Tiger Woods will win another major, but I don’t believe he’s capable of catching Jack Nicklaus for most major championships; not the way his soul and spirit is currently constructed.
Personally, this is a paradigm shift in regard to Tiger. In the past, I believed Eldrick would eventually win another major (which I still believe) and then the floodgates would open. Tiger would pass through the mental ceiling, the mental barrier that has been haunting him and win six, seven or more majors before age and injury robbed his gift.
But after watching Woods shoot 74 at Muirfield and squander another opportunity to win a major and Phil Mickelson putting together the round of his life, the juxtaposition made me rethink my position.
Woods has won many golf tournaments since his public meltdown. He has been in contention in majors through the first 36 — 54 holes, consistently. He is the number one ranked golfer in the world! He has reclaimed his position of prominence in the golfing universe.
But he’s 37 and a frontrunner.
I don’t mean to degrade Tiger for being a frontrunner. It’s who he is; it’s how he’s constructed. There are many professional athletes that have had successful careers, great careers, and made millions of dollars even though they were frontrunners. This is not a condemnation of Tiger, it’s an observation. When things go well in majors and Tiger is in the lead he can win. If he has to come from behind, he can’t. When the stars are aligned and he is either tied for the lead or has it outright going into the final round, Tiger has won 14 majors. He has never come from behind like Phil did at Muirfield.
That is the definition of a frontrunner.
Tiger’s physical skills are still the best in the world, but they’re not as dominant as they once were. Injury and age have sapped him of any athletic advantage he had over his peers and where he could consistently bring that awesome talent to bare every round he can no longer do. Getting the lead after 54 holes is not nearly as easy as it once was for the most talented golfer the world has ever seen.
This puts Tiger in a bit of a Majors conundrum: if he can’t win unless he has the lead after 54 holes and he’s not consistent enough with his skills to get the lead after 54 holes on a regular basis, how many more opportunities will he have to catch Jack and will he have the game to win four more when those opportunities present themselves?
Thus, my personal paradigm shift.
The answer for Tiger is clear: don’t be a frontrunner. Learn to play your best when things aren’t their best.
If this were to ever happen and Tiger kept himself in great shape — looked to the light and let it pierce the darkness — he will leave Nicklaus in major championships dust. After all, Phil is 43 and going strong, and hasn’t kept himself nearly in the shape Tiger has.
Keep in mind, Nicklaus didn’t win his 15th major until he was 38. Tiger is 37…but a frontrunner.