Commentary

Looking ahead, Tiger crosses Jack path in 2010

Updated: August 14, 2007, 9:27 AM ET
By Mark Kreidler | Special to ESPN.com

So all the fun now has to be in figuring out the When. The What, with Tiger Woods surpassing Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 majors, is as close to a foregone conclusion as anything can be in a sport in which Ryan Benzel, assistant pro at the Seattle Golf Club, makes the cut at the 2007 PGA Championship and Vijay Singh misses it.

Sirak: St. Andrews looms

Want an exact date when Tiger Woods will pass Jack Nicklaus? Golf World's Ron Sirak has one: the 2010 British Open at St. Andrews. Story

Barring something extraordinarily awful, that is, Woods will get there. Sunday's victory at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., put the 31-year-old at 13 majors and stalking. And stalking is still the appropriate term: For those who love to debate the notion of whether Woods is losing the edge as he grows older, moves into fatherhood and deals with life's vicissitudes, the fat truth is that he has won five of the past 12 majors. Not exactly ye olde career crisis.

So when do Woods and Nicklaus trade places? And, for that matter, where?

As it develops, Woods has a chance to make history and poetry at the same time. Considering everything about his career, that sounds about right.

If Woods can win three or four majors between now and the beginning of the 2010 season -- and, sure, that sounds ridiculous until you remember who we're talking about -- then he will find himself on the brink of one of the great acts of sports symmetry ever attempted.

That year, 2010, will see the Masters at Augusta National, the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and the British Open at St. Andrews. Augusta, of course, represents not merely his four Masters championships, but Woods' stunning breakthrough in 1997, when his 12-stroke victory formally announced his talent to the world. St. Andrews is the course upon which Woods laid a 19-under 269 in his 2000 British Open victory.

And Pebble is the site of perhaps the greatest display of dominance Woods has ever produced (not that you can't come up with plenty of worthy nominees), when in 2000 he carved up the course and finished 12-under to win an Open in which his closest competitor finished at 3 over par.

The significance? Well, his achievements in 2000 at St. Andrews and Pebble Beach would be at an even decade's distance when Woods comes back around in 2010 with, perhaps, a chance at becoming the sport's all-time leader in majors championships.

Poetry, I tells ya.

Now, does it have a chance? It has the same chance that Woods always has when he walks a golf course, which is to say, a damned good one.

Upcoming majors schedule

Tiger Woods has 13 major championship wins. He needs five more to catch and six more to pass Jack Nicklaus' all-time record of 18. Here's where he'll get a chance to add to his total over the next three years:

2008
Masters -- Augusta National
   Woods has four green jackets
U.S. Open -- Torrey Pines
   Woods has won the Buick five times
British Open -- Royal Birkdale
   Woods finished a shot out of a playoff
PGA Championship -- Oakland Hills
   Woods won his singles match at 2004 Ryder Cup

2009
Masters -- Augusta National
U.S. Open -- Bethpage Black
   Woods won 2002 U.S. Open here
British Open -- Turnberry
   Last Open here was in 1994, before Woods turned pro
PGA Championship -- Hazeltine National
   Woods shot 67 in final round of 2002 PGA, but lost to Rich Beem by one

2010
Masters -- Augusta National
U.S. Open -- Pebble Beach
   Woods won here by 15 shots a the 2000 U.S. Open
British Open -- St. Andrews
   2005: Woods by 5; 2000: Woods by 8
PGA Championship -- Whistling Straits

In 2008, Woods visits Augusta National, where he has those four Masters titles, and the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego, playing a course where he has won five times on the PGA Tour. The PGA Championship occurs at Oakland Hills, where Woods played with the 2004 U.S. Ryder Cup team that got routed, and the British is at Royal Birkdale (where Woods finished one shot out of a playoff in 1998). Put Tiger down for a possible two (majors, that is).

The 2009 golf year sees Augusta National again, of course, and the U.S. Open is at Bethpage Black, where Woods won in 2002. The British is at Turnberry and the PGA at Hazeltine, where Woods famously birdied the final four holes in '02 only to come up a stroke short of surprise winner Rich Beem. OK, one to two majors there.

Where does that put him, as 2010 swings into view? Give Woods one of the next two Masters. Give him Torrey Pines in '08 and either Bethpage or Hazeltine in '09. That would put him at 16 majors heading into 2010 -- and, for all I know, we're being conservative in that estimate. He's obviously good enough, calm enough and dedicated enough to do more.

It's hard to go broke betting on Woods to come up big. The people around him, and even Woods himself, were ready to call 2007 a letdown year until he tamed Southern Hills last weekend to claim a major & and yet Woods had finished second both at the Masters and U.S. Open and is easily the No. 1 player in the world in terms of statistical rank and tournament winnings.

In that sense, there is no worry about placing too much expectation on the man. Why shouldn't he surpass Nicklaus in a symmetrical year like 2010? Why not do it on some of the biggest golf stages of his life at Augusta, Pebble, St. Andrews?

And, really, who's going to stop him? Woods wins big. He wins close. He wins without breaking a sweat and, judging off Southern Hills, with breaking enough sweat to fill buckets. When it comes time to take down an all-time record like the majors, expect Woods to win with style. You can see it from here.

Mark Kreidler's book "Four Days to Glory: Wrestling With the Soul of the American Heartland", published by HarperCollins, is in its third printing. His book "The Kids of Summer" will be released in July 2008. A regular contributor to ESPN.com, he can be reached at mark@markkreidler.com.