Tiger Woods has gone almost two years since winning his last major title, still needing five championships in his quest to break Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18. Nicklaus doesn’t expect the drought to last much longer.
“I don’t think my feeling has changed,” Nicklaus told reporters today, two days before the start of the U.S. PGA Tour’s Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. “Do I think Tiger will break my record? Yeah, I think he probably will. But then again, it’s not just a gimmee, you have to go do it. We’ll watch.”
The task will become tougher as pressure mounts with each passing year that Woods fails to win a major, a condition that didn’t exist in his own career, Nicklaus said.
“His pressure is a lot greater simply because of the media attention today,” Nicklaus said. “Times have changed. Will he have a tougher time coming down the stretch? Maybe.”
Woods has a news conference scheduled tomorrow at the Memorial. He is due to tee off at 12:44 p.m. local time in Thursday’s first round and at 8:04 a.m. the following day with Steve Stricker and Jason Bohn.
Woods hasn’t won at the Masters Tournament, PGA Championship, or U.S. or British opens since the 2008 U.S. Open. The drought is his longest since going 10 majors without a victory between the 2002 U.S. Open and the 2005 Masters.
Ahead of Schedule
At 34, Woods’s 14 wins puts him two victories ahead of Nicklaus’s major-winning pace at the same age. After winning the 1973 PGA Championship at 33, it took Nicklaus 11 years to win his final six majors, a stretch that ended with the 1986 Masters.
Nicklaus, 70, attributed his lack of major titles over the latter stages of his career to spending more time with his five children and developing his golf-course-design business.
“It just wasn’t that big of a priority,” he said. “When I look back on it, I wish I would have played harder. Then again, I look back and I’m glad I didn’t because I know my kids and I spent my time with my family.”
Woods’s family life has been in question since a November car accident led to his admission of marital infidelity. Since then, he has failed to win a tournament. He withdrew during the final round of the Players Championship with a neck injury last month in Florida, a week after missing the 36-hole cut at the Quail Hollow Championship.
As he returns to the tour this week, Woods is also in danger of losing his No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking to Phil Mickelson. If Mickelson wins this week and Woods finishes outside the top four, Mickelson would take over the No. 1 ranking for the first time.
In this year’s lone major, Woods finished fourth at the Masters in April, an event he hasn’t won since 2005. The event marked Woods’s first tournament following the one-car accident outside his home.
The U.S. Open is played in two weeks at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California and the British Open is contested at St. Andrews in Scotland in July. Woods has won at both courses and if he goes winless this year in the majors, surpassing Nicklaus’s mark will get more difficult.
“If he had problems on those golf courses, they won’t come around for a while,” Nicklaus said.
The last time Pebble Beach hosted the U.S. Open, Woods won by 15 shots over Ernie Els. That same year, Woods posted an eight-shot win at St. Andrews, which he lists as his favorite course.
“My record is what it is,” Nicklaus said. “I firmly believe it will probably be broken by Tiger. If it is, it’s OK. I just want to be the first one there to shake his hand.”