The world’s top-ranked golfer has a new catchphrase.
Tiger Woods uttered it after falling short at the Masters this spring, and again after playing himself out of contention at the recent U.S. Open.
“Just haven’t gotten it done,” he said.
Five years have passed since major knee surgery set him back, 31/2 since scandal threw another wrench into his career. A rebuilt swing has put him back on top, but he cannot seem to perform at major championships.
Heading into the British Open this week, Woods hasn’t won a major since 2008 and remains stalled in his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ all-time record.
Woods knows that great golfers are measured by their success in the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship.
“These are the four biggest events ... the toughest conditions, best fields and the most demanding and challenging,” he said this spring.
Which raises the question: If he never wins another major — or, at least, falls short of Nicklaus’ mark — where will that leave him in golf’s all-time pecking order?
“Hard to answer that right now,” said Ian Baker-Finch, who won the 1991 British Open and now works as an analyst on CBS Sports telecasts. “There are a couple different ways to think about it.”
The majors have long been the gold standard, if only because, as writer and historian Geoff Shackelford said, “It’s the easiest thing to count.”
Nicklaus leads with 18 titles. Next comes Woods with 14 and Bobby Jones with 13, if you include his U.S. and British amateur championships, which used to count as majors. Walter Hagen won 11 majors, Ben Hogan and Gary Player nine each.
People might forget that, in addition to his wins, Nicklaus finished second in majors a remarkable 19 times, losing to the likes of Player, Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino.
“He was competing against Hall of Fame types,” Shackelford said. “We knew we were watching somebody that was doing something special.”
But should majors be the only measure of greatness? Golf keeps all sorts of records, many of which Woods will own by the time he retires.
At 37, he already has 78 victories on the PGA Tour — five more than Nicklaus — and seems certain to eclipse Sam Snead’s record of 82.
Even more impressive, Woods has won at a 26 percent clip for 17-plus years on the tour, which means he has finished atop the leaderboard in one of every four tournaments. By comparison, Nicklaus won 12 percent of the time and Snead finished with a 15 percent rate.
Woods has received the Vardon Trophy eight times as the golfer with the season’s lowest scoring average. Trevino and Billy Casper come next at five, with Snead and Palmer at four.
Here’s another argument: No one denies that from 2000 through mid-2001, he played some of the most dominant golf in the history.
His run included a victory at the 2000 U.S. Open in which he outdistanced the field by 15 strokes. Next came victories at the British Open and PGA Championship, followed by a Masters title to start 2001.
Overall, Woods won 14 of the 39 PGA Tour events he entered in those two seasons.
“The majors are just the best mark,” Shackelford said. “To me, Jack Nicklaus is still the greatest and will continue to be until somebody breaks that record.”
Even Woods seems to agree.
Asked whether reaching 18 remains important to him, he said: “Yeah, it is. I would like to be able to get to that point.”