May 28, 2014
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Jack Nicklaus (l) talks to Tiger Woods during The Presidents Cup. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
DUBLIN, Ohio -- Jack Nicklaus didn't even ask about the British Open.
Not when he knew he would be sitting in front of a roomful of inquiring minds shortly after he and Tiger Woods finished their telephone conversation on Wednesday morning.
"I'll let him answer those questions," he said with a grin.
So while Nicklaus doesn't know -- or at the very least, isn't telling -- whether Woods will be ready to play in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, he did let the reporters know that Woods' rehab is going well.
"He's looking forward to getting back into the game," Nicklaus said. "He misses it. I just pass that on."
Woods, who turns 39 in December, had a microdiscectomy to relieve a pinched nerve in his back on March 31. On Wednesday he confirmed what many had speculated when Woods announced on his website that he would not be able to play in next month's U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.
His own tournament, the Quicken Loans National, follows a week later and would appear to be in jeopardy, as well. Hence the query to Nicklaus about the British Open.
The World Golf Hall of Famer did say that Woods' health could be his biggest stumbling block as the former world No. 1 continues his pursuit of Nicklaus' 18 major championships.
"If he's healthy, I think Tiger's got 10-plus years to play top quality tournament golf," Nicklaus said. "And certainly, and I've said many times, he's got a little over 40 tournaments to play the major championships, he's only got to win five to pass my record. As good a player as he is, I don't think that should be a big deal."
Woods won his last major championship at the 2008 U.S. Open, where he needed 19 extra holes to defeat Rocco Mediate in a Monday playoff at Torrey Pines. Several surgeries later, though, Woods doesn't seem quite as invincible as he once did, and a whole generation of players inspired by him -- but not yet scarred by him -- are ready to mount a challenge.
"The first time that Tiger ever lost a tournament coming down the stretch was against Y.E. Yang," Nicklaus said, speaking about the 2009 PGA where Woods took the lead into the final round only to be caught by the South Korean. "... It was the first time somebody challenged him and actually beat him.
"He will probably have more of those challenges because of the more young players coming along. But that's part of the game, and I think he expects that."