Jack Nicklaus is, arguably, the greatest golfer ever, having won 18 total major championships and inspiring a whole generation to pick up the sport. Similarly, some guy named Tiger Woods did the same 30 years later, when he made golf cool and had it go from a hobby that retired people play in their 60s to something that younger kids could pick up and become pro athletes in. On the Mount Rushmore of golfers, these two are 1a and 1b.
While that’s a debate for another day, the guy who holds the most major titles, Jack Nicklaus, seems like he’s a bit worried about that Woods fella snatching that distinction from him now that he’s had a taste of it after the remarkable Masters victory. That’s because, while speaking at the tournament he hosts, the Memorial at Muirfield Village Golf Club, Nicklaus admitted that he thinks Tiger will “probably” break the all-time major record — assuming he stays healthy.
Per Golf Week:
“Who knows how long his body is going to stay together? You’ve had as many operations as he’s had, he may be solid enough that it’s all right. And if he is, I think he probably will break my record,” Nicklaus said.
That’s a little surprising to hear Jack Nicklaus say, considering Tiger Woods is still three majors away from even tying Jack’s record — and, at 43 years old, isn’t getting any younger — but the all-time great appears to fully be on the Tiger bandwagon. He even went further, going on to absolutely gush about how he’s been able to comeback physically and, more importantly, mentally; which is something Woods himself talked about following the victory at Augusta. Take a look at what Nicklaus had to say about watching Tiger win The Masters a couple months back.
“It was fun watching his mind work. It was fun watching how he thought and how I thought he was thinking and how I would have thought.”
As soon as Nicklaus sat down to watch the final holes, he said he didn’t move again until it was over, but in his mind, he was at Augusta National. And he couldn’t believe what he was seeing, as all the contenders it seemed, except for Woods, started “filling up Rae’s Creek” with tee shots on the 12th hole.
“He played beautifully coming home,” Nicklaus said. “I knew he was in a position that he knew that he didn’t have to do anything special. All he had to do was play good, solid golf.”
“He came back, he worked hard to get himself back in shape to be able to play,” Nicklaus said. “He had to figure out what he had between the five inches between his ears. He had to get that solved to believe that he could do what he did. He had won The Tour Championship the year before. But that’s still only 30 players. He’s not beating a huge field. Played very well to win that. But still not the Masters or the U.S. Open. And he just had to believe it.”
“Once he sorted himself out mentally, once he believed that he could play again, he would win,” Nicklaus said. “If he’s physically sound and it’s his desire to win and he breaks it, you know, well done. That’s what it should be. That’s what sports is all about.”
Jack Nicklaus is one of the class acts, and his relationship with Tiger Woods is well-documented going back nearly 30 years, so it’s not too surprising to hear him toss out so much praise. But it’s even cooler hearing him recount what he observed as both a fan and a legend of the game, and, deep down, there’s probably a little bit in him that hopes Woods is the one who can, somehow, break the major title record when all is said and done.