Tiger Woods entered his late thirties when he turned 37 on December 31.
That gives him three seasons to break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors before becoming 40 which, in golf terms, is still an old man.
Here’s proof: Since 2000, only 3 of 52 majors have been won by players over 40 despite all of these advancements in health, training, and equipment. Furthermore, one of the three was won by Ernie Els, who likely would not have if he’d not been allowed to anchor his putter.
Woods is an old 37. Worse yet, his talent for closing and ability to make pressure putts on Sunday are now in question. As a result, he would be well advised to tie or set the record before he turns 40 tumbles off his Biological Cliff.
The trouble is that he’s only got 12 majors left in his 30s. To tie Nicklaus, he would have to win 4 of those 12, which is highly improbable (impossible?) given that he is 0 for 14 in the big ones since winning the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008. Still, does he have a chance?
Three of the upcoming dozen are at Augusta National where Woods has won four times, and where he almost always contends, but has not won at since 2005. He will have to break his long running putting slump at Augusta to win at least one of the next three Masters.
The U.S. Open will be played at Merion, Pinehurst #2, and Chambers Bay. Woods has his best shot at winning his fourth U.S. Open at Pinehurst where he finished 3t, two back of Payne Stewart, in 1999. He has never competed on the other two venues.
The British Open will be played at Muirfield, Royal Liverpool, and St. Andrews. Woods has won at the later two and contended for 36 holes at Muirfield in 2002 before imploding in the third round. This lineup gives Woods his best chance at winning twice in a specific major.
The final three PGAs of Woods’ 30s will be played at Oak Hill, Valhalla, and Whistling Straits. He won the PGA in 2000 at Valhalla, and has played at the other two, so he is familiar with those layouts. I can see him winning one PGA, but no more.
As a player leaves his prime and his skills erode, he becomes more of a specialist who is no longer capable of winning on any course at any time. So, in the best case scenario, I can see Woods winning each of the four majors once, but no more than three total. This means that he would have to win numbers 18 and 19 in his 40s. While anything is possible, the odds are now stacked against him.