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Tiger Resumes His Pursuit of the Golden Bear at the British Open
Tiger Woods came out of the gate with Jack Nicklaus' major championship record as his ultimate target. That number — 18 career major championship wins — seemed utterly out of reach, until Tiger started winning majors with alarming regularity.
For a long time, Woods was well ahead of Nicklaus' career pace, but a drought that has now exceeded six 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 eight more years of viability on the major championship scene, a reasonable assumption considering the similarity of their career trajectories, although Woods' health issues are now bringing that into question.
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, counting this week's British Open, there will be 30 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 79 wins into 17-plus stellar, occasionally storm-tossed seasons on Tour.
Jack still thinks he'll do it, and the Golden Bear even gives Tiger a shelf life that lasts until age 50. "If he's healthy, I think Tiger's got 10-plus years to play top-quality tournament golf," Nicklaus said. "I've said many times, he's got a little over 40 tournaments to play the major championships, he's only got to win five to pass my record. As good a player as he is, I don't think that should be a big deal."
No big deal for the guy who's already in the clubhouse with 18. A slightly bigger deal for a guy with a bad back who hasn't hoisted any major hardware in more than six years.
So let's compare the two legends through their age-38 seasons (although Tiger still has more golf to play in 2014).
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's running out of time to get there.
Tiger Woods-Jack Nicklaus Career Comparison (Through Age-38 Season)
|TIGER WOODS||JACK NICKLAUS|
|Major winning % (as professional)||21.9||22|
|Major top 5s||31||46|
|Major top 10s||38||55|
|Longest streak of top-5 in majors||6||7|
|Longest streak of top-10 in majors||8||13|
|Lowest scoring avg.||9 times||8 times|
|Money leader||10 times||8 times|