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Tiger Woods is redefining the way we look at everything related to winning tournaments. (Franklin/Getty Images)

For Woods, the numbers keep adding up and up

Tiger Woods owns 14 majors and 70 career PGA TOUR wins, so Melanie Hauser has a question. Will Tiger reach Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors or Sam Snead's mark of 82 wins first? Tiger won't make a guess, but Hauser thinks she knows.

By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

CHASKA, Minn. -- He swears he doesn’t think about the numbers.

Unless, of course, we bring them up. 

So what if he’s 0-for-the-big-ones so far in 2009? We’re still talking 18 as if Tiger Woods was on his way to a replay of 2000. He’s a mere four majors short of the mark that’s driven him since he was a kid -- Jack Nicklaus’ 18 professional majors -- and that’s way too close to ignore.

But we thought it was about time to shake this debate up. Throw something a bit more interesting at you; something that might spice up this latest run at history.

Which mark will Tiger reach first: Nicklaus’ 18 majors or Sam Snead’s 82 PGA TOUR wins? Good question, isn’t it?

“Those are numbers that are pretty mind-boggling to get up that high,’’ he said Tuesday morning. “Those records and those numbers don't happen in the course of a few years; it's the course of an entire career.

“I feel like I've had a pretty good start to my career and I still have a lot more years ahead of me, and you just keep playing.  Where the number falls, the number falls when I'm all said and done.

“It's just one of those things where you just can't make that happen overnight.’’

It took Snead nearly three decades to get to 82. He won his last TOUR event when he was nearly 53 and made the cut in the PGA Championship when he was 67. It took Nicklaus most of his career to get to 18 and 73, both coming in 1986 at the age of 46.

And Tiger? He’s redefining the way we look at everything, so why not career, too? He’s a baker’s dozen years into his and staring down 34. Yes, 34. Don’t let the receding hairline fool you.

We’ve already handed him the next magic number: 73. He’s three back of Jack’s career win record, which is second only to Snead, and on a tear. He’s won his last two starts and appears primed for a run into the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup which means 73 could be history in a little more than a month.

Yes, even that’s debatable. But even that’s kind of like saying it’s possible. And given what’s in his bag right now and what we see, we’re going with probable.

We’ve watched him go from crutches a year ago to some major frustrations to a five-win season and counting. Yes, he’s still hitting it off the planet at times, but he’s reeling it back in, too. And if he wins this week, we feel one of those mini season-closing runs coming on.

One that makes you realize one more time just how good this guy really is.

The current question making the rounds is whether or not this will go down as a great season if he doesn’t win this week.  If not, will it be best season with his B-game? Or best season after a rebuilt knee?

“It's been a great year either way,’’ he said. “For me to come back and play and play as well as I've done and actually win golf events; to say at the very beginning of the year, when I was feeling the way I was, to be honest with you, I don't think any of us would have thought I could have won this many events this year.’’

Indeed. Which makes us wonder about those suggesting it was time to put a fork in his season when he missed the cut at Turnberry. Maybe, just maybe, that snapped his mind back into focus and reminded him that he might have been pressing a little too hard on his way to 18.

The point is, we have a sneaking suspicion he’ll be at 15 -- and 71 -- by Sunday afternoon. Which brings us back to that question at hand.

18 or 82?

If you run the numbers, he’s averaged more than five PGA TOUR wins a year during his career and had five seasons where he’s won six times or more. His personal best? Nine wins in 2000.  And he’s had four seasons where he’s won multiple majors, including that trio of them in ’00.

Now, factor in those other milestones of his -- he’s won seven times at Firestone Country Club and Torrey Pines (counting last year’s iconic U.S. Open), six times each on Doral’s Blue Monster and Bay Hill and four times each at Augusta National and Murifield Village -- and the equation gets stronger.

Then there’s Tiger. He’s happy with what he’s done, this year, no question. But he knows the stars are falling into alignment -- well, his game and his focus -- and this is no time for a major blip.

And finally? We’re getting a definite 2000 vibe from what’s unfolding. And when asked if Tiger 2000 or Tiger 2009 would win in an 18-hole match?

No question, he said. Tiger ’09.

“I know how to manage my game a hell of a lot better than I did back then,’’ he said. “Just understanding how to get the ball around; I have so many more golf shots now to get me around the golf course.  And that's just experience.  That's nine more years of learning how to play and how to manage my game around a golf course.
 
“And I'll probably say the same thing nine more years, because I have that much more understanding mentally.  Physically, I don't know if I'll be able to hit the ball quite as far, but understanding how to play, that's just years of experience.’’

And you wonder why he just keeps redefining what we consider the best. If you take the conservative route and think he’ll win half of what he has won in the last nine years in the next nine? We’re sitting at 93 wins and 21 majors. Yikes.

But as for 82 or 18? Add this one up and we’re coming to one simple conclusion -- 18 will come first.

 Like we said, we’re thinking 15 comes Sunday and he could close the deal at St. Andrews 11 months from now. Worst case? Early 2012.

If the latter is right, we could make a case for it being close. Five wins a season -- at least one a major -- would stretch both records to 2012. By then he’ll be looking at Kathy Whitworth’s all-time win mark of 88.

But c’mon. You’ve seen him. You’ve heard him.

Yes, the numbers are mind-boggling. But since when has mind-boggling ever stopped him?
 

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