So you think Tiger Woods has come out of the starting gate as a
pro faster than Jack Nicklaus did in 1962? Well, you're right.
Woods, as they may know even in Tibet, has won three times in 10
starts. It took Nicklaus 16 tournaments before he won, his first
victory coming at the '62 U.S. Open. But an examination of the
Golden Bear's record shows that before turning pro, he had
accomplished things that eluded Woods.
At the 1960 U.S. Open, Nicklaus, age 20, led midway through the
final round before finishing second behind Arnold Palmer. A year
later he tied for fourth. Woods's two appearances in the Open
have resulted in a withdrawal and a tie for 41st. As an amateur
at the Masters in 1960 and 1961, Nicklaus was 13th and seventh.
Woods tied for 41st in 1995 and missed the cut last year. So in
terms of achievement in the majors as an amateur, the nod goes
In his quest to become known as the greatest player of all time,
Woods must follow a path that leads to a golfing Mount Everest.
For instance, he needs to win one major this year and two next
year. While we're at it, throw in a couple of thirds.
Taking into account Nicklaus's best years, from 1962, when he
turned professional, to 1978, here's what Woods must accomplish
over the next 17 seasons to truly be the "next Nicklaus."
--Win almost one quarter of the majors he enters (Nicklaus won
15 of 64 between '62 and '78) and finish in the top three more
than half the time.
--Win one out of five regular Tour events he enters, finish
among the top three 41.6% of the time and average 3.8 victories
--Go seven years and 153 tournaments without missing a cut (as
Nicklaus did from 1962 to '68).
Although most golf historians regard Nicklaus's record as
unmatchable, none other than Jack himself has insisted that a
player with an unquenchable desire would one day top his records
by hitting drives longer than previously thought possible, by
seldom missing a green, by putting like a magician and by rarely
making a mental mistake.
Does this describe Woods? His superb amateur record and his
sensational pro debut certainly suggest it. But before you get
caught up in Tigermania, remember the size of the mountain he
has to climb.
Ken Bowden has collaborated with Jack Nicklaus on numerous
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: CHRIS PYLE [Drawing of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods standing back to back against yardstick]