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