Tiger Woods’ epic 2019 Masters win sent the golf world and internet into a frenzy. It also reignited an old debate: Can Tiger break Jack Nicklaus’ record for the most major championship wins in history? One thing we do know is this: Nicklaus himself thinks his record is under threat.
The potential for Tiger breaking Jack’s record used to be a given back in Tiger’s prime in the 2000s. In those days, the question was not if, but when? Then came the scandal in 2009, followed in short order by a string of serious injuries to his back that threatened his career.
Just two years ago at the Masters, after his most recent back surgery, a hobbled Tiger wondered aloud whether he would ever play golf again. At that point, Jack’s record was secure, and everyone knew it.
But Tiger’s most recent surgery was a roaring success, and he fought his way back to health, and back onto the PGA Tour in 2018. The major record whispers started once again. Still, even after his comeback victory at the 2018 Tour Championship, some people questioned whether he could win a major again.
Then came Sunday at the 2019 Masters. With Tiger capturing his 15th major, the long-abandoned record book watch has restarted in earnest. And Nicklaus has taken notice.
On Sunday afternoon at Augusta, Nicklaus was asked if he thought his record could be under assault one again in light of Tiger’s triumph.
“He’s got me shaking in my boots, guys,” Nicklaus said.
Nicklaus has always been judicious when answering questions about the major record. Even when Tiger was at his worst, Nicklaus never once committed to saying Tiger had no chance of passing him on the all-time list.
For stretches, those comments felt like examples of goodwill and good manners on Jack’s part. But now, with Tiger wearing his fifth green jacket, Nicklaus holding his tongue looks smarter and smarter.
The next major is the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in May, followed by the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Woods has won majors on both of those courses.
So he might not be satisfied with major No 15. He might be just getting started.
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