Tiger Woods was on pace to be the greatest golfer of all-time. He won his 14th Major tournament at the U.S. Open in 2008 at age 32, certainly on pace to surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 Major tournaments won. However, after experiencing terrible off-the-course issues (the humongous sex scandal in 2009) and a multitude of various injuries, Tiger’s golf game has been turned upside down the last seven years and he has not won a Major since that fateful June afternoon at Torrey Pines in 2008. Even despite his fall, many still consider him to be golf’s best ever, even better than Jack Nicklaus. The question of course on everyone’s mind, for the last several years really, is will Tiger Woods ever win another Major? I believe the answer is yes and here’s why.
Tiger is still only 39 years old. If Tiger played any other sport than golf, he would be considered quite old and likely to retire soon. Golf, however, doesn’t follow the age “norms” of other sports as golfers can continue playing on the PGA Tour as they get into their 40’s and 50’s and even later than that with the Senior Tour. The ten oldest Major tournament winners were all older than 43 and the oldest ever was Julius Boros at age 48. Tiger still has three full seasons before he’ll turn 43 and plenty more before he turns 48 so if history is any indication, he still has plenty of time to win another Major. Tiger, although he has certainly had his struggles, has also played some very good golf in the last 7 years, even if it has been sporadic. He won PGA Tour Player of the Year only two years ago in 2013 and just this past weekend he was in the hunt on the final day of The Masters. He has shown that he still has the potential to perform at the highest level and although perhaps not the highest level of his own career, still a level high enough to win golf tournaments. Just because he has the potential to win, however, doesn’t mean that Tiger will just go out and win a Major; there are many challenges he faces along the way.
Staying healthy should be the number one priority for Tiger because his health has been his biggest opponent since 2008 and has ruled him out of a number of tournaments, including Majors. Tiger has had 17 different injury problems since the start of the 2008 season that have caused him to play poorly, not play at all, or withdraw from quite a few tournaments. His injuries have caused him to miss six Major tournaments in the past 7 years which is actually a relatively low number because he missed so many other tournaments so that he might be able to play in the Majors. If Tiger can stay healthy and participate in Major tournaments for the next 5-10 years, I’m quite convinced that he can win at least one more. Even if his play is sporadic, it only takes one really good weekend to win a tournament and I think Tiger will have no problem doing it.
Tiger’s second biggest challenge is the competition, in particular the young guns Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. Besides all of the other top players he has to beat out, Tiger will have to defeat Spieth and McIlroy who, as Spieth displayed at The Masters last weekend and McIlroy displayed in the 2011 U.S. Open, can on any given weekend shoot somewhere between 15 and 20 strokes under par. McIlroy won two majors in 2014 and Spieth has been on fire to start the 2015 season. With both of these players drawing strong comparisons to Tiger in his prime as well as Jack Nicklaus, it will seemingly be a tough challenge for Tiger to beat these two if they stay this hot and this dominant. Will 39 year-old Tiger be able to defeat a 21 and 26 year-old Tiger? That’s the question that has been asked and will continue to be asked if Spieth and McIlroy continue to assert themselves in the golf world, especially Spieth.
Tiger’s health and the tough competition in the PGA Tour today are two huge barriers to him winning another major. His mental health and confidence are two other factors that will play strongly into Tiger’s success in the coming years. He has proven that he is still capable of playing top golf and this past weekend at The Masters only helped to verify that Tiger can still be Tiger. I believe that Tiger still has it in him to win another Major, perhaps a few, but I don’t think that he will even the score with Jack Nicklaus. To win four more Majors (Nicklaus has won 18 to Tiger’s 14) would be an unbelievably difficult task for a 39 year-old on-and-off Tiger Woods who struggles to stay healthy. One Major however, is certainly doable. Looking ahead, I think Tiger’s best shot in the next few years may be at the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania. In 2007, Tiger finished just one stroke behind champion Angel Cabrera at Oakmont in the U.S. Open and the course’s high level of difficulty favors Tiger due to his level of experience as a veteran golfer that say Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy may not have. Whether he wins or loses, Tiger is still the most well-known golfer in the world and until he gets the monkey off his back and wins another Major, the spotlight will stay focused on every minute detail of his life and career. Tiger will win another Major because he has to, not only to cement his legacy, but to prove to people that he’s turned over a new leaf after the scandal and things can finally go back to “normal.”