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At first glance, this is another missed opportunity for Woods, 35, to close the gap on Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 professional majors won. On a broader scale, this may be the tipping point toward breaking the Golden Bear’s record.
Woods is only four shy of tying and five shy of breaking Nicklaus’ record, which was finalized with his 1986 Masters title at the age of 46. Julius Boros is the oldest major winner, having won the 1968 PGA at age 48.
Given the number of forty-something players still in their prime—Steve Stricker just won for the seventh time in his 40s and ascended to No. 4 in the world—Woods has another 14 years worth of majors left in him. That is if he can avoid any more major delays.
For simple math purposes, say Woods has 50 majors left to play. To win 19 total, Woods, who already has 14, can average one win every 10 majors—or one every 2 1/2 years. A major slump—such as Woods’ current three-year one—would not necessarily matter. Nicklaus went winless in 10 straight between his 16th and 17th major wins. He also went 0-for-20 before winning No. 18 in 1986.
By Woods’ current age, Nicklaus had won 12 majors, and then won six over the next 11 years. Nicklaus, though, had good health on his side. He played 154 consecutive majors for which he was eligible, from the 1957 U.S. Open as an amateur until the 1998 U.S. Open.
So missing next week’s U.S. Open, which he was won three times, will not jeopardize Woods’ pursuit, just delay it. Next week, though, will have to be the exception instead of the norm going forward.
Stuart Hall is editor of the Golf Press Association.