Commentary

Debating Tiger's chase of Jack's record

Updated: May 5, 2011, 4:56 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

Each week, golf writer Bob Harig will take your questions and answer a few select ones on ESPN.com. Below are this week's selections.


How did the entire golf industry miss this (Tiger's latest knee injury) and I saw it at home from my couch?! Not trying to be a jerk, I am just trying to understand if anyone quizzed Tiger about this or not. (I heard it never came up in his Sunday press conference), Thanks. --
Phil Bergman

Harig: There was not really a press conference after Tiger's final round at the Masters. It is true that he was never asked about his knee or an injury. He said he suffered it during Saturday's third round, but never mentioned it afterward and never appeared to be in any distress until hitting his approach to the 18th green on Sunday.

He had just shot 67, including 31 on the front nine, and there was no reason to think he was injured. And while the grimace at 18 was noticeable, there was a lot going on. Woods was asked three questions by CBS and 11 more by the print media waiting for him. Most of the discussion was about his round, the comeback, the missed putts on the back nine. And he was clearly thinking he had a chance for a playoff and showed no ill effects.


I agree Tiger is not about top-10s [at majors]. However, if people start talking about top-10s, his comparison with Jack [Nicklaus] looks even more one-sided in Jack's favor. Don't forget Jack finished second 19 times and third nine times. In all, Jack posted 48 top-3 finishes, 56 top-5 finishes and 73 top-10 finishes. Therefore any discussion of consistency must include Jack's record which will never be touched, not even by Tiger.

One thing I hear a lot of people talk about is that Tiger's never had to face the level of competition that Nicklaus did -- he had all these multi-major winners in Arnold Palmer, [Lee] Trevino, [Gary] Player, [Billy] Casper, etc. But it's at least as likely, isn't it, that this indicates that Tiger's competition is actually stronger -- because there are so many players that can best a field of 100+ at any given week. Whereas for Nicklaus, it was him vs. a handful of guys and that was pretty much that.
--Jim Sekac

Harig: This is a point often overlooked when people say that Nicklaus faced tougher competition. It's true that Jack had to beat the likes of Watson, Trevino, Miller -- and they won their share of majors at his expense. But look at some of the players Tiger has finished second to in majors: Rich Beem, Michael Campbell, Angel Cabrera, Trevor Immelman, Y.E. Yang. Other than Cabrera, none has followed up with a PGA Tour victory. And yet they point to the depth of the tour, that Tiger has had competition come from all over. Nicklaus, not so much.

And yet, Nicklaus' consistency in the majors is remarkable. The 19 seconds is incredible to consider. What if he had just converted three or four of those? There are tons of neat things to look at regarding Nicklaus' major career.

A favorite is the British Open, which he won the least of the four, three times: 1966, 1970 and 1978.

But consider this Nicklaus run at the British. Starting in 1963, he went 3, 2, T12, 1, 2, T2, T6, 1, T5, 2, 4, 3, T3, T2, 2, 1, T2, T4, T16, 2. From 1963 through 1983 -- 21 tournaments -- Nicklaus was out of the top 10 just twice, out of the top 5 just three times and never was worse than tied for 16th. Think about that.


I read your mailbag all of the time and truly enjoy the angle you take on most topics. This e-mail is with regards to the discussion surrounding Tiger's Nike Method putter and, despite all of the articles I've read and programs I've watched that continue to harp on this, there is one angle nobody seems to discuss: the Cameron was pretty solid and has accounted for all or all but one of his majors ... the Nike Method is 0-fer and he looks terrible using it.

Tiger can try to convince himself all he wants about the ball coming off the face better, and the pundits can debate whether or not Nike is requiring the use of a Nike model. It makes no sense to change just for the sake of changing, considering the long-standing and arguably unprecedented success he had with the Cameron model -- on greens both slow and fast -- since the late 1990s. I wish the folks claiming to be experts on golf would toss this into a debate session. ... if it's in good condition and function, then he's messing with karma [by] NOT using it.
-- Dennis O'Leary

Harig: There were plenty of raised eyebrows when Woods ditched his trusty Cameron at last year's British Open. He had won 13 majors and countless millions with that club in his bag. And he seemed to make every big putt. (It should also be noted that he has used two different models of Nike putters; the first much more resembled the Cameron.) But then you have to consider that players switch putters all the time. Tiger was the exception.

Nick Price switched putters between the British Open and PGA Championship in 1994 and he won them both! Guys are always experimenting. It is probably more remarkable that Tiger resisted the urge to switch sooner, because he surely went through putting woes over the years.


Regarding Tiger, I have thought for years now that his knee is the main reason he is not playing as well and was forced to change his swing. I don't think he is physically capable of swinging the way he was with Butch [Harmon]. Besides his putting, the knee is the major factor in why Tiger is no longer as dominant as he once was, in my opinion.
-- Joe Minnehan

Harig: Tiger has said he can't swing the club the way he did back in 2000 due to his knee. He has also said he sought to make changes to his swing to lessen the stress on that knee, and certainly seemed intent on doing that after the 2008 surgery. He came back and won seven times in 2009. And as he goes forward, with another knee issue -- although minor -- it will continue to be an issue.

Have a question? Send it to Bob Harig's mailbag at BobHESPN@gmail.com to see whether it gets used next week.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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