In January, while Woods was still in hiding and on what he called an “indefinite break,” Nicklaus said, “If Tiger is going to pass my record, this is a big year for him.” By June, Jack had changed his tune only slightly.
“Do I still think Tiger will break my record? Yeah, I think he probably will. He is a very dedicated, hard-working golfer. But then again, I always said you have to do it. It’s not just gimme. You have got to go do it,” Nicklaus said. “We’ll watch.”
The scene shifts first to Firestone, where Woods has won the tour event seven times, and then to Wisconsin and Whistling Straits, site of next month’s PGA Championship and the season’s final major. The last time Woods played in the PGA there, he finished tied for 24th.
“This week I kept having long putts, and I wasn’t real steady in the wind out there,” he said. “Where we’re going to be playing from here on in, it’s not going to blow like this, so I won’t have that problem.”
Whistling Straits sits along the bluffs of Lake Michigan, a breezy spot to be sure. But it’s nothing like St. Andrews, where stiff gusts off the North Sea toss around almost anything that isn’t tied down. For all his fond memories of the place, Woods was already focusing somewhere down the road.
“You’ve won half your majors at venues that we’ve seen this year,” a reporter began. “How disappointed are you to be walking away with none this year?”
Woods cracked a smile.
“The good news,” he said, “is I’ve won half of them not on these venues, too.”
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org