Tiger Woods enters his age-39 season at a crossroads. At one time, it appeared Woods would not only surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships, but also shatter it. Instead, Woods has been stuck on 14 since 2008.
At this point, the question isn’t whether Woods can catch Nicklaus; the question is whether he can get to 15.
Well, there’s also this question: After all Woods had been through on and off the course, does he still love golf? Is the passion for the game still there?
Golf Channel analyst Notah Begay III – who was Woods’ teammate and roommate at Stanford – says yes.
“A perfect example is right after he won the 2000 PGA in the playoff against Bob May in Valhalla,” Begay said on Tiki and Tierney. “I called him on Monday to kind of congratulate him and just asked him where he was. He was out on the practice range. This was less than 24 hours after he had just won his third major in a row. So it kind of just told me that this guy has the drive unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It hasn’t diminished, I think, the practice time. The time itself has diminished, but it’s because he has two kids now and he puts a lot of time into making sure that he takes them to soccer practices and goes to tee ball games, and he’ll send me pictures of Charlie scoring a goal. He was really involved and wants to be there for his children like Earl was there for him throughout his upbringing.”
Still, while Woods has passion for the game, he also has something he didn’t have 15 years ago.
“I think that all athletes are afraid once they get past a certain age,” Begay said. “I mean, some athletes push it further than they should and then the skills start to diminish. I think this is a perfect case where Tiger Woods has to ask himself that question. But then you look at all of the determining factors and physical attributes that are required to perform your sport, and he demonstrated last week that he’s in the top five percent of club-head speed on the PGA Tour. So he’s not like a pitcher in the major leagues that hits 40 and starts losing velocity on his fast ball. He’s still in the top of the top as far as club-head speed goes. We all know there isn’t a lot of players who can get by on power and have marginal short game or marginal putting. We saw Jijay Singh do it for a long time. Ernie Els won a major championship after the age of 40. So did Phil (Mickelson).
“He just has to work his way through this,” Begay continued. “It’s a hard time. I mean, I’m not going to say I don’t know any fixes. Last time I talked to him, he doesn’t have any sort of plausible options. But it’s certainly not going to go without time and energy and putting a lot of effort into fix it.”