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The first time he had surgery was in 1984, when he hurt his left knee while playing tennis.

“I went and had it operated on and I won the Skins Game 17 days later,” Nicklaus said. “So obviously, it wasn’t a very major operation.”

Woods already has had four surgeries on his left knee.

“I’m sure down the road it may be more difficult,” he said. “But hopefully, I’ll be in a cart by then on the Senior Tour. But between now and then, I should be pretty good.”

It’s that area between now and then that has become such a mystery.

Woods says the state of his left leg is not the “doomsday” he keeps reading and hearing about in the media. And don’t forget, it was only two months ago that he shot 31 on the front nine of the Masters to tie for the lead until his putter failed him on the back nine and he wound up in a tie for fourth.

Asked to handicap Woods‘ chances of catching him now, Nicklaus could only offer, “I would have no clue.”

What amuses Nicklaus is talk that the chase is over, even if Woods doesn’t make it to Congressional in two weeks for the U.S. Open, or plays in the other two majors that follow this year.

“That’s ridiculous,” Nicklaus said. “You guys control that. By the time you get through writing somebody off, they may as well go sell their clubs. Tiger is hurt. He hasn’t been able to play. By the time you get done with him … there’s 400 golfers in front of him. You know what I’m saying. It gets pushed too far.”

Even if Woods were to go winless this year, he would still have the same number of majors that Nicklaus won at age 35. Nicklaus believes that a player in his era was “old” in his late 30s. These days, he thinks “old” is over the age of 45.

If that’s the case, Woods has some 40 majors still to play. But that depends on his health.

“That 18 is our benchmark in our sport,” Woods said last week. “No one has played the major championships better than Jack has. It took Jack over 24 years to do what he did. I still have plenty of time, and I feel that going forward, I’m excited about playing major championships and playing golf again.

“I just want to be healthy and solid,” he said. “And I feel like I can give it a go.”