I know I am probably in the minority when I tell you I have not yet counted out Tiger Woods in his pursuit of breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships. Even with news coming out yesterday that surgery for a pinched-nerve will keep him out of the 2014 Masters, I am still not writing off his chances yet of winning four more majors to at least tie Nicklaus.
It was the 2008 U.S. Open when Tiger won his last major championship. He limped around Torrey Pines as the world watched a broken golfer battle Rocco Mediate. We would soon find out all that limping going on was an actual broken leg that would require surgery and force Tiger to sit out for an extended period of time. Four years and one divorce settlement later, Tiger Woods has failed miserably in his pursuit in ultimately breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record.
As most of the world writes Tiger off, I think we sometimes forget he has already accomplished something that only three players in golf history have ever accomplished. Tiger has 14 major wins, which puts him alongside Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen as the only golfers who have ever won double-digit majors.
I don’t think anybody questions Tiger as one of the greatest players in golf history, and the fact he’s only one of three players to ever win ten or more majors is a milestone feat in itself. The problem arises in the fact that ever since Tiger Woods came onto the golf scene in 1999, the only thing ever asked is when he would break the most coveted record in golf history. It’s sad to say, but at the end of Tiger’s career, he will ultimately be judged by whether or not he ties or breaks that record.
So now Tiger is out of the picture for this year’s Masters, I started to think about those three players in history with double-digit major wins and I began to wonder if we will ever see another double-digit major winner in history? Looking at the active players and the number of majors they have won, I seriously question whether we will ever see another winner who will win at least 10 majors. So I put some numbers to it and came up with a list of current players that could have a chance.
The most obvious contender is of course Rory McIlroy. At 24-years old and two majors already under his belt I don’t think anyone will argue Rory is the most talented and most likely to reach double-digit major wins. Bottom line, golf is tougher than ever with all the young talent around the world now. There’s more parity in golf compared to when Tiger came along in 1999. There’s no guy dominating anymore and the players now are the same guys who watched Tiger dominate in the 2000’s who now look up to him and say “I can be that guy and I am good enough.”
As we get into the numbers here, keep these Jack Nicklaus numbers in mind. They are the basis for my calculations. Jack won his last major at won 46 years old, which gave him his 18th major victory. Jack played in a whopping 166 major championships over the course of his career with a winning percentage of 10.84%. He played in many more majors after that 1986 Masters win and that’s lowered his major winning percentage significantly.
Major Championship Winning Percentage
These 10 players have either won multiple major championships or have won in the last few years. I chose them based on their world rankings. I simply took their major wins and the number of major championships they have played in to figure their major winning percentage.
Tiger Woods – 20%
Phil Mickelson – 5.88%
Rory McIlroy – 9.52%
Adam Scott – 1.96%
Ernie Els – 4.76%
Keegan Bradley – 11.11%
Webb Simpson – 10%
Jason Dufner – 5.36%
Justin Rose – 2.56%
Graeme McDowell – 3.03%
Number of Major Championships Left to Play
I based this number on Jack Nicklaus’ age when he won his last major. I understand we are in a different era and players can play longer and compete at high levels for longer. So can someone win past 46? Of course. But the age of 46 is what I have to go with right now because Jack is the holder of the 18 major championships. I simply took the age of each player and subtracted it from 46 and multiplied by 4, which is the number of majors played each year.
Tiger Woods – 32
Phil Mickelson- 12
Rory McIlroy –88
Adam Scott – 52
Ernie Els – 8
Keegan Bradley – 76
Webb Simpson – 72
Jason Dufner- 36
Justin Rose – 52
Graeme McDowell – 48
Projected Total of Major Wins
This number is calculated by taking the players current major winning percentage from above and multiplying it by the estimated number of majors left to play and then adding it to what they have already won.
Tiger Woods – 20
Phil Mickelson- 6
Rory McIlroy – 10
Adam Scott – 2
Ernie Els – 4
Keegan Bradley – 9
Webb Simpson – 8
Jason Dufner- 3
Justin Rose –2
Graeme McDowell – 2
Sure, these numbers are all speculative. I understand that. But I think it gives you a pretty darn good look based on averages and past winners. As mentioned above, the only player who will win double-digit majors in their career based on these number estimates is Rory McIlroy. What that means Rory needs to continue playing in majors for another 22 years and win at a rate of 9.52% of the time, or win 8 over the next 22 years. That is dang well possible for him.
Also noteworthy to point out, look at Tiger Woods’ total. Will he keep up the same winning percentage in the majors? If he does, and if he plays for 8 more years he will reach 20 total wins, two over Jack Nicklaus’ record.
On the other side of the numbers though is the prediction of Webb Simpson or Keegan Bradley winning 8 and 9 majors respectively. Is that possible? Sure. Is it reasonable? Most likely not. The only reason those numbers are so skewed is because they are still relatively young and won their first major relatively quickly compared to the number of majors they have played in.
So what does all this mean? It means that golf is full of talented young players but there is no dominating force in golf anymore. Golf is a global game now and players from every country in the world are giving it their best shot. We don’t even know about the 6 year old who might turn out to be the next dominating force like Tiger Woods once was.
All I know is Tiger is going to be stuck on 14 major wins when the green jacket is put on the next champion in less than two weeks. Will he be ready for the U.S. Open in June? Nobody knows for sure if he’ll even be ready for the rest of 2014 at this point.