Woods vs Nicklaus: Another way to compare them

By Joe PosnanskiJune 16, 2013, 12:57 am

ARDMORE, Pa. – An interesting question came up the other day: Most golf fans know that Jack Nicklaus did not only win 18 major championships, he also finished second 19 times. It’s an amazing but curious thing – what does it mean? Nicklaus just put himself in position time after time after time after time. This led to remarkable victories. It also led to spectacular heartbreak.

These 19 runner-ups included:

1960 U.S. Open: As an amateur, Nicklaus finished second to Arnold Palmer, who came from seven shots back. After the round, Ben Hogan, who played with Nicklaus, famously said: “I played with a kid today who should have won this thing by 10 shots.”

1971 U.S. Open: Here at Merion, lost to Lee Trevino in an 18-hole playoff. Nicklaus missed a 15-foot birdie putt that would have won it on the 72nd hole.

1972 British Open: Nicklaus had won the first two legs of the Grand Slam, and went into Sunday’s Open at Muirfield trailing Trevino by six shots. Then he put on one of the greatest British Open charges ever, shooting 6 under par for the first 15 holes to pull himself to the top of the leaderboard. He shot 1 over on the final three holes and lost to Trevino by a shot.

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1974 PGA Championship: Trevino got him again, this time by a shot at Tanglewood Park in North Carolina.

1977 Masters: And now it was Tom Watson’s turn – he birdied the 17th to take a one-shot lead. Nicklaus, needing birdie on 18 to force a playoff, bogeyed the hole instead.

1977 British Open: The Duel in the Sun at Turnberry is probably the greatest man-to-man duel in golf history. Nicklaus and Watson were 10 shots clear of the field as they entered the last two holes. Nicklaus’ birdie at 18 from the rough was one of golf’s most spectacular finishes, but Watson birdied the hole himself by hitting a 7-iron 2 feet from the cup, and won by a shot.

1982 U.S. Open: Watson. Pebble Beach. The chip.

1983 PGA Championship: One more time, at age 43, Nicklaus make a spectacular charge, shooting 66 on Sunday, but fell one shot short of Hal Sutton at Riviera.

For the record, Nicklaus finished second at the Masters four times, the U.S. Open four times, the British Open seven times (!) and the PGA four times.

To the question: Do all those close misses add to Nicklaus’ case for greatest player of all time? Do they subtract from the case? Do they spotlight his extraordinary constancy and will or do they show that he was not as great a finisher as Tiger Woods? Or neither? Do those second places have no impact at all on the case?

So much of the Tiger Woods vs. Jack Nicklaus debate has revolved around those 18 major-championship victories. When the young Tiger Woods had that Nicklaus poster on his wall, that was the number he focused on – major championships won. In so many ways, the history battle between them has come down to simple scoreboard watching. Woods has 14 majors. Nicklaus won 18. Can Woods catch him? Will Nicklaus hold on?

But, as we are finding out again this week at the U.S. Open, there’s a more subtle difference between Nicklaus and Woods – one that, I readily admit, might not matter at all to you. Nicklaus had 19 second-place finishes. Woods, so far, has had six.

Who cares about second place? Maybe nobody. But it’s part of a story. Woods has never come from behind to win a major championship (he almost did when he birdied the last four holes at the 2002 PGA, almost catching Rich Beem). He has also, with only one exception, never allowed anyone else to come from behind to beat him. He has rarely, if ever, had his heart broken at a major (maybe the Beem loss). And he has never broken someone else’s heart. If he’s in position to win it, he wins it, the surest bet in the history of the game. The rest of the time, he just kind of lingers around, just out of reach.

This will be the 20th consecutive major championship that Tiger Woods will not win – Woods missed four of those tournaments with injuries – and of those 20, he really was in position to win only one. Well, quickly, here’s a recap (for a more in-depth look, see Jason Sobel’s fine recap):

2008 British: Missed with injury.

2008 PGA: Missed with injury.

2009 Masters: T-6, bogey-bogey finish but probably wasn’t going to win anyway.

2009 U.S. Open: T-6, terrible first round ended hopes.

2009 British: Missed cut. Tom Watson almost won at age 59.

2009 PGA: Second; this was the one heartbreak. Y.E. Yang chipped in for eagle at 14 and Woods, for the only time in his career, lost a lead going into the final round at a major.

2010 Masters: T-4, first major after the scandal, played well but was no factor on Sunday, five shots behind Phil Mickelson.

2010 U.S. Open: T-4, looked in position for Sunday charge but flamed out with 75.

2010 British Open: T-23, no factor at St. Andrews, where he had won twice before.

2010 PGA: T-28, no factor.

2011 Masters: T-4, Woods makes a rare Sunday charge at a major and actually ties for the lead at the turn, but his momentum stalls and he finishes four back.

2011 U.S. Open: Missed with injury.

2011 British Open: Missed with injury.

2011 PGA: Missed cut. Shot 77 on opening day. Looked lost.

2012 Masters: T-40, no factor.

2012 U.S. Open: T-21, was tied for the lead the first two days but miserable 25-hole stretch beginning Saturday knocked him out.

2012 British: T-3, but a triple bogey on Sunday – one where Woods made rare mental errors – cost him any chance.

2012 PGA: T-11, once more led after two rounds, once more flailed on weekend and finished 11 shots behind Rory McIlroy.

2013 Masters: T-4, another good but not great performance, he was never in a threatening position on Sunday.

And that takes us to this year’s U.S. Open, where Woods has never looked comfortable. Even so, he started the day just off the leaderboard, and he birdied the first hole, and then he utterly collapsed. He missed putts. He flubbed chips. He shot 6 over for the day, he’s out of the tournament, 10 shots behind Phil Mickelson, and he admits being frustrated. “I’m playing well enough to do it,” he said, “and, unfortunately, just haven’t got it done.”

So, that makes 20 majors, and if you’re being honest about it he was really only in general position to win two or three coming into Sunday. He was only a serious contender on the back nine in one.

But does that matter? Do close calls add to your legacy or detract from it? Here’s a fun statistic for you:

In the 1970s, Nicklaus finished first or second in 15 of the 40 major championships, which is amazing.

In the 2000s, Tiger Woods finished first or second in, yes, 15 of the 40 major championships, which is probably even more amazing considering the depth of talent.

The difference? In the 1970s, Nicklaus finished out of the top 10 only five times. The whole decade. He was just about always a factor. He was as invariable and inevitable as weather in San Diego.

Woods, meanwhile, finished out of the top 10 13 times in his decade, not even counting the tournaments he missed for injury. When he was on his game, he was money, he was a lock. Nobody could beat him at his best. But when he was off, even if only off a bit, he was often not in the thick of things. He was just off.

This major drought for Tiger, believe it or not, is now as long as the drought from Nicklaus’ PGA Championship in 1980 to his miraculous Masters victory at age 46.  People were saying during that time that Nicklaus was done. Nobody’s saying that about Tiger. He’s still, clearly, the best golfer in the world.

But, it is true, that Nicklaus just gave himself more chances, even during his 20-tournament drought (he finished second three times, including the Watson chip-in). He bludgeoned golfers by being in position over and over. In the year after Trevino beat him in the 1971 U.S. Open playoff, he won the Masters and British Open. One year after Watson beat him at the Duel in the Sun, he went to St. Andrews and won. Nothing ever discouraged him or knocked him off course.

People will disagree about how to weigh all those Nicklaus second-place finishes. But, you know, it has been almost four years since Woods finished second at a major. You get the feeling he even could use one of those.

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Golf Channel Ramps Up Six Weeks of Comprehensive College Golf Coverage Culminating With The NCAA Women's and Men's Golf Championships, May 18-30

By Golf Channel Public RelationsApril 24, 2018, 9:00 pm

Golf Channel to Announce NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships Regional Selections on Wednesday, April 25 and Wednesday, May 2

 Golf Channel to Expand Coverage of NCAA Women’s and Men’s Regional Championships  

Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys, a Four-Part Docu-Series Executive Produced by Rickie Fowler, Premieres on Golf Channel Monday, May 7

 More than 100 News and Tournament Hours Planned for Women’s and Men’s Championships, Back-to-Back Weeks at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.


ORLANDO, Fla., April 24, 2018 – With conference championships underway, golf fans will be able to follow their favorite college golf programs and alma maters as they attempt to qualify and compete in the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships in May at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., as Golf Channel expands its comprehensive on-air and digital collegiate golf coverage the next six weeks.

“Through our new long-term partnership, the NCAA and Golf Channel are successfully raising the profile of college golf by shining a spotlight on the game’s future stars and the passion these programs have in competing for national championships,” said Molly Solomon, Golf Channel executive vice president of content and executive producer. “With our expanded coverage of the regional championships and partnering with OSU alum Rickie Fowler for Driven, our viewers will be treated to the most college golf coverage in network history leading into the NCAA Golf National Championships.”

REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS SELECTION ANNOUNCEMENTS: On Wednesday, April 25 at 5:30 p.m. ET (women) and continuing Wednesday, May 2 at 5:30 p.m. ET (men), Golf Channel will announce the teams and individuals selected by the NCAA to participate in the women’s and men’s regional championships, the first step on the road to the NCAA Golf Championships. Live streaming coverage of selection shows will be available through the Golf Channel Mobile App or GolfChannel.com, and Golf Channel will aggregate social content for the shows using the hashtag #NCAAGolf. 

  • Women’s Golf Championships Regional Selections, Wednesday, April 25, 5:30 p.m. ET: Golf Central will announce (live) the 72 teams and24 individuals selected to compete in the four NCAA Women’s Regional Championships, May 7-9 (18 teams and six individuals per regional). 24 teams and 12 individuals will advance from regional sites to the national championships.
  • Men’s Golf Championships Regional Selections, Wednesday, May 2, 5:30 p.m. ET: Golf Central will announce the 81 teams and 45 individuals selected to compete in the six NCAA Men’s Regional Championships, May 14-16 (13 teams and 10 individuals at three regionals and 14 teams and five individuals at three regionals). 30 teams and six individuals will advance from regional sites to the national championships.

GOLF CHANNEL TO EXPAND REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS COVERAGE: New for 2018, Golf Channel will feature expanded coverage of the final day of the NCAA women’s and men’s regional championships, Wednesday May 9 and Wednesday, May 16, respectively. Beginning within Morning Drive, Golf Channel’s daily lifestyle news show, and continuing hourly throughout the day via live Golf Central news updates from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. ET that will be published to Golf Channel Digital and Golf Channel’s social media handles. Coverage will conclude with live news segments, featuring highlights and interviews, announcing the teams and individuals who qualified for the women’s and men’s national championships.

RICKIE FOWLER AND NBC SPORTS COLLABORATE ON FOUR-PART DOCU-SERIES DRIVEN: OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS: NBC Sports Group is teaming up with PGA TOUR superstar Rickie Fowler to give viewers a dramatic behind-the-scenes look into Fowler’s alma mater in a four-part documentary series – Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys. Driven, executive produced by Fowler, will premiere Monday, May 7 at 10 p.m. ET and continue Monday, May 14 (10 p.m. ET) and Monday, May 21 (8 p.m. ET). The finale will air on NBC on Saturday, June 16, recapping their season that culminates with a run at a potential 11th national championship, taking place on their home turf.

NCAA GOLF NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS COVERAGE: Contested in back-to-back weeks, May 18-30 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., Golf Channel will dedicate its full suite of production resources to the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships, featuring nearly 30 combined hours of live tournament coverage. In addition, Golf Central will feature nearly 30 hours of combined pre-and post-event live news coverage produced on location, as well as daily news updates on Morning Drive and Golf Channel Digital.                                             

Golf Channel NCAA Women’s Golf Championships Coverage

Monday, May   21       

Individual National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Tuesday, May   22          

Quarterfinals, Team   Match Play  

11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET   (Live)

Tuesday, May   22                 

Semifinals, Team Match   Play 

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Wednesday, May   23            

Team National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)


Golf Channel NCAA Men’s Golf Championships Coverage

Monday, May   28      

Individual National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Tuesday, May   29          

Quarterfinals, Team   Match Play  

11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET   (Live)

Tuesday, May   29                 

Semifinals, Team Match   Play 

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Wednesday, May   30            

Team National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)


COLLEGE CENTRAL – GOLF CHANNEL DIGITAL COVERAGE: Golf Channel is providing comprehensive coverage leading up to and during the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships as part of College Central,Golf Channel Digital’s home for college golf. Led by Jay Coffin, Ryan Lavner and Steve Burkowski, College Central will be the source for all things college golf, including tournament results and scores, features and columns, video highlights and breaking news.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS NEWS COVERAGE: Golf Channel will cover the conference championships with scores and analysis across its on-air news platforms - Morning Drive and Golf Central – and online within College Central.

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With help from partner, Burns could secure Tour status

By Ryan LavnerApril 24, 2018, 8:33 pm

AVONDALE, La. – This week Sam Burns has yet another chance to secure special temporary membership for the rest of the PGA Tour season, but his partner may determine whether he’s ultimately successful.

In an interesting twist, Burns is burning one of his seven available sponsor exemptions this week at the Zurich Classic. He is 80 non-member points shy of securing special temporary membership, which would allow him to receive unlimited sponsor exemptions for the rest of the season.

Burns needs at least a two-way tie for fourth to earn the necessary points, but it won’t all depend on how he plays this week. The Zurich is a two-man game, with two rounds apiece of fourballs and alternate shot.

Burns' partner this week is William McGirt. Their games couldn’t be more different – Burns ranks eighth on Tour in driving distance, at 309 yards per pop, while McGirt is 143rd (290) – but they hope to compliment each other over four days at TPC Louisiana.

Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos

“I got a good pair of spurs sharpened up last week while I was in San Antonio,” joked McGirt, who is looking for his first top-10 since the fall. “I told him I was going to ride him hard this week. It’ll be fun.”

Burns will have at least two (and maybe three) more opportunities to earn status, with starts lined up next week at the Wells Fargo Championship and also at the Memorial. He doesn’t face quite as much pressure because he won earlier this month on the Web.com Tour and currently sits fourth on the money list, essentially locking up his PGA Tour card for next season.

“It’s obviously nice to have that win,” he said, “but at the same time you have to be careful and make sure you play enough out there to where you’re secure for sure. You don’t want to get at the end of the year and then have two or three events left and you have to make a certain amount of money to get your card.

“So I’m just going step by step, tournament by tournament, and trying to figure out what’s the best route.”   

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Spieth-Palmer draw Rahm-Bryan early at Zurich

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 24, 2018, 7:49 pm

AVONDALE, La. – The PGA Tour’s only team event gets underway Thursday at the Zurich Classic. Here are some featured groups to watch at TPC Louisiana.

Justin Thomas-Bud Cauley/Daniel Berger-Gary Woodland: 8:39 a.m. ET Thursday off 10 tee, 2:08 p.m. Friday off 1: 

The Bama boys, Thomas and Cauley, team up for the second consecutive year, after tying for fifth a year ago on the strength of a final-round 61. Berger teamed with Thomas Pieters a year ago but missed the cut, so he’ll try his luck with Woodland, who also shares a management team at Excel Sports.

Jordan Spieth-Ryan Palmer/Jon Rahm-Wesley Bryan: 8:52 a.m. Thursday off 10, 2:19 p.m. Friday off 1: 

Spieth and Palmer finished fourth a year ago, five shots back of the leaders. Spieth is making his first start since his epic Sunday run at the Masters. Rahm and Bryan have opposite strengths – Rahm is one of the game’s preeminent drivers, while Bryan, statistically, is one of the worst – but the Spaniard is coming off a European Tour victory at home. Another wrinkle here: Even though no world-ranking points are on offer this week, Rahm is set to supplant Spieth as the third-ranked player in the world.

Jason Day-Ryan Ruffels/Brooks Koepka-Marc Turnesa: 1:31 p.m. Thursday off 1, 9:42 a.m. Friday off 10: 

Two stars with questionable sidekicks. Ruffels is an up-and-coming Australian who has been playing primarily in Latin America. (He also shares a manager with Day.) Turnesa, meanwhile, got the call late last week from Koepka, who is finally ready to return from a 15-week layoff because of a wrist injury. They both play out of Medalist in South Florida, but Turnesa, 40, has turned his attention to real estate instead of professional golf.

Patrick Reed-Patrick Cantlay/Jonas Blixt-Cameron Smith: 1:44 p.m. Thursday off 1, 9:53 a.m. Friday off 10: 

Reed makes his first start as Masters champion after taking off the past two weeks. This duo tied for 14th last year, undone by a Saturday 75 in foursomes play. Blixt and Smith are the defending champions, after shooting 27 under par last year and holding off Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown in a playoff. Blixt doesn’t have a top-10 on Tour since then, while Smith tied for fifth at the Match Play and the Masters.

Justin Rose-Henrik Stenson/Bubba Watson-Matt Kuchar: 1:57 p.m. Thursday off 1, 10:04 a.m. Friday off 10:

Rose and Stenson, who have proved to be a formidable pairing in the Ryder Cup, were a stunning missed cut last year, after shooting 6 under par for two rounds. Watson teamed up with J.B. Holmes to finish fifth last year, while Kuchar is making his first start in this event since 2009.

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Zurich Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 24, 2018, 7:09 pm

The PGA Tour tries team competition for the second year in a row at the Zurich Classic. Here are the key stats and information for play at TPC LouisianaClick here for full-field tee times.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Purse: $7,200,000 ($1,036,800 to each winner)

Course: TPC Louisiana (par 72; 7,425 yards)

Defending champions: Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt (-27) in a playoff over Scott Brown and Kevin Kisner

News and notes

• All four reigning major champions - Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed - are in the field this week. This is the first time all four reigning major winners have played this event since 1984 (Ben Crenshaw, Larry Nelson, Tom Watson, Hall Sutton).

 Both members of winning team this week will earn an official PGA Tour victory, two-year Tour exemptions, and exemptions into the Players and PGA Championships.

• That said, no Official World Golf Ranking points are awarded from this event and winners will not earn exemptions into the 2019 Masters.

Notable teams in the field 

Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson

 Rose won this event in 2014, when it was individual stroke play. From 2012-16, he was a combined 60 under at TPC Louisiana in stroke play, seven shots better than any other player.

 Rose has dramatically improved his performance on the greens from last season, moving from 123rd in strokes gained-putting to 10th.

 Stenson's last three starts look like this: solo 4th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, T-6 at the Houston Open, and T-5 at the Masters.

Jon Rahm and Wesley Bryan

 Rahm is coming off a victory at the Spanish Open, his second worldwide win in 2018 and fifth since Jan. 2017.

 Rahm outdrives Bryan by an average of 30 yards off the tee, 305.1 to 276.3.

 Rahm is second on Tour in the strokes gained-off the tee, while Bryan is 210th, last among qualifying players.

Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay

 Reed is just the fifth reigning Masters champ to play the Zurich since 2000, joining Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson (twice), and Bubba Watson.

 Reed has gone T-2, T-7, T-9, WIN in his last four starts.

 Cantlay broke through for his maiden PGA Tour win earlier this season at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas.