Sunday, April 10, 2005
Updated: April 14, 4:28 PM ET
Fact or Fiction: Tiger's place in history
FACT: Tiger Woods won his fourth green jacket on Sunday, tying Arnold Palmer for the second-most ever and putting him halfway to Jack Nicklaus' career record of 18 majors.
FICTION: It was never in doubt.
In fact, Tiger came thisclose to having to answer questions about falling short in another major; had Chris DiMarco's chip on the final hole of regulation fallen, Woods would have lost.
Instead, we are once again speaking of Tiger in lofty, historical terms. Our panel of experts plays Fact or Fiction in predicting the future for the past and present Masters champ.
Tiger Woods will win at least two more legs of the Grand Slam.
Bob Harig, contributor, ESPN.com: FICTION. It's possible, but far from a lock. Woods is a good bet at the Old Course at St. Andrews, where he won in 2000. And although he performed well in 1999 at Pinehurst, site of the U.S. Open, so did a slew of other top players, including Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh. Since winning the PGA in 2000, Woods has not been much of a factor at the tournament, and he's never seen Baltusrol.
Brian Wacker, assistant editor, GolfDigest.com: FACT. The last time the U.S. Open was held at Pinehurst, Woods finished third. He'll improve on that this year -- and I don't mean he'll finish runner-up. Then he'll win the British Open at St. Andrews (where Jack Nicklaus is possibly playing for the last time, and when Jack plays somewhere for the last time, Tiger wins) and the Grand Slam will really heat up then.
Ron Sirak, executive editor, Golf World magazine: FICTION. He will win one more this year -- the British Open at the Old Course. Pinehurst owes a U.S. Open to Mickelson. And the PGA Championship has a tendency to produce a bunch of weird winners. See: Shaun Micheel and Rich Beem.
Jason Sobel, golf editor, ESPN.com: FICTION. Boy, it looks pretty tough to pick against him right now, but to predict anyone -- even Tiger at his best -- to win three majors in a season is daunting. We'll give him two, maybe another to a proven winner like Phil Mickelson or Retief Goosen and one upset special, most likely at the PGA Championship.
Tiger Woods will surpass Jack Nicklaus' record of six Masters victories.
Sobel: FACT. Let's remember, folks: This guy is only 29 years old. He'll play -- and be competitive -- in at least another 12 to 15 Masters. All he needs to do is win three more. And for the record, he's 4-for-9 at Augusta National since turning professional.
Sirak: FACT. Tiger has regained his distance advantage over the other guys that he had lost the last few years. And that distance advantage is a serious plus at Augusta National. He is now hitting the same clubs into holes now that he did when he won here in 2001 -- and they have added more than 300 yards to the course.
Harig: FACT. The Masters has and always will be his best chance to win majors, and winning four before the age of 30 shows just how suited he is to Augusta National. Woods hits the ball so far, that rainy, soft conditions do not deter him. If the course is fast, he has such control over his irons that he can still hit the ball close. There is no reason not to believe that at least another three Masters titles are in his future.
Wacker: FACT. This year makes four and Woods is only 29 years old. That gives him about seven to 11 years, realistically, to get three more. Given his track record at Augusta, it's hard to argue against him. He'll finish his career with seven green jackets.
Tiger Woods will surpass Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major victories.
Wacker: FICTION. Unlike Nicklaus, Tiger won't play as well on the other side of 35. His body and his game are far too athletic to withstand the 120 mph swing speeds for such a prolonged period. He'll need to reinvent his swing -- as he has shown he can do -- but in the end, Jack's record will stand.
Sobel: FACT. By one. You thought Jack winning the 1986 Masters at 46 was special? How about a wrinkling, graying Tiger, age 49, winning the 2025 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach to get the record? It'll be magical. Oh, and by the way, the runner-up in that major? Some 18-year-old hotshot amateur named Eldrick Woods, Jr.
Harig: FICTION. What once seemed ordained is now not such a sure thing. When Woods won seven of 11 majors, it seemed like a lock. Now he has one of the last 11. And it simply is hard to win majors, even for Woods. He's got plenty of time to surpass Nicklaus, but doing so is going to take another sustained level of excellence.
Sirak: FICTION. This is a record we will appreciate more and more as time goes on. Tiger is now only halfway there, and just three years ago it looked as if he were a slam dunk to shatter the mark. He can certainly ill afford anymore 0-for-10 streaks. Besides, if he passes Jack, Nicklaus will come back and win another one.