streaks. 
    Between Jacks win at 27 and his win at 30, he was 2nd or 3rd in 4 of 12 majors (33%).  Tiger between 36 and 29 was 2nd in 1 of 10 majors (10%).  In the break for Jack between 36 and 38, he was 2nd or 3rd in 5 of 10 majors.  For Tiger in his 5 majors he has played since knee surgery, he was 2nd in one (20%). 

    When you look at the streaks in this way, it almost seems like a similar track of streaks and breaks, with Tiger doing so just a little younger.  And Tiger’s younger streak produced more wins, with Jacks older streak producing more wins.  Did Tiger just peak earlier than Jack?

    In any case, we will have to all just stay tuned.  Even if Tiger is cut every tournament this year, he isn’t out.  I THINK he is, but its just a guess.

  4. I too am a Buckeye.  The only time I am not for michigan (I would not go as far as say rooting for michigan) – is during The Game. 

    Otherwise, I tend to want michigan to do well – for a few reasons – 1) It is more meaningful when Ohio State beats michigan if the wolverines came in to The Game 11-0.  2) If the worst happens and the Buckeyes find a way to lose to michigan (because michigan never wins The Game, the Buckeyes decide to defeat themselves) – it doesn’t seem quite so bad if michigan is 12-0 after The Game.

    Then there is the other reason too – being somewhat removed from Ohio, I have found who the real enemies are, they are located below the Ohio river, and their names are Tennessee, Florida, Florida State, LSU, and Auburn. (Alabama and Ole Miss – they aren’t so bad).

  5. Jack didn’t start playing until a little after Tiger, but it wasn’t that long of a time later.  Jack carded a 51 for his first 9 holes played at age 10 in the country club junior tournament, which he won.  At 13 he played in his first USGA National Junior event.  All through his teens he was winning events and state titles.

    But to your point, Tiger from a small age was going to be nothing BUT a golfer.  Nicklaus actually held a job as an insurance agent because that whole pro thing might not work out.

    Physically, Tiger is older that Jack was.  Tiger has the physique that Jack never had, and a strength that Jack never had – but that has come at a cost – Tigers injuries. 

    I couldn’t find info on Jacks injuries (other than a hip injury at 23 affected him his whole life since).  But whatever injuries he had, there was no significant time off.  There was no period before Jack was 39 that he had any year without at least 18 events.  And from 22 to 58, Jack started every single major.  And consider this: from 22 to 43 years old, Jack only had a single year (age 29) when he didn’t finish at least 2nd in at least one major – At age 30, Nicklaus’s father died, and he later said that with his family his interest in golf was waning and it wasn’t until his father’s death and realizing what it meant to his dad that he was reinvigorated (and then he went on his 7 major streak from 30 to 35).

  6. BTW- Looking up Tigers stats- his dad also died when Tiger was 30. 

    As for his consistent major play- Tiger from 21 to 34, he has had 3 years when he failed to finish at least 2nd in a major that year (at 22, 27, & 28)—and it remains to be seen about this year.

  7. Maybe my last post for the night?  Just read where Tiger will be at the Memorial next week.  It will be interesting to see how Jack’s hometown fans will treat Tiger.  Buckeyes are not exactly known for their poise and good sportsmanships against their rivals.  wink

  8. Hey, I’m a Buckeye. My brother is a Wolverine. We get along just fine on football Saturdays, and pull for each other’s team when it’s not playing our own.

  9. Unlike most of the Wolverines I know, I cheer for the Buckeyes any time they’re not playing Michigan or West Virginia. There is much more honor in defeating a good opponent than a bad.

    Unfortunately, most of the Wolverines I know want Ohio State to go 0-fer every year. They don’t see the logic of having them win every game but one.

  10. I think there’s one more factor. Tiger’s golf age is greater than Jack’s at the equivalent chronological age. Jack has said that he didn’t play a full round of golf until age 13. Tiger has been playing competitively since … what … seven?

    Also, Tiger’s swing could arguably be said to be worse on the joints than Jack’s.


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