Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tiger Woods and the difficult path to 19 Majors

Tiger Woods set the goal of breaking Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors. For 14 years, he has been on track to do just that, with each of his major victories coming earlier than Nicklaus', but late last month Tiger did something he rarely does. He fell behind. If Woods wins his 15th, he'll be older than Nicklaus was when he won his 15th.

Tiger needs four more Major wins to tie Nicklaus, and 5 to pass him. How hard will that be? 5 Major wins alone would give a player the 20th best career total. So, he now needs to have the 20th best Major golf tournament career in golf history - starting at 38. He needs to win more majors from this point than Ernie Els has over his career. Starting now, he needs to have Byron Nelson's entire Majors career. Not easy.

There have been only 10 major winners over the age of 43, and none of them have repeated. If Woods is limited to the same total,  he needs to win 4 majors over the next 5 years. Early in his career that would have been easy, from the time he was 19 until he was 29, there was never a 5 year period where he failed to win 4 majors. But that was 8 years ago. This is the real testament to what Nicklaus did - not that he won 14 by the time he was 38 (though that is still an incredible feat, only matched by one person) but that he then went on to win 4 more. Even if Woods does do that, then he still needs to win one more over the age of 43. The oldest major winner in history was 48. So the window closes in about 10 years.

If Woods can't win 4 over the next 5 years, then he needs 2 wins over 43. That would be a first.

So, in order to break Nicklaus' major record, he will likely have to break other records, like oldest Major winner, most Majors over 40 etc...He's still the tour's top player - last year's Player of the Year with top 5 finishes in two majors, but his injuries and the steady march of time are working against him.

I think 10 years ago I would have bet on Woods to break the record, but now I'd bet against it.