Friday 24 May 2019

Rejuvenated Tiger has 'got me shaking in my boots' - Nicklaus

Woods is now the favourite to win the US PGA at Bethpage State Park’s famed Black Course in May. Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Woods is now the favourite to win the US PGA at Bethpage State Park’s famed Black Course in May. Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Tiger Woods mania is in full swing again with even Jack Nicklaus admitting he's shaking in his boots as the now five-time Masters champion closed in on his 18-Major haul with that win for the ages at Augusta.

The excitement generated by Woods' incredible comeback from devastating injury and personal problems to win his 15th Major is now such that demand for tickets for Royal Portrush briefly collapsed The Open website in the hours after his first Major win for 11 years.

Woods is now the favourite to win the US PGA at Bethpage State Park's famed Black Course in May and with the US Open set for another venue where he has won before, Pebble Beach in June, he's the only man who could complete the grand slam this year as The Open returns to Royal Portrush.

Ben Hogan won the Masters, the US Open and The Open in 1953 - the famed Triple Crown - but was unable to go for the Grand Slam as the US PGA overlapped with that year's Open at Carnoustie.

But Woods, who won the US Open by 15 strokes at Pebble Beach in 2000 and triumphed at Bethpage when capturing his eighth Major in the US Open in 2002, is clearly a sportsman that you write off at your peril.

He's now just three Majors away from matching Nicklaus' haul of 18 - hence the increased interest in Royal Portrush - and even the Golden Bear admits that he's got him worried after stopping a fishing trip in the Bahamas to watch Sunday's action.

"I've felt for a long time he was going to win again," Nicklaus told Golf Channel on Sunday night. "And, you know, the next two Majors are at Bethpage, where he's won and at Pebble Beach, where he's won. So, you know, he's got me shaking in my boots, guys."

Nicklaus said that in a light-hearted tone but he genuinely believes Woods is capable of getting to 18 given the course management brilliance and coolness under pressure he displayed on Sunday.

"I sat down and watched them fill up the water at number 12," Nicklaus said. "I was sitting there Molinari was two shots in the lead when I turned it on and good gracious, it was a good club, club and a half short. And I watched the rest of it." The Golden Bear has been asked about Woods' 'ad nauseam' for more than 20 years, but he insists he wishes him well ahead of what is shaping up to be an unforgettable summer.

"I don't ever pull against anybody," he said. "Nobody wants their record to be broken, but I certainly wouldn't want Tiger to be hurt and not able to do it.

"Of course, now he is now pretty healthy and I wish him well. I always wish the guys well. I want them to play their best, I don't ever want anyone to play poorly."

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