Nicklaus still believes Woods will break his record

By Joe PosnanskiAugust 6, 2014, 7:14 pm

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Jack Nicklaus has never veered from one simple opinion: Tiger Woods is going to break his major championship record. He has said so repeatedly. In the mid-2000s, when Woods was collecting major championships like dust, it seemed obvious – back then just about everybody thought Woods would not only set the record but would blow past Nicklaus’ 18 majors and put it miles and miles in his rear-view mirror. How many could he win? Twenty-five? Thirty? More? It all seemed possible.

But then things began to slow down. Woods badly hurt his knee. He came back and did the unthinkable – lost a head-to-head fourth-round duel with Y.E. Yang. Then, there was the tabloid fiasco, the apology, the sluggish play, the swing changes, the constant injuries.

All along the way, though, Jack Nicklaus continued to insist that Woods will break his record.

And he does so still.

“I think the guy is just too good,” he said. “I don't know what is happening between his ears right now … somebody said the other day that they think he has the yips with the driver, and I think that is a pretty good assessment. I had never heard of that, but if you get it in your head that you can’t hit a driver in the fairway, you aren't going to hit it in the fairway very much.


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“Still, I thought that his swing in the first round of the British Open was very good. I thought he came back, and it was much more level, I thought his tempo was much better. … I just think he’s too talented, too focused, to not do it.”

Now, it is true Nicklaus said this a couple of days before Woods hurt himself again at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. But it’s too easy to get swayed by today’s news. It’s just one week, one major, one point in time. This actually was one of Nicklaus’ great gifts as a golfer – he did not get swayed because one challenger had a birdie run or another seemed to be collapsing. Steady. Long view. That was Jack.

And so even though it looks bleak to others … he still thinks Woods will break the record.

“I really do,” he says.

Now, I should mention this - I told Nicklaus that I don’t think Woods will break the record. I don’t think he will tie the record, either. I haven’t thought Woods was going to break the record for a few years now. For me, it comes down to simple math.

• Tiger Woods needs five more majors to pass Nicklaus.

• He’s turning 39 this year.

• In the last 50 years, only eight golfers other than Woods have won five majors in their entire careers. None of them, not even Nicklaus himself, won five majors after turning 38.

So that seems obvious to me. But here’s the obvious thing: Nicklaus knows infinitely more about this than I do. And he is adamant. Nicklaus is not necessarily close to Woods, but they are deeply connected. They played golf on a different plane. They won by making fewer mistakes – mental mistakes, physical mistakes, emotional mistakes – than anybody else.

And so Nicklaus understands Woods. He understands the force Tiger Woods displayed winning that U.S. Open on one leg or steadying himself to beat Bob May in that PGA Championship playoff or winning that Masters to complete the Tiger Slam when everyone expected him to win. He understands where Woods’ mind goes in those big moments when a tournament is won and lost, where his mind goes when the pressure is dense and the mind and body are prone to making mistakes.

“He still has that focus and he still has that drive,” Nicklaus says. “I think that’s what it takes.”

Oh, Nicklaus doesn’t think it will be easy for Woods to win five more – he actually thinks it will be more difficult to win his next one than it was to win any of the previous 14. This is because he really likes the young group of players coming up.

“I think there is some pretty good competition on the Tour, better than it has been for a long time,” Nicklaus says. “You’ve got some guys who can really play. Rory (McIlroy) is the real thing, he’s a really good player. You’ve got Jason Day – I think he’s capable of being a very good player. … Rickie (Fowler) hasn’t won very much yet but he’s right there. … (Jordan) Spieth is getting better. You have a bunch of good young players. And each major that passes does make it harder for Tiger to do.”

The competition question is interesting. Everyone has pointed out – and Nicklaus is quick to agree with this point – that Woods won his 14 majors against a much deeper pool of good players. There are probably 40 or 50 players capable this week of playing well enough to win, way more than in Nicklaus’ day.

But Nicklaus does believe firmly that with only a handful of exceptions, Woods did not face nearly as many great golfers as he contended with.

“Tiger has had a whole bunch of guys who would give it away,” he says. “And it’s not his fault, but I had (Arnold) Palmer, (Gary) Player, (Lee) Trevino, (Tom) Watson, (Johnny) Miller, (Tom) Weiskopf, (Billy) Casper. Those guys weren't going to give it away.  … If you slipped, you looked at that leaderboard. And if I saw those names on that leaderboard I knew that they weren't going to make many mistakes so I couldn't make many mistakes. But if I saw some other name - Jones, Smith, whatever - up there on the leaderboard, then I said ‘Don't get yourself in trouble and do anything stupid and you are going to win a golf tournament.  Because they will self-destruct.’

“When Tiger was probably 28 or 29, he was the only golfer under 30 who had won more than one tournament. … Again, it’s not his fault. He took advantage of his circumstances.”

So, Nicklaus does think it will be much tougher for Woods against this talented new group of players who did not grow up losing to Woods but, instead, grew up watching him on television and being inspired by him. Nicklaus also knows it will be tougher the older Woods gets.

And he still thinks Woods will break the record.

“I really do,” he says. “I’ve always said, ‘I think he’s going to do it but he’s got to go out and actually do it.’ And that’s still true. But I really think he will.”

He does his own math on this. Nicklaus thinks Woods, assuming he can be healthy again (and doesn’t rashly try to come back when he’s not ready), should be good enough to contend in majors for another decade. That’s 40 majors. Nicklaus simply thinks he’s so mentally tough, so smart a golfer, and so hungry to win that he will win five of them.

Well, it’s a fascinating viewpoint. Nicklaus has watched Woods more or less from the beginning. He played a practice round with a young Woods and was so blown away he predicted that Tiger would win as many Masters as he and Palmer won combined (that’s 10 green jackets). He has marveled at Woods’ all-around game, his brilliance around the greens, his fantastic pressure putting. He has identified with Woods’ stunning patience – Woods almost never did anything reckless when trying to win a golf tournament. He understood the moment better than other golfers did. That was Nicklaus, too.

And so, after seeing all that, Nicklaus still thinks Woods will win those majors and break the record. Of course, Nicklaus is a class act too and so he would probably say that even if he didn’t mean it.

“Well, let me put it this way - I would be a pretty big jerk if I turned around and said I didn't think he could do it,” Nicklaus says, and he laughs. “But honestly, in my own mind, I believe he will.”

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"The Men In Blazers" Hosting Nightly Show From The Open, July 18-22 on NBCSN

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJuly 17, 2018, 1:55 pm

Show to Include Off-beat Interviews, Unique Features and Men In Blazers Distinctive Takes on The Open

VIDEO: Men In Blazers: Carnoustie Through the Years Hosting The Open

Culminating in France’s thrilling win on Sunday, NBC Sports’ critically-acclaimed The Men In Blazers – Roger Bennett and Michael Davies – have spent the past month breaking down all of the action surrounding the FIFA World Cup. However, there will be no rest for the duo as they leave behind their Panic Room studio in the “crap part of SoHo” in Manhattan to host a nightly show in conjunction with The 147TH Open. The show will feature the pair’s signature, unconventional style in providing unique takes on golf’s original championship while “sporting an arsenal of the finest golf sweaters that could be found on eBay.” Originating from Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland, Men In Blazers will air nightly on NBCSN Wednesday, July 18 through Sunday, July 22.

In addition to delivering a series of features for NBC Sports’ coverage surrounding The Open, the nightly Men In Blazers show on NBCSN will offer expanded highlights following each round; off-beat interviews, special guests and cameos; along with non-traditional stories highlighting cultural elements relevant to Carnoustie and The Open.

“Both Davo and I grew up with The Open being the heartbeat of our sporting year,” said Bennett. “To cover it from that beautiful monster that is Carnoustie is the honor of a lifetime. We look forward to savoring every attempt to tame Hogan’s Alley, the futile battle between man and nature, and all those ‘subtle’ Ian Poulter wardrobe changes, in equal measure.”

Dedicated features being showcased over the duration of the week include: a retrospect on past Opens having been staged at Carnoustie; an in-depth recollection of the unforgettable 1999 Open; an introduction to the second-oldest golf shop in the world; a history lesson on Carnoustie and its influence on golf around the world; and an examination of Carnoustie’s local delicacy known as “bridies”.

MEN IN BLAZERS AIRTMES FOR THE 147TH OPEN WEEK (All Times EST)

Wednesday, July 18               11-11:30 p.m. (NBCSN)

Thursday, July 19                   11-11:30 p.m. (NBCSN)

Friday, July 20                        1-1:30 a.m. (NBCSN, Saturday overnight)

Saturday, July 21                    11:30 p.m.-Midnight (NBCSN)

Sunday, July 22                      10-10:30 p.m. (NBCSN)

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Woods delofts 2-iron to use off Carnoustie tees

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 1:23 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods has been effective this season hitting a 2-iron off many tees, reverting to a version of the stinger shot he made so popular.

This week at baked out and brown Carnoustie he went to the next level, adding a new 2-iron to his bag that he bent to 17 degrees, down from his normal 20-degree version.

“I took a few degrees off of it, just trying to be able to have the ability to chase one down there,” he explained on Tuesday.

Woods said he still carries the club about the same distance, from 245 to 250 yards, but “it gets to its final destination much differently [on the ground].”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“Obviously, it rolls out whereas mine back home, I've generally liked having it 20 degrees because I can hit the ball into the par 5s as an option,” he said. “This one's not really designed for hitting the ball in the air to par 5s as an option. It's more of a driving club.”

After playing two practice rounds, Woods said he wasn’t sure how much he would use the new 2-iron given the dry conditions which have led to ridiculously long tee shots, and he said he might adjust the club more if the course doesn’t slow down.

“If it softens up, it could be a good club,” he said. “If it doesn't soften up, then I might just add a degree to it and keep it a little softer and not have it so hot.”

The Open is the second consecutive event where Woods has added to his bag. At The National earlier this month, he went with a new mallet-headed putter that he plans to continue to use this week.

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Europeans out to end the recent American dominance

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 12:59 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In golf’s biggest events, the Americans have left the rest of the world feeling red, white and mostly blue.

If you’re wondering whether the U.S. currently holds a meaningful title, the answer is probably yes.

Golf’s four majors? Yep.

The Ryder Cup? Indeed.

The No. 1 player in the world? Absolutely.

The Presidents, Solheim, Walker, Palmer and Curtis Cups? Uh-huh.

It’s been a popular talking point at the men’s majors, as Europe’s finest players have been peppered about why they’ve all seemingly fallen under Uncle Sam’s spell.

After all, the Americans haven’t ripped off five major wins in a row like this since 1981-82 – when Justin Rose was still in diapers.

“I don’t know what I’d put it to down to,” the Englishman said Tuesday, “other than the American boys in the world rankings and on the golf course are performing really, really well. The top end of American golf right now is incredibly strong.”

Since 2000, the Americans have taken titles at eight of the nine courses on the modern Open rota. The only one they’ve yet to conquer is Carnoustie, and that’s probably because they’ve only had one crack at it, in 2007, when an Irishman, Padraig Harrington, prevailed in a playoff.

Not since Tom Watson in 1975 has a U.S. player survived Carnoustie, arguably the most difficult links on the planet. But Americans ranging from Dustin Johnson to Tiger Woods comprise six of the oddsmakers' top 10 favorites, all listed at 25/1 or better.

“America, there’s no doubt about it, and there’s no other way to put it, other than they have an exceptional bunch of players at the moment,” Tommy Fleetwood said. “It just so happens that it has been a run of American golfers that have won majors, but at the same time, they’ve generally been the best players in the world at the time that they’ve won them.

“You don’t really look at them as a nationality. You just look at them as players and people, and you can understand why they’re the ones winning the majors.”

Indeed, there’s not a fluke among them.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Since this American run began last summer at Erin Hills, Brooks Koepka (twice), Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed have hoisted trophies. All were inside the top 25 in the world when they won. All were multiple-time winners on the world stage before that major. And all, most ominously for Europe, were 29 or younger.

“There’s a bit of camaraderie amongst all of them,” Rose said. “I know Brooks and Dustin are incredibly close, and you’ve got Rickie (Fowler) and Justin Thomas and Jordan as a group are all really close. It’s working really well for them. They’re spurring each other on.”

That’s why there’s even more anticipation than usual for the Ryder Cup. The Americans haven’t won on foreign soil in a quarter century, but this band of brothers is better and closer than those who have tried and failed before them. Couple that with a few aging stars on the European side, and there’s a growing sense that the Americans could be on the verge of a dominant stretch.

That should sound familiar.

During an eight-major span in 2010-11, the most common refrain was: What’s Wrong with American Golf? International players captured seven consecutive majors, including six in a row at one point. They took over the top spot in the world rankings. They turned the Ryder Cup into a foregone conclusion. In the fall of 2010, Colin Montgomerie pounded his chest and declared that there’d been a “changing of the guard over to Europe,” and it was hard to find fault in his reasoning.

“European golf was very healthy a few years ago for a long time,” McIlroy said. “It seemed like every major someone from the island of Ireland turned up to, we were winning it. It doesn’t seem that long ago.”

Because it wasn’t.

So even though it’s been more than a year since an International player held any title of consequence, these types of runs are cyclical, and Europe in particular has no shortage of contenders.

Major drought or not, McIlroy is a threat every time he tees it up. Rose turns 38 in two weeks, but he’s playing arguably the best golf of his career, recording a top-10 finish in a ridiculous 17 of his past 21 starts. Fleetwood is fresh off a runner-up finish at the U.S. Open, where he closed with 63. Jon Rahm is a top-5 machine. Alex Noren just won on the Ryder Cup course in France.

“I think Tommy, clearly, showed how close the Europeans are to challenging that dominance as well,” Rose said. “So it’s not like we’re a mile behind. It’s just that they’re on a great run right now, and there’s no reason why a European player shouldn’t come through this week.”

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Links to the past: Tiger's return revives Open memories

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 12:51 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods rekindles his love affair with links golf this week at Carnoustie, which seems about right considering his introduction to the ancient ways of the game began here on the Angus coast.

It was here on the most brutal of the Open Championship rota courses that a 19-year-old Tiger first played links golf at the 1995 Scottish Open, an eye-opening and enlightening experience.

“I remember my dad on the range with me, saying, ‘Are you ever going to hit the ball past the 100 yard sign?’” Woods recalled on Tuesday at Carnoustie, his first start at The Open since 2015. “I said, ‘No, I'm just enjoying this. Are you kidding me? This is the best.’”

During this most recent comeback, Tiger has been all smiles. A new, relaxed version of his former self made calm and approachable by age and the somber influence of injury. But this week has been different.

During a practice round with Justin Thomas on Monday he laughed his way all the way around the brown and bouncy seaside layout. Much of that had to do with his return to the unique ways of links golf, the creative left side of his brain taking the wheel from the normally measured right side for one glorious week.

He talked of game plans and strategic advantages on a parched pitch that has seen drives rolling out over 400 yards. At his core, Tiger is a golf nerd for all the right reasons and this kind of cerebral test brings out the best of that off-the-charts golf IQ.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Although there are no shortages of defining moments in Tiger’s career and one can make all sorts of arguments for what would be his seminal moment – from the 1997 Masters to the 2008 U.S. Open –the 2006 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool stands out, based on near-perfect execution.

In ’06 at Liverpool, which played to a similar shade of dusty yellow as Carnoustie will this week, Tiger hit just a single driver, opting instead for a steady diet of long irons off tees. For the week he hit 48 of 56 fairways, 58 of 72 greens and rolled the field for a two-stroke victory and his third, and most recent, claret jug.

This Open has all the makings of a similar tactical tour de force. For this championship he’s put a new 2-iron into play that’s more like a strong 1-iron (17 degrees) and imagines, given the conditions, a similar low, running menu.

“It could be that way,” Woods said when asked the similarities between this week’s conditions and the ’06 championship. “I'm not going to hit that many long clubs off the tees, just because I hit a 3-iron on Monday, down 18, I went 333 [yards]. It can get quick out here.”

If Tiger ever needed a major championship confidence boost the Carnoustie Open would be it, an inspiring walk down memory lane to a time when he was the undisputed king of golf.

“[The ’06 Open] is the closest you can compare to this,” David Duval said. “But I struggle to remember that golf course being as fast as this one. It was close, but this one is something else.”

Ernie Els had a slightly different take, albeit one that was no less ominous to the rest of the field this week.

“Liverpool is on a sand hill, this has a bit more run to it,” Els said. “But it’s got the same feel. It’s almost like St. Andrews was in 2000. Very, very fast.”

It’s worth noting that Tiger also won that ’00 Open at the Home of Golf with an even more dominant performance. It is the unique challenges of the links test that make many, even Tiger, consider the Open Championship his best chance to continue his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.

More than any other Grand Slam gathering, The Open is blind to age and the notion of players competing past their prime. In 2008 at Royal Birkdale, then-53-year-old Greg Norman flirted with the lead until the very end, finishing tied for third; a year later at Turnberry, Tom Watson came within one hole of history at 59 years young.

“It certainly can be done,” Woods said. “You get to places like Augusta National, where it's just a big ballpark, and the golf course outgrows you, unfortunately. That's just the way it goes. But links-style golf courses, you can roll the ball. Even if I get a little bit older, I can still chase some wood or long club down there and hit the ball the same distance.”

Whether this is the week Tiger gets back into the Grand Slam game depends on his ability to replicate those performances from years past on a similarly springy course. As he exited the media center bound for the practice putting green on Tuesday he seemed renewed by the cool sea breeze and the unique challenges of playing the game’s oldest championship.

Coming back to Carnoustie is more than a reintroduction to links golf; for Tiger it’s starting to feel like a bona fide restart to his major career.