ORLANDO, Fla. – Arnold Palmer believes age will be an issue as 38-year-old Tiger Woods tries to break the major championship record.
The standard all along for Woods has been the 18 professional majors Jack Nicklaus won over 25 seasons. Woods reached his 14th major when he was 32, but he has not won another since that 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. And now the world’s No. 1 player is coping with an ailing back.
“I don’t think 38 years is the ultimate stopping point for his quest to do what Jack did,” Palmer said Wednesday at Bay Hill. “I think it lessens the possibility of that happening. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be tough to keep the concentration and the type of the game that is necessary to win majors.”
Nicklaus won four of his majors after turning 38. Ben Hogan, with battered legs from a car accident, won five majors after turning 38.
Palmer, however, believes more than age is at stake for Woods.
“These young guys are tough, and they’re strong,” Palmer said. “And if they continue to play as well as they’ve been playing, it’s going to be tough for anybody – whether it be Nicklaus or Tiger or whomever it would be – to continue to win major championships. And we’re talking about guys that are playing good and coming on.”
He also alluded to Woods’ mystique that appears to have eroded.
“And the fear of a player being so good that they back off, I don’t think that’s the case anymore,” he said. “I think that the players that are going to win, and win major championships, have to be physically fit, mentally fit and they’re going to continue to be tough to beat.”
Former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell also said the strength of the field is as much an obstacle for Woods as his own health.
“I would say the field is probably the biggest issue he’s got, maybe 70-30 – 70 being field, 30 being body,” McDowell said. “It’s tough to say. He never ceases to amaze us. … You’d never put anything past him. He could prove us all wrong and show up at Augusta, win by 10, and you guys will be back to the keyboards and waxing lyrical and away we go again. Who knows?”