After last week’s very personal Father’s Day column, I felt like I should talk about a more national story this week: Tiger and the chase to 18.
For those non-fanatics, here’s the story. In the game of golf, statistics and victories are the barometer of success. Sam Snead holds the PGA Tour record with 81 victories, a great record no doubt. But when it comes to records, “the granddaddy of them all” is Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major championship victories.
Twenty years ago, no one thought that record would be beaten. Eight years ago, everyone thought Tiger would get to 25. Today there is doubt.
Personally, I still believe Tiger will break the magical record of 18 majors. And here’s why:
If my memory serves me right, I think Tiger won his second major in the 1999 PGA Championship. And I think he won his 13th at the 2006 British Open. That’s 12 wins in approximately 28 tournaments.
Today, Tiger is 38. Let’s say he competes for another 10 years. That’s 40 majors. If he’s anywhere near as good as he has been in the past (on three separate occasions and with three different swings) then he should be able to win five out of 40 to get to 19.
Here’s the thing about Tiger that’s always amazed me: through hundreds of millions of dollars, he’s kept his desire to win. We’ve seen a lot of other top-ranked golfers come and go since Tiger’s arrival at the 1997 Masters. Tiger is the only one who’s been able to win at that level for that long.
I’m not saying the other guys who made it to No. 1 only cared about the money. But can you imagine being Rory McIllroy at 23 years old making $10 million-to-$20 million a year? My guess is it could change your passion level. But not Tiger. Obviously he had his own off-course issues, but he’s seemed to maintain his superior play longer than just about anyone other than the man he’s chasing.
This is really the one that makes me think Tiger will get it back. In 2000, Tiger won the U.S. Open by 15 shots. A few months later he decided he needed to change his swing to get better. It took some time, but he eventually got back to No. 1. A few years later, he repeated that process. Tiger has now had three distinctly different PGA Tour swings. And Tiger has now been No. 1 three different times.
Now I understand he’s not completely retooling his swing again. But he will need to make adjustments for yet another comeback. If it were someone else, I’d say maybe not. But history tells us Tiger has the internal fortitude to make changes and come back. I’m not betting against him this time.
Let me be clear about this part as well. I understand there are a lot of reasons why people think Tiger will not break the record. Too many injuries. Players aren’t scared of him anymore. He’s not “longer” than everyone else anymore. The talent is so deep now, more players can win each week . He’s lost a step or two on the course, etc.
But here’s my final thought:
Tiger has made this game more exciting since I’ve been 16 years old. He’s hit shots, won tournaments, and dominated the game in a way no one thought possible. I don’t think he’ll get back to 12 out of 30. But I do think he can do five out of 40. And as a golf fan, I think it would awesome to at least see him get close.
Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance for The Karzmer Insurance Agency and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.