Thursday 23 May 2019

Tiger Woods can match my record after completing astonishing comeback at Tour Championship, says Jack Nicklaus

Tiger Woods celebrates winning the Tour Championship golf tournament at East Lake Golf Club. Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Tiger Woods celebrates winning the Tour Championship golf tournament at East Lake Golf Club. Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

James Corrigan

The chase has resumed. Jack Nicklaus reacted to Tiger Woods's first victory in five years by declaring it is realistic for the 42-year-old to win at least four more majors and so equal the Golden Bear’s record haul of 18 majors.

Woods won the Tour Championship at East Lake here in Atlanta on Sunday with an already famous wire-to-wire success and the tributes soon began flooding in.

Nick Faldo sent his congratulations, admitting “I was one of many who didn’t see this happening again”, while Justin Rose, who lost his world No 1 spot after finishing fourth, but won the $10 million FedEx Cup, said “it's great for the sport – Tiger moves the needle like no-one else out here”.

Yet it was the comments of Nicklaus which inevitably gained the most traction. Woods has been rooted to 14 majors ever since 2008 and it had been generally accepted through all his injury and personal troubles that he would never catch Nicklaus’s 18. But Nicklaus himself now believes otherwise.

“Maybe Tiger’s got another 40 majors to play. Out of 40 majors can he win five of them?” Nicklaus said. “He’s playing well enough. It depends how much he wants to work at it, how interested he is, and long he wants to make a commitment to do that.

“With today’s equipment, and the way the guys take care of themselves, I think they could play well into their 50s. I’m proud of him. He’s worked very hard to get his golf game back. He even worked really hard to get the five inches between his head thinking the right way again.”

For Woods, who arrives in Paris on Monday for this week’s Ryder Cup, it was obviously an emotional victory. His first thought was for his children Sam, 11, and Charley, 9.

“I hadn't won any tournaments in which they can remember, so I think this will be a little bit different for them,” Woods said. “To be able to have shared what I did with them at the British Open this year, I had a chance, I had the lead.

“They felt it, that atmosphere and they know what their dad can do on a golf course now. It's not what I used to be able to do. A lot of times they equated golf to pain because every time I did it, I would hurt, and it would cause me more pain. And so now they're seeing a little bit of joy and seeing how much fun it is for me to be able to do this again.”

On the US networks it was being hailed “the greatest sporting comeback of all time” and when one considers that 15 months ago he was arrested for driving under the influence of prescription medicines this is genuinely astonishing.

Woods dropped outside the world’s top 1,100 before he returned to official competition in January after four back operations and few gave him a prayer. Woods has won more than 100 tournaments but he rated this as important as perhaps any.

“It means a lot more to me now in the sense because I didn't know if I'd ever be out here again playing, doing this again,” he said. “I don't know, 20 years ago, hell, I thought I was going to play for another 30 years. So yeah, I appreciate it a little bit more than I did because I don't take it for granted that I'm going to have another decade, two decades in my future of playing golf at this level.”

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