Tiger Woods, with familiar locales hosting golf’s grand slam events in 2014, likes his chances of finally wrapping up that elusive 15th major championship in the coming season.
Augusta National has always been a favorite of Woods, who has hung up four green jackets and amassed eight other top-8 finishes, including two second-place closes, at the iconic home of the Masters.
The trio of other tracks in the majors rotation next year are also Tiger-friendly. The 79-time PGA Tour winner has won on the courses set to host the British Open (Royal Liverpool Golf Club, in 2006) and PGA Championship (Valhalla GC, in 2000). He also has second- and third-place results in the most recent U.S. Opens at Pinehurst No. 2 (2005 and 1999).
The world No. 1 has been stuck on 14 major titles since his dramatic overtime victory over Rocco Mediate in the 2008 U.S. Open. His record in the majors since then would make a career for most players, what with his stellar Masters record and 23 top-10 outcomes -- including the ’08 U.S. Open win -- in the other majors.
That's all well and good, but coming up short of the goal line in the big games has never been part of the plan for the 37-year-old Woods, who has targeted Jack Nicklaus’ mark of 18 majors since he was a kid. Tiger, who won five times in 2013 despite going 0-for-4 when it really counted, pronounced himself pleased with the state of his game and ready to chip away at Nicklaus’ record after taking a break following his Northwestern Mutual World Challenge in December.
"A couple of years ago there were a lot of guys ... saying I could never win again," said the oft-injured superstar who hit two fingers against a tree during a follow-through in the third round in Turkey. "I've got eight wins since then, so it's been good and I'm very happy with the progress I've made. I've won on some venues that were very tough this year, and obviously winning the Presidents Cup with [U.S. captain] Freddie [Couples] was another special moment."
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What was not special for Woods was how close he came to winning the Masters in April, but for the fluke incident in which his approach shot to the par-5 15th in the second round caromed off the pin and into the hazard. A two-stroke penalty for an incorrect drop resulted in a triple-bogey and led to a fourth-place finish.
Woods expressed similar frustrations to CNN’s Rachel Nichols about an instance during the third round of the Open Championship in July.
"At the British Open on Saturday at the 17th I just spun one up in the air and it ended up in the bunker," said Woods, who has contended in several majors in the early going of the past few years, only to cough up his chances on Saturday and Sunday. "I blasted out, made bogey, Lee [Westwood] made birdie so there was a big shift there. I've been there with chances to win at the weekend, I just haven't done it yet."
As for Father Time, Tiger firmly believes there are plenty of ticks of the clock left in which he can overtake Jack.
"A lot of golfers peak in their 30s. You start eliminating mistakes as you get older," said Woods. "I might not bomb it as far, but strategic awareness improves. You understand how to attack the golf course and that's why there are so many great players -- [Ben] Hogan for instance, won most of his majors at my age and over."
Nicklaus, Woods pointed out, did not win his 18th major title until he was 46.
"You are going to have your years when you play really well -- you may clip two or three -- and then you have years when you just don't win anything -- you are there, you just don't happen to win," he said.
"Quite frankly, since 2008, I've been there with a chance to win about a half of them," Woods observed. "I just haven't seemed to have won one."