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Jack Nicklaus says Tiger Woods can still break his majors record

September 16, 2011 | 11:41 am

Jack Nicklaus says Tiger Woods needs to improve mental approach.
It's a question that has cropped up frequently in the last year: Will Tiger Woods ever be Tiger Woods again?

He hasn't won since news of his marital infidelities surfaced in late 2009. He had only two top-10 finishes in his 12 PGA Tour events in 2010 and has played in only eight tour events this year, with the not-so-prestigious Open on his schedule for October as he tries to rediscover his game. That's not a tournament on Woods' radar in normal years.

Still, the man whose record for major championships Woods is trying to break says Woods can still eclipse him. Woods has 14 majors to his credit, a number that has been holding since his dramatic win at the U.S. Open in 2009, after which knee surgery shut him down. Jack Nicklaus has 18 majors, and the Golden Bear says Woods, 35, can still break his mark ... as long as his mental approach to the game can get in gear.

He can do it “if he gets the 5 inches between his ears squared out,” Nicklaus told the Associated Press on Friday in Incheon, South Korea, where he is attending a Champions Tour event on a course he designed.

“I mean Tiger has a great work ethic, he's a great competitor, the most talented kid on the planet right now,” he said. “He's not going to go away.”

Nicklaus, 71, also said Fred Couples made the right decision in selecting Woods to play for the U.S. team in the Presidents Cup against non-European players from around the world in November.

“How could you not pick him,” Nicklaus said. “I mean he's Tiger Woods, he's the best player in the game. He may not be playing his best today, but he's still Tiger Woods.”

In name, yes. But the game hasn't nearly come back. While injuries and his off-course behavior have sidelined him for lengthy periods the last two years, other young players have emerged in golf, and the mystique that helped Woods dominate is not visible today.

That said, even in a season in which his best finish was fourth at the Masters, it's too soon to write him off. He's gone through swing changes before; he's dealt with injuries before. The best bet here is that he'll win again, and win majors again. How many? That's still a major question, but one thing is clear: It was almost a given that the record would belong to Woods before his career ended; now it seems a 50-50 proposition at best.


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Photo: Jack Nicklaus says Tiger Woods can break his record of 18 majors if he gets it together mentally. Credit: Lee Jin-man / Associated Press