Jack Nicklaus left Augusta National on Thursday evening to head to the Bahamas on a fishing trip.
By Sunday afternoon, the 18-time major champion abandoned his quest for bonefish in order to see Tiger Woods, his greatest historical rival, continue his ascent towards the summit of Mt. Nicklaus.
“I happened to pick up (the coverage) as they were filling up the water at No. 12,” Nicklaus told Golf Channel’s Rich Lerner on Sunday afternoon on “Live From The Masters” referencing the four of six balls that found Rae’s Creek from the final two threesomes.
In a phone interview that spanned more than six minutes, Nicklaus spoke frankly about being protective of his record — “Nobody wants their record to be broken.” — but he also offered some interesting comments on his belief in Woods’ ability to reach 18 majors now that the chase is back on.
“I’ve been saying – everybody kept asking me, ‘What about Tiger? Can he win another major?’ I kept saying, ‘I think so. I think he will,’” Nicklaus said. “And the reason I said that is because it all depended on Tiger’s health. If Tiger is healthy, he didn’t need to worry about his driver. He never drove the ball straight anyway. He always, from somewhere, he got the ball up around the green. He’s such a great putter, he has such a great short game, he has such distance control with his irons – unbelievable distance control, the best I’ve ever seen of anybody in the game.
“If you get a guy who can do that, even if Tiger wasn’t healthy, if he could bunt the ball off the tee somewhere, with his iron game and his short game, he’s going to win again. And he topped it off this week, by driving the ball with it.
“I felt for a long time he was going to win again. And, you know, the next two majors are at Bethpage, where he’s won [2002 U.S. Open], and Pebble Beach, where he’s won [2000 U.S. Open]. So, you know, he’s got me shaking in my boots, guys.”
While Woods has the chance to match Nicklaus this season, the odds are decidedly against him. Woods would need to capture three more major championships to match Nicklaus, and four more to better him. Even with the frenzy surrounding Woods’ latest win, he’d need to carve out the equivalent of another Hall of Fame career to reach Nicklaus.
However, if we learned anything this week, it’s to never doubt the resolve and ability of Tiger Woods.