Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods is now three major championship wins short of tying the all-time record set by Jack Nicklaus’ 18.

Tiger Woods’ epic win at the Masters is old news, but for golf freaks this moment will be talked about for a long time to come.

It was his first major championship in 11 years, an awe-inspiring comeback for the ages. In this day and age of being prisoners of the moment more now than ever — mainly due to the way things play out on social media — Time magazine called it the completion “of the most thrilling comeback” in the history of American sports.  

Talk about hyperbole. 

His first green jacket was all about the future. In 1997, a 21-year-old Woods — in his 15th start on tour, already with three victories — set 20 records at Augusta National with a 12-shot victory that made him the youngest Masters champion ever.

The fifth Masters title Woods won was more about the present.

 The Sunday red shirt was brighter than ever. There was reports of audible excitement in the press room,  from a younger generation that had never seen him win a major, from an older generation that thought it might never happen again.

Long gone is Woods’ heir of  invincibility. I have often mentioned in this space through the years that I have never been a fan of Tiger’s. Oh, his talent is unquestioned, but I have never liked the way he carried himself on and off the course.

Not much has changed in that department, though, but the way he handled his latest win showed me this could be a new Tiger, a more likeable Tiger. Only time will tell if a touch of humility has changed him for the better.

So where do we golf  fans go from here? The first thing that obviously pops up is whether, with 15 majors to his name, or not Tiger still has a chance to catch the record of 18 from the greatest of all time — Jack Nicklaus.

Tiger is now the favorite in the next three majors. He will play two venues where he’s won majors before — Bethpage and Pebble Beach — and another in The Open that will almost always be his best chance to win a major in a given year.

Golfer Brooks Koepka, who has won three majors since 2017, felt confident going out on this limb: “I think 18 is a whole lot closer than people think.”

Then there is the question of whose Masters win meant more, Tiger’s Sunday or Nicklaus’ in 1986 at the age of 46. I have to lean to toward Jack on this one until Woods gets one at that age or later.

But here’s a fair argument for Tiger. He beat a better field after eight surgeries, four on his back. Two years ago, he could barely walk.

And here’s the other side: Jack was three years older than Tiger. Medicine wasn’t as advanced back then. Forty-six is still old to win a major, but not as old as it was in ’86.

Tiger has probably 20-30 more runs at winning the three majors he needs to for the tie.

I still don’t think he catches 18, but after watching him closely at Augusta National, it certainly doesn’t feel  impossible after watching him erase 11 years of questions.

He got some help down the stretch from his competitors, but Tiger won because he hit better shots, and more importantly, smarter shots. This was more about execution than mystique.

nContact Bill Burrus at 581-7237 or bburrus@gwcommonwealth.com.

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