Woods, at 43, and with ongoing health issues, needs 1 victory to tie Snead at 82
Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Jeff Rude are co-hosts of a weekly podcast, Hawk & Rude, in which they discuss and debate the hottest issues in golf. They also share their takes in this weekly installment.
Given his recent health issues, is it still a foregone conclusion that Tiger Woods will break Sam Snead’s all-time record of 82 PGA Tour victories?
Hawk’s take: As of now, yes. The chance for Woods to pass Jack Nicklaus (18) on the major-championship mountain has become almost inconceivable, which only lends greater importance to his eclipsing Snead. One, he’s too close to 83. Two, he can stick around forever (on a limited schedule) to do it. Three, he remains a very good player when he’s healthy. All are reasons to believe that it’s still just a matter of time before he completes the task, which qualifies as a foregone conclusion.
We shouldn’t read too much into what Woods did in 2019. His season basically ended when he slipped his arms into another green jacket in April. Winning a fifth Masters made the rest of the year somewhat meaningless, especially after he began taking longer stretches away from the game. Woods has decided that he needs to conserve his body to stick around for the long haul, which sounds like good news to the fan club, but such a strategy easily could backfire.
Rust never sleeps. Especially when you’re in your mid-40s. That said, Woods will inch past Snead. Even if it requires a cane as a 15th club.
Rude’s take: Golf knows no guarantees, even regarding Tiger Woods, once as reliable as sunrise. Recent history screams that if his body isn’t able, then he’s a shell of the terminator of yesteryear, and all bets are risky. Health is the engine that will determine his forward progress.
The same guy who has won 81 Tour titles, including 15 majors, went winless in 2014-17 when disabled. The same man who won the 2019 Masters didn’t contend in his 10 other stroke-play events this year, finishing no better than ninth, partly because of neck and oblique strains and a left leg that in August required a fifth knee surgery. And so, he will enter next year at age 44 and surrounded by uncertainty.
Will he win two more times and pass Snead? Probably. Would I bet a large sum? Yes, figuring he’ll find a way to recover and click. But a foregone conclusion? No, not when ailments pop up more often than top-5 finishes. Not when his last six starts include two missed major cuts, a withdrawal and two times outside the top 20.
For two decades we were trained not to doubt him. But now we wait again to see how his body responds. Thing is, even if he doesn’t break Snead’s record, his total still would be superior, given the much deeper competition of his era.
John Hawkins is a longtime sportswriter who spent 14 years covering the PGA Tour for Golf World magazine. From 2007 to 2011, he was a regular on Golf Channel’s “Grey Goose 19th Hole.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff Rude has covered golf for more than 30 years, most notably for two decades with Golfweek, and has hosted multiple national TV and radio shows. He covered 82 consecutive major championships. Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @JeffRudeGolf