Tiger Woods has gone 0-for-3 in what had been expected to be a pivotal run of majors in pursuit of the record 18 major titles won by Jack Nicklaus, a quest likely to be much tougher now.
After a flop at the British Open, Woods has not won in the past nine majors, one shy of matching the two longest major-win droughts of his career.
And without any victory at all since a sex scandal last November sent his iconic reputation crashing, the 14-time major champion faces serious questions about whether or not he will ever pass his boyhood idol’s epic standard.
The 34-year-old American still has time, but his final-round par-72 Sunday to finish on three-under 285 completed a squandering of what appeared to be a golden run that could have put him on the brink of matching the “Golden Bear”.
“Do I still think Tiger will break my record? Yeah, I think he probably will,” Nicklaus said last month. “He’s a very dedicated, hard-working golfer. But I always said you have to do it. It’s not just a gimme.”
The start of 2010 had been heralded for years by Woods followers as a magic time with Woods in majors at Augusta National, Pebble Beach and St. Andrews — courses where he had collected past major crowns in overpowering fashion.
Woods won his first major at the 1997 Masters by 12 strokes, captured the 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach by a major-record 15 strokes to begin his “Tiger Slam” run and followed with an eight-shot romp at the Old Course.
But Woods is off to his worst season start after a five-month layoff before Augusta and settling for a share of fourth at the Masters and US Open.
This week he was never truly among title contenders at the birthplace of golf. The struggles have made Nicklaus’ words before last month’s US Open seem prophetic.
“Tiger is obviously the best player that’s come along in a long time, but I felt like, with the problems that he had last year and this year particularly, Pebble Beach and St. Andrews were important golf courses for him,” he said. “He basically had won on those fairly easily through the years. If he had problems with those golf courses, sure they won’t come around for a while. He is 35 now (for 2011 majors). Maybe it might be tougher.” World number two Phil Mickelson, who missed a chance to dethrone Woods as world number one this week, said the odds still favour Woods passing Nicklaus.
“It’s certainly in his favour. He only has a few to go,” Mickelson said. “You just never know when his game turns.”
Monday will see Woods remain world number one for a 267th consecutive week.