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“It’s never over with that guy,” one fan shouted optimistically.

That Tiger is gone, probably forever.

An errant drive at the 14th struck a tree left of the fairway, and he passed on a chance to punch it back in the fairway _ which likely would’ve ensured no worse than a bogey. Instead, he turned to his left, eyeing an opening in the trees, and tried to cut it in a greenside bunker. He wound up next to the port-a-potties and took a double-bogey 6.

He could’ve bounced back quickly _ the par-5 15th is second-easiest hole on the course _ but his second shot plopped in a bunker left of the green, a sloppy sand wedge left him 18 feet short of the cup, and two putts resulted in a par that felt more like a bogey.

An atrocious chip from just off the 16th green led to an actual bogey, but was a mere warm-up for the mess that followed on No. 17. With his legs feeling like rubber, Woods yanked his tee shot into the water lining the entire left side of the fairway. After taking a stroke penalty and a drop in one of the member tee boxes, he left his next shot about 88 yards short of the flag. A hideous wedge came up far short of the green, and he switched to the putter to get it up the hill. Instead, the ball stopped a few inches shy of the short grass. Incredibly, after taking four swings and five strokes, Woods had yet to reach the green. He wound up with a triple bogey.

Woods had one more hole to go, but he was all done. He shot 71 and was 14 shots behind leader Henrik Stenson.

“It’s just been a long, long grind,” Woods would say a few minutes later.

About the same time Woods‘ round was falling apart, Nicklaus was over in Charleston, S.C., for the opening of a pizza restaurant. He’s an investor in the place with his son, Gary. As always, the Bear was asked about Woods‘ major drought, which dates to the 14th of his titles at the 2008 U.S. Open.

“If you look at it realistically, Tiger’s probably got another 10 years of top golf,” Nicklaus said. “That’s 40 majors. Can he win five of them? I think he probably will.”

That’s been his standard reply. More relevant is the record book.

Hogan is the only player to win five majors after his 38th birthday _ the number Woods needs for the record. Nicklaus and Old Tom Morris after the only others to win as many as four after the age that Woods will turn on Dec. 30. Also consider: Gene Sarazen is the only player to win as many as four more majors after a major-less streak as long as Woods‘.

No matter what Nicklaus might say for public consumption, he can rest easy.

His record is safe.

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Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963