The new year in pro golf begins much the way it did in 1996, 2000, 2008, and 2013. Or, for that matter, most of the years in between.
All eyes are on Tiger Woods in 2020. He is healthy and playing his best golf in years.
He enters his 24th season on the PGA Tour ranked 8th in the world. It’s an enviable position for 99.99 percent of golfers.
But Tiger has always competed in a class of his own, even among the greatest players on the planet. As he closes in on a few major milestones, the top earner in the history of the sport has reasons to extend his legacy.
Catching Snead’s for most PGA Tour wins
Tiger had a huge year in 2019. He shocked the golf world by winning his fifth green jacket at the Masters in April. It was his 15th career title at a major and his first since claiming the US Open in 2008.
The victory at Augusta National, Tiger’s second PGA Tour win since 2013, placed him back in line to overtake Sam Snead’s record of 82 tour wins.
Tiger tied Snead in October by winning the Zozo Championship in Japan. He will stand alone at the top with his next and 83rd tour title, a feat that could arrive in 2020.
Snead was 52 when he achieved the debated record in 1965. Tiger, who lost years of competitiveness over the last decade with back and knee injuries, was 43 when he won Zozo. He’s in position to distance himself from Snead’s benchmark as the new decade wears on.
Looking towards the majors
Tiger’s chances for a repeat win at the Masters in April look good. In fact, oddsmakers have Tiger chasing Rory McIlroy at the top of the tournament’s odds. Don’t be surprised if the 11-time PGA Player of the Year dons his sixth green jacket on April 12. A win would tie Tiger with Nicklaus for the most Masters championships.
Tiger’s performance in August will shape how oddsmakers size up his prospects at the remaining majors. Early predictions for the PGA Championship in May show him in the top five. That position shifts to the middle of the pack for the US Open in June.
He steps back into the top ten favorites when play shifts to Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Kent, England for July’s Open Championship.
Chasing the Golden Bear’s all-time majors mark
The foremost question among many fans is whether Tiger can catch Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 majors wins. Surpassing the mark is the achievement that would graduate Tiger to an entirely peerless realm.
Time is of the essence
Each major win is a herculean task, one that certainly doesn’t ease with age. Nicklaus was over 40 when he won his last three majors. The Golden Bear was 46 when he won number 18 at the 1986 Masters.
Tiger is 44. The likelihood he wins three or more future majors is not good. Maybe he tacks on another major title to cap a prolific career, but Nicklaus’s record appears safe.
Then again, this is an era when superstar athletes perform exceptionally late in their careers. Just consider Lebron James, Tom Brady, and Serena Williams. Each is a legendary, global ambassador achieving unprecedented success later in their careers. Tiger is no different.
Snead’s all-time PGA titles record looked out of reach during Tiger’s lean years. It’s inevitable that he will now own the milestone outright, probably in 2020. We could be having the same conversation about Tiger eclipsing Nicklaus in a few years.
A pivotal year for Tiger
Tiger is poised to break new ground in 2020. If he remains in good health, he’s likely to snap the tie with Snead as the greatest all-time winner on the PGA Tour. Favorable odds ahead of the majors put him in a good position to pursue Nicklaus.