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Woods forever is linked with Augusta National because of his record score (270) and margin of victory (12 shots) in the 1997 Masters, his back-to-back wins (2001-02) and that magic moment with his chip on the 16th hole that led to his playoff win in 2005. But he has not added to his wardrobe of green jackets in eight years, his longest drought in any major. Who saw that coming?

And while he is trending in the right direction at Pinehurst No. 2, the Donald Ross design has gone through a restoration project that eliminated rough and replaced it with sandy dunes, pine straw and wire grass.

Woods won the 2006 British Open at Royal Liverpool when it was firm and fiery, a links that was more yellow than green because of a dry summer. Woods hit only one driver the entire week. It might not be the same course if England gets a wet summer _ and yes, it does rain in England _ and players see Hoylake green, lush and longer.

Valhalla is where Woods made what he considers the biggest putt of his career, a 6-footer on the final hole for birdie to force a playoff that he won over Bob May in the PGA Championship. It gave Woods his third straight major in that amazing summer of 2000.

If that seems like a long time ago, it was. Woods will not have seen Valhalla in 14 years when he returns this summer.

The best gauge of Woods and his pursuit of Nicklaus is more about him than the course he is playing. More than St. Andrews or Pebble Beach, more than Hoylake or Valhalla, it’s best to consider Southern Hills. That’s the course that supposedly gave Woods fits because of its tight, bending, tree-lined fairways. Woods won the 2007 PGA Championship that year, proof that when he’s on his game and in the right frame of mind, he can win any major on any course.

More significant than where the majors are played in 2014 is the fact Woods turned 38 on Monday.

By age alone, Woods has been ahead of Nicklaus‘ pace in the majors since winning his seventh major in 2002 Masters at age 26. They are tied now. Nicklaus also had 14 majors when he turned 38, and then he added his 15th major that summer in the British Open.

That’s what makes this a big year for Woods.