A report this week that the 2020 British Open will be canceled was denied Thursday by The Royal and Ancient Golf Club, but the possibility still remains that it will be called off. If that happens, it would be a disappointment to golf fans and a blow to Tiger Woods.
Woods is in pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ career record for major championships. Every major that is canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic is one more lost opportunity for a man running out of time.
Jack Nicklaus leads Tiger Woods, 18-15
Tiger Woods looked like a lock to race past Jack Nicklaus’ total of 18 majors when he won the 2008 U.S. Open for his 14th title in just his 13th season on the PGA Tour. Little did the golf world know that it would be his last triumph in the sport’s four big tournaments until the 2019 Masters in Augusta, Georgia.
Sidelined by numerous injuries, starting with issues that caused him to miss the British Open and PGA Championship in 2008, and the scandal in his personal life related to extramarital affairs, Woods stalled out in his pursuit of Nicklaus. There would be five top-six finishes in his next six majors and four more similar finishes in 2011-13.
But Woods didn’t place any better than a tie for 17th the next two years and sat out all the majors in 2016-17. And even after his success at the 2019 Masters for title No. 15, he missed the cut in the PGA Championship and the British Open.
Time is running out for Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods has proven himself special over the years, so it’s conceivable that he’s still close to being in his prime at the age of 44. Still, the task ahead if he’s going to catch Jack Nicklaus is daunting.
Only eight golfers have won majors at the age of 45 or older – and none have done it more than once. Julius Boros was 48 at the 1968 British Open, Tom Morris was 46 at the 1967 British Open, and Nicklaus was 46 at the 1986 Masters. The last winner over the age of 44 was Hale Irwin at the 1990 U.S. Open.
Aside from the potential issue at the British Open – Golf Digest reported that the tournament is fully insured, so cancellation may be more likely than postponement – golf’s other majors in 2020 are question marks.
The Masters and the PGA Championship have already been postponed with no new dates confirmed as the sports world has come to a halt during the pandemic. The U.S. Open is scheduled for mid-June at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York. However, that community is just north of New York City, which has been hit harder by the coronavirus outbreak than any other U.S. city.
Men’s tennis has a race of its own
Tiger Woods isn’t the only athlete trying to reach the top. In fact, three men’s tennis greats have been staging a race for the all-time lead in grand slam titles.
The third man in the race is the one hurt most by the erasure of Wimbledon from the 2020 schedule due to the coronavirus pandemic. Although Federer has more Wimbledon titles with eight, Djokovic has triumphed at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club the past two seasons.
Djokovic would have been a candidate for his sixth Wimbledon title and 18th grand slam this summer to tighten the race, though Federer adding to his total wouldn’t have been out of the question.