Every year, as each major golf tournament comes and goes, the discussion inevitably turns to the question of whether or not Tiger Woods will ever catch, or even surpass, Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major tournament championships. There are certainly many valid points on either side of this argument. Here are a few facts to consider.
Who Has Won What
Both men have spread their wins around rather evenly among the four major tournaments. Nicklaus won the U.S. Open four times, the Open Championship three times, the PGA five times, and the Masters 6 times. Woods, in similarly equitable fashion, has won the U.S. Open three times, the Open Championship three times, the PGA four times, and the Masters four times.
If either golfer was extremely dominant in one particular tournament and just average in the others, we could say they may be at a disadvantage, only getting to play in that particular tournament one time per year. However, with both men being dominant across the board, this category appears to be a draw.
Age of Dominance
Both golfers began their respective dominance of the sport at a relatively young age. Woods won his first major at age 21 while Nicklaus won his first at age 22. By age 36, which is Woods' current age, both men had collected 14 major championship titles. Of course, Nicklaus went on to win four more majors to give him the record of 18. Both men went through, or are going through, some major dry spells in their careers.
Nicklaus did not win a major tournament for five years after he won the PGA Tournament at age 40. Woods is currently in the middle of a similar drought. It has been nearly five years since he won the U.S. Open at age 32. Since we can really only compare the two men up until Woods' current age, we have another draw.
While it is widely accepted that today's golfer is much stronger and more athletic than the golfers of Nicklaus' era, many feel that Nicklaus had more competition to deal with than Woods. During Nicklaus' dominant era, he was competing against many golfers that each had several major tournament wins of their own.
For example, Nicklaus played against Gary Player (9 major wins), Tom Watson (8), Arnold Palmer (7), Lee Trivino (6) and Steve Ballesteros (5). Woods, on the other hand, is only dealing with two active players with more than three major titles, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els.
The Expert's Opinion
While the debate comes up every single time a major tournament is played, the fact remains that no one can predict the future. The sentiment most commonly offered by golf experts is that Woods is absolutely capable of catching Nicklaus. However, with every major tournament that comes and goes without a Woods victory the skeptics grow louder.
Woods has regained the number one ranking in the world, and has been more consistently competitive, even in the tournaments he has not won. However, the major tournament titles continue to elude him. With all of the opinions on both sides of this argument one thing is certain, Woods and Nicklaus are two of the greatest golfers the sport has ever known and the debate keeps the world talking about the sport which is always a good thing.