Hot Button: Tiger and Jack

So we move on to Question 2 of the Hot Button Survey that so many of you took. Thank you again for taking the survey, I will try to get the other results out in a bit more of a timely manner.

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Question 2. Will Tiger Woods break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships?

Definitely yes. Woods is still the best player on earth, and he has five more majors in him: 1%

Yes. I think it will be close, but Woods still has enough time to break the record: 18%

Neutral: 17%

No. He’s still great, but five majors is too steep a hill for him to climb: 52.5%

Definitely no. Tiger’s about to be 38, he might not even win more major championship: 11.5%.

Broken down:

Yes: 19%

Neutral: 17%

No: 64

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I would have to say -- I don’t think this is really much of a hot button topic anymore.

Tiger Woods has 14 major championships and remains four away from tying Jack Nicklaus’ major championship record, five from breaking it. If you had asked this question in 2008, just after Woods’ won his 14th major in an extraordinary U.S. Open victory, I suspect almost everybody would have called him a lock to break Nicklaus’ record. He was 32 years old, seemingly at the height of his powers, utterly unbeatable when he played well. He seemed a lock -- most people probably would have picked him to break the record before he turned 35. I would bet more than 80% of people would have predicted him a sure thing to break the record.

If you had asked the question two or three years ago, I still think the majority of people would have predicted for him to break the record. Certainly the majority of people I heard from thought he would break the record -- I think the first time I predicted that he would not break the record was 2010. I would say at least two-thirds of the people I heard from disagreed, and many of the people who agreed seemed to be Tiger Woods loathers in the first place. I’m not a Tiger Woods loather. I’m a huge fan of Tiger Woods. He has provided many hours of enjoyment for me. I just think time is the most underestimated opponent in sports. We should see it coming but we rarely do. Tiger Woods got older. Even in golf, that matters.

More than fIve years later, Woods still has 14 major championships and we’re now at the point where almost nobody thinks Tiger Woods is a lock to break the record. Some think he still has a shot. Most think he probably won’t break it -- he is simply running out of time. I do wonder: If Woods wins the Masters or U.S. Open next year, would these numbers will dramatically shift back to what they were in 2010. I’ll bet they would.

Tiger Woods was back in the news this week because my co-worker, Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee, wrote a column where he gave out grades to players on Tour. In the Tiger Woods section, Chamblee referenced his memory of a fourth-grade teacher who had caught him cheating. The teacher had first written “100” on Chamblee’s test, but then crossed it out and wrote, “F.” The point was made pretty clear when Chamblee then gave Woods a 100, crossed it out, and gave him an F. Hard to miss the point there. Woods had several high-profile incidents in 2013 where he was penalized or called out for shaky and questionable drops.

Of course, the whole thing blew up, as these things do. Woods’ agent threatened to sue, which seemed ridiculous. Everybody weighed in. Chamblee held firm at first and then took to Twitter to ofter an apology, the last Tweet probably summing up: “My intention was to note Tiger’s rules infractions this year, but comparing that to cheating in grade school went too far.”

What struck me, though, is how much the story of Tiger Woods has changed. Chamblee may have gone too far, but people around the Tour do talk about what seemed a pattern of Woods being casual with the rules; golf, more than any other sport, worships the rules. Woods’ story for so long was about his genius for the game, his unmatched work ethic, his extraordinary talent for making great shots under pressure and the fear he inspired in his opponents. Now, it is about swing changes and a five-year major drought and perpetual injuries and, sure, drops that didn’t seem entirely kosher. This is what I mean about people underestimating the power of time. It comes at you for a hundred different directions. And time fights dirty.