Jack Nicklaus: Don't count out Tiger

Updated: March 2, 2011, 4:45 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Jack Nicklaus said it is too early to dismiss Tiger Woods' chances of breaking his major championship record, although another year without winning one of golf's four biggest tournaments could change his mind.

Like many who follow the game, the Golden Bear is at a loss to explain Woods' on-course troubles, which have seen him go more than 15 months without a worldwide victory.

Nicklaus He's got such a great work ethic. He's so determined to what he wants to do. I'm very surprised that he has not popped back. I still think he'll break my record.

-- Jack Nicklaus
on Tiger Woods

"I'm surprised that he has not bounced back by now," said Nicklaus on Wednesday at PGA National, where he was playing in the Honda Classic pro-am. "He's got such a great work ethic. He's so determined to what he wants to do. I'm very surprised that he has not popped back. I still think he'll break my record.

"But obviously we have not played any majors yet this year. We'll see. You probably can ask me that same question at the end of this year and we'll see what the answer is, and it might -- it will probably define a lot of what will be the answer."

Woods has 14 major championships but has gone 10 majors since winning the 2008 U.S. Open, matching the longest major drought of his career.

Nicklaus, 71, who won 18 major titles, conducted a news conference to talk mostly about the last one -- his 1986 Masters victory at age 46, which occurred 25 years ago.

But several questions inevitably shifted to Woods, who at age 35 is still two majors ahead of Nicklaus' pace. Nicklaus did win two majors in 1975, the year he turned 35.

Woods has been questioned for changing his swing again under the direction of Sean Foley, after doing so twice before in his career under Butch Harmon and Hank Haney. Woods has played just three tournaments this year, finishing tied for 44th at the Farmers Insurance Open, tied for 20th at the Dubai Desert Classic and losing in the first round last week to Thomas Bjorn at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

While saying that "guys run back to their swing coach too much," Nicklaus also said that making changes to a swing is common.

"I made changes constantly in my swing," Nicklaus said. "If you don't make changes, you don't improve. I don't care who you are, because your body continually changes. I mean, my body at age 46 was certainly a lot different than it was at age 25 and at 35. And as is Tiger's body a lot different at age than it was at 25."

Nicklaus played in the pro-am with Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, former Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor and saxophonist Kenny G, who lends his name to the tournament pro-am.

Although Nicklaus won the Champions Skins Game in January with Tom Watson, he said he rarely plays and expects to play only 15 to 20 rounds this year.

"I gave a clinic Monday and hit 20 balls, so I'm ready," Nicklaus quipped. "I don't play very much. ... 95-mile-an-hour clubhead speed doesn't translate into anything very special."

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com