As I write this, Tiger Woods is at 20 under par, 10 shots ahead of the next nearest competitor with 7 holes to go in the Buick Invitational (his first tournament of the year). So he has essentially won this tournament now--- his sixth win at this tournament/venue, with the last four coming in a row. This year’s US Open is scheduled to be held at the same course (Torrey Pines South) later this year. Even thought the course will be set up (and play) very differently, it is hard to imagine a more prohibitive favorite than Tiger for that event.
Anyway, this will be Tiger’s 62nd PGA Tour win---the same number of tour wins that the great Arnold Palmer had in his entire career. Tiger has been a pro for only 11 full seasons. Just amazing. But Tiger has far more lofty goals than this, and he is systematically going about achieving them. Barring catastrophic injury, he is going to obliterate every significant record in golf.
He has also recently allowed that the calendar Grand Slam is achievable for him this year, given the venues and the state of his game. Also, in a short interview with David Feherty yesterday, Tiger said that 12-wins-in-a-row (breaking Byron Nelson's amazing record of 11 straight wins, set in 1945) is possible. That the normally circumspect and ‘vanilla-response’ Tiger should publicly entertain such notions is stunning to me---and an indication of how high is confidence must be.
Of course, the defining pursuit of Tiger’s career is Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 professional major championships. In this regard, it is worth revisiting something I wrote on Tokatakiya last August, after Tiger won his 13th professional major. When I wrote this, I clearly thought that this was an ambitious timeline, but achievable for Tiger. It boggles my mind that Tiger may have an even shorter timeline to his goal in mind. Ri-frikkin-diculous. Anyway, here are my thoughts from last August, with some minor edits for clarity.
You heard it here first:
I have a pretty good idea about when Tiger Woods will break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 professional major championships. As of today, Tiger has 13 majors and so he needs five more majors to tie, six more to surpass Jack’s record. Now, here’s the major championship schedule for the next three years:
2008: Masters at Augusta National,
US Open at Torrey Pines South,
British Open at Royal Birkdale,
PGA at Oakland Hills;
2009: Masters at Augusta National,
US Open at
British Open at Turnberry,
PGA at Hazeltine;
2010: Masters at Augusta National,
US Open at
British Open at
PGA at Whistling Straits.
I have put bold emphasis on courses that Tiger performs well on---and he takes the ‘horses for courses’ idea to ridiculous heights as exemplified by his record at some events in his eleven-year career. He has won the WGC event at Firestone six times in its nine-year existence, he has won the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines five times including 3-in-a-row, he won the Bay Hill Invitational four times in a row from 2000-2003, and of course, has won the Masters four times in just eleven tries as a professional. Anyway, so you get the idea---anytime he tees it up he’s the favorite to win, but when he likes a course he is the prohibitive favorite to win.
And then there’s the history. Few courses in the world are as steeped in history and mystique as
Anyways, with Tiger’s keen sense of history I’d think he’d love to tie Jack’s record at
So for Tiger to be able to even try the Pebble/St.Andrews scenario, he will need to win four of the next nine majors. To achieve it he’d have to win six of the next eleven majors. Sounds silly, but then again he reeled off seven wins in an eleven major stretch from 1999-2002. His game has been steadily trending toward the fearsome form of 2000. The only reason he hasn’t won more majors in the past couple of years is that his putter let him down. The past two Masters could have been his, but for the fact that he narrowly missed those crucial putts that he normally drains. The performance he put on the last two weeks at Firestone and Southern Hills shows that his putting is back--- and when that happens it is curtains for the field. By the way, Tiger had Lasik surgery in October 1999 before he went on that impressive tear in 2000-2002, and he had Lasik done again the Monday after the Masters this year. I don’t think it is coincidence that he is draining crucial par putts again.
I think he does it. Five of the next nine majors set up very well for him. And he’s no slouch on the other four either. The old refrain “the course does not set up well for Tiger’s game” is just nonsense. Tiger has honed his game into the ultimate Swiss Army knife---it is sharp, sleek, portable and versatile and it will help him carve up any course he wants. More often than not, if he putts well, he wins----it is as simple as that. So while I don’t know much about the two British Open and PGA venues 2008 and 2009, it would be foolish to count him out of those. Also, as a pro he has won 13 of 44 majors he’s played and at that clip he should have 3.5 more majors by the end of 2010. Anyway, I think he wins four majors coming into
PS: A couple of twists:
1) Many consider the
2) If Tiger manages to win 2 more Masters and 5 more total majors by the end of 2010, there is also the intriguing possibility that Tiger will go into the 2011 Masters with a chance to break Jack’s 6-Masters and 18-pro majors records in the same tournament.
Not quite the history as breaking it at the home of golf,