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Tiger Debunks Widely-Held Nicklaus Myth

The Tiger Woods-Jack Nicklaus rivalry is the stuff of legend(s).

When it comes to inarguably the two best players of their respective generations, the natural sports talk radio or bar debate topic comes into comparing the two behemoths of the sport head-t0-head across generations.

However, a lynchpin of the rivalry that has been regurgitated as long as Tiger Woods has been on the scene — that his unending chase to surpass Nicklaus’ 18 major championship total was a childhood goal — is simply not true, Woods explained on Tuesday at the Players Championship.

Another oft-debated topic — who and what qualifies a tournament as a major — spurred a question in Woods’ pre-tournament press conference that allowed him to shed light on the misrepresentation of Woods’ famed list of Nicklaus accomplishments on his bedroom wall.   

Golf.com’s Michael Bamberger broached the topic of U.S. Amateur wins counting as major championship victories. He asked Woods how he quantifies the major count between him and Jack: 18 to 14, as is commonly quoted, or 20 to 17, which would include Nicklaus’ pair of U.S. Am wins and Woods’ three.

In the course of the question, Bamberger made reference to Woods having Nicklaus’ timeline hanging on his bedroom wall, and Woods debunked the commonly-held belief that it was a major championship quest he was on.

“Well his timeline that I had is first time he broke 40, first time he won a state amateur, first time he broke 80, and the first time he won the U.S. Amateur. And that was it,” Woods said. “People have blown that way out of proportion. And so that was just a few little junior golf deals and a couple amateur things. Had nothing to do with the professional career.”

“You have to remember that’s when I was starting to play a little bit more,” he continued. “I was about 11 or 12 when I really started to play a little bit more golf, and I looked at those things. If he’s the greatest of all time, then it would be nice if I was a little bit ahead of schedule, according to those little tidbits. I was able to beat all of them at the relative ages that he did it.”

Despite setting the record straight on his childhood bedroom, Woods didn’t answer the question as to where he stands on 20 vs. 18 for Jack and 14 vs. 17 for him. In typical Woodsian fashion, Tiger deflected in expert fashion.

“Yeah, there’s that,” he said, “and I’ve got 80 (wins) and he doesn’t.”

Tiger will go for No. 81 and Player Championship No. 3 on Thursday when he tees it up alongside Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson at 1:27 p.m.

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