Steve Eubanks: Clock ticking for Tiger Woods' major quest

"There are more players with a chance" to win majors now, says Tiger Woods.

Eubanks: Clock ticking for Woods' major quest

Time isn't yet running out for Tiger Woods to break the career major mark, but it is running shorter. And, says Steve Eubanks, even Woods admits it's getting harder every year to win majors.

By Steve Eubanks, PGA.com

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- Tick, tick, tick.  

He won’t admit that the biological clock is running. Tiger Woods is 36 years old, a little heavier, and a little less intense – much calmer and more reflective than in times past. Middle age and more knee surgeries than Joe Namath will do that to you. 

But he is also five major championships shy of his life-long goal. And even though he has more major titles than any living player other than one, and more overall victories than anyone still standing, time waits for no man. If Tiger is going to finish what he started and break Jack Nicklaus’ record, he knows that every major start is precious. 

“I figure it’s going to take a career,” Woods said of his timetable to break Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles. “Jack didn’t finish (winning) until he was 46, so if you go by that timetable I’ve got 10 more years. Forty more majors is a lot. I’ve got plenty of time.”  

Granted, when you put it in that context, 40 majors is, indeed, a healthy number of opportunities. But he would need to win 10 percent of those majors just to tie Nicklaus. When you figure that arguably the second best player of the Tiger era, Phil Mickelson, only has four majors in his Hall of Fame career, the task ahead of Tiger looks as daunting as ever.  

Throw in the fact that, by Woods’ own admission, fields are deeper and players are better than ever before, and it’s easy to see why a new level of urgency might be in order this week. 

“There are so many guys with a chance to win,” Woods said. “The margin is getting smaller. There may be 16 different winners (in the last 16 majors for the first time in 25 years), but you look at the cuts and the cuts are getting lower. The scores between the leader and the guy who is 70th is sometimes 10 shots or less, which is amazing. The margins are so small; and hence, if you’ve got margins that are that small, you’re going to get guys who win once here and there.”  

Woods is winning here and there as well – three times this year from Orlando in the spring to Bethesda in the summer – but not in the majors, the events he believes are the ultimate measure of a career. 

“I’m pleased at the way I was able to play at certain parts (of the major season) and obviously disappointed that I did not win. I’ve played in three major championships and didn’t win any of them. So, that’s the goal. I was there at the U.S. Open after two days and I was right there with a chance to win at the British Open. Things have progressed, but still, not winning a major championship doesn’t feel good.”  

Tick, tick, tick.  

Time isn’t necessarily running out, but it is running shorter than it was when he was in his 20s and winning almost every time he was in contention on the weekend.  

“With the training regimens we have now and seeing guys play well, you can get the right golf course and contend,” he said. “You saw what happened with Tom (Watson) being 59 (at Turnberry in 2009) and Greg (Norman) almost did it at Birkdale at 54. So, we can play late in our careers, and also getting the right golf course.”  

He didn’t mention that neither Watson nor Norman won those events, just as Kenny Perry did not win the Masters at 49. Julius Boros remains the oldest major champion at 48. 

But that was back in the days before fields were this deep; before you could have 16 different winners in as many consecutive majors. 

Tick, tick, tick.  

Is it harder to win now than it was 10 years ago?  

“Yeah,” Woods said. “There are more players with a chance now.”  

Then, a momentary flash of that trademark intensity returned. 

He paused, and said, “You know…who knows?”