Will Tiger Woods beat Jack Nicklaus’ record of golf majors? Will Tiger Woods win another major?
This is an issue that is causing quite a debate in the golfing world. There are the Tiger fans who believe that it is only a matter of time before he takes the record off Jack and there are those who believe that he now has virtually no chance.
Where do I sit? I have been fortunate to have seen, and in some instances play with, most of the best players in the world since the fifties. My one regret is that I never saw Ben Hogan play, only in videos and film.
It is my belief that Tiger has won all the majors he is going to win. Certainly he is the greatest golfer from the 90’s until now but he has lost that special something that he had.
Let’s compare their careers. Tiger won all but a couple of majors as a single man and as we now know, many flaws. It was always my belief that marriage would make or break his career. A professional golfer’s life is not necessarily an easy one for a wife. Sure there are many pluses but there are also many minuses which need a very strong woman to overcome and keep under control. She has to be a wife, mother, psychoanalyst, shoulder to cry on etc, etc. I have always believed that any Tour player who is still married to the same woman after 10 years playing has a wife better than he deserves.
Jack Nicklaus married Barbara Bash just weeks after he finished 2nd to Arnold Palmer in the 1960 US Open at Cherry Hills. He was still an amateur! Their first son Jackie was born a week after he won his second US Amateur in 1961 and 12 years later their 5th child arrived. Nicklaus turned professional in 1962, and his first professional victory was the 1962 US Open where he beat Arnold Palmer in a play-off. He had beaten golf’s favourite son and was not liked by many of golfing public. Jack won all his majors as a married man with a family which always came first. He was able to mix both his career and family life with outstanding success.
We now know that married life was not for Tiger but perhaps in the future he will find his happiness. I certainly hope so.
Tiger also has had an “obsession” about his swing and is now on his 4th teacher since turning pro. He spends an inordinate amount of time analyzing his swing and making changes. Throughout his career, Nicklaus would visit Jack Grout, his first teacher, once a year for a check-up and if a problem arose then another visit might have taken place. When Grout died, Jim Flick fulfilled this role in a similar manner. Often they sorted it out with a phone call.
Both Jack and Tiger had an aura about them. They were the best and they knew it. They had that winner’s “swagger”. That’s not to say it was done arrogantly, it was just something that all winners have, no matter what their sport or occupation.
Tiger intimidated the rest of the field like no other before him. When he teed it up it was really “who’s going to be second”. He had very healthy opposition but up until 2008 he was the man to beat. His feat of holding all 4 majors at the same time, the Tiger Slam, may never be repeated as it was an unbelievable achievement. The only chink in his armour, especially in the majors, was that he was only a front runner, he never won a major when not leading after the 3rd round. He only lost one when in front after round 3. The one thing that is most apparent since his return to the game is that the other players are no longer frightened of Tiger. Sure they respect him as a player and know that he will be difficult to beat. They know that they can beat him and I believe that deep down, Tiger knows it as well.
Jack won Majors from in front and from behind leading into the final round. I remember reading an account from the 1972 Open Championship at Muirfield in Scotland when his conservative play over the first 3 rounds had left him 6 shots behind Lee Trevino so his only decision was to attack and attack he did. Unfortunately his 66 was one stroke more than what he needed to tie Trevino but what a charge it was. The article said it perfectly with “suddenly the course echoed to the roar of Nicklaus’ Last Day Charge (patent applied for)”. Not only did Nicklaus win 18 professional majors, he also finished second 19 times.
I remember watching Nicklaus play an exhibition match with our own Sir Bob at Middlemore in the 60’s. I will never forget him cold topping his second shot to the long par 5 9th hole and then hit a glorious third shot on to the green. Woods at Paraparaumu showed us how great he was but the greens were his downfall.
Tiger Woods will always be remembered as one of the greatest players the game has ever seen along with Vardon, Hagen, Saracen, Jones, Snead, Hogan, Nelson, Palmer, Trevino, Watson, Ballesteros but at this time Nicklaus is the best there has been.
Will his record ever be beaten? All records will be beaten at some time but it could be a while before the Nicklaus name is replaced.