That masterpiece that Tiger Woods painted across the Ohio countryside Sunday had hardly dried before we were back to wondering if he could win five more major championships and break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18.
The golf he played Sunday left no doubt that Woods still has the game for such a challenge but that pursuit is a long shot fraught with all kinds of ifs. Meanwhile, here’s a question for you, do you want him to break the record or do you want it to remain in Nicklaus’ hands? Those are good hands holding that precious mark. There are few if any figures in sports more admirable than the Golden Bear. Nobody has done it better.
As a champion, as a family man, as a course designer, as a spokesman for the game and simply as a man, he has been exemplary.
He has said he thinks Tiger will break the record and if so, so be it, but Nicklaus has also said that if he had known someone would threaten his record so soon, he would have worked harder in the closing years of his career and might have won four or five more majors.
And so we have the beloved Golden Bear, a grandfather now, his battles long past, watching to see how this goes.
And then we have Tiger Woods. We’ve never seen anything like him. Not to say, necessarily, that he’s the greatest to come along but he has dazzled us with his golf, winning in bunches, winning by huge margins, hitting shots that we talk about years later.
Until he stumbled in his personal life and lost his family and his game, he seemed destined to break Nicklaus’ record. The road back has been long and maybe he’s not there yet but he has won twice this year and the golf he showed us in the Memorial looked like that of a man in command of his game and himself. He may not top Nicklaus but there’s hope again that he will give it a run and that will be something to see.
Woods doesn’t come off as lovable. He is guarded, unwilling to reveal much of himself. But that’s him. What he gives you is golf, wonderful golf. If you want to see excellence, and you want to see it rewarded, then you have no problem with Tiger hunting down the record.
Either way – Nicklaus or Woods – the record will belong to one of the game’s greats. The pursuit continues next week at the US Open.