It’s a truism that the closer an iconic athlete comes to matching or beating longtime career marks, the less able the athlete is to compete on an elite level every single day. You’ve got to dig deeper and find more reserves, and even then you might well get passed by competitors who were in diapers when you started playing.
Tiger Woods tees it up at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot on Thursday. It will mark his 22nd attempt at an event he’s won three times, most recently in 2008. But Woods hasn’t finished in the top 20 at the U.S. Open in a decade, a struggle that’s hampered his attempt to catch Jack Nicklaus’s all-time record of 18 majors. (Woods, as you probably know, sits at 15; he’s won exactly one since that 2008 U.S. Open victory.)
Tuesday morning, at an otherwise standard-issue Tiger-style news conference, Woods touched on the difficulty of hitting any kind of career mark.
“You know, I think it gets harder to win as we all age,” he said. “I think that when you're in your prime, in your peak years, you have to take advantage of those opportunities so that when you get to the all-time marks, you have the opportunity.”
Woods specifically mentioned Rafael Nadal, who sits just one Grand Slam behind Roger Federer’s career mark of 20, and Serena Williams, who is also one behind Margaret Court’s mark of 24.
“I think that whether it’s Rafa or Fed or Serena, they’ve been so consistent and so dominant for such a long period of time, that’s how you ... can have those all-time marks,” Woods said. “Consistency over a long period of time is the hallmark of those records.”
Woods’ consistency has been the chief problem; he won 14 majors in his first 10-plus years, and all of one major in the 12-plus years since. Where breaking Nicklaus’ record once seemed a foregone conclusion, Woods will now need some real breaks and some substantial tournament-of-his-life playing to get to 18 majors.
As of Tuesday, Woods’ odds to win the U.S. Open, per BetMGM, are +4500 (45-1), which is probably still pretty generous because Woods always draws a fair chunk of casual bets. It’s a safe bet that when the weekend ends, Woods will still be three majors behind Nicklaus.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him with tips and story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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