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March 18, 2010

Nicklaus: Layoff might hurt Woods at Masters

Posted at 1:24 PM by Mike Walker | Categories: Augusta National, Jack Nicklaus, Masters, Tiger Woods

Jack Nicklaus said Wednesday that the Masters is a good place for Tiger Woods to return, but questioned whether Woods will be able to win the tournament following a five-month layoff, according to The Irish Independent.

Nicklaus made a surprise appearance Tuesday at the Royal Golf Dar El Salaam course in Morocco, host of this week's European Tour stop. While Nicklaus said Woods was a "terrific player and a phenomenal athlete," he told a story about Seve Ballesteros at the 1986 Masters to illustrate the challenges Woods will face at Augusta National next month.

Even in his prime, Nicklaus admitted he'd have been unable to go straight to the Masters and win after a five month's absence.

"No, I'd not have been at my best," he said, delving back to 1986, the year he won his sixth and final Green Jacket, for an anecdote which illustrated why Woods will find it difficult to go all the way at Augusta next month.

"Seve (Ballesteros) went to that Masters not having played very much golf," Nicklaus explained. "I remember he and I were playing a practice round and he said to me 'I'm not as sharp as I should be'.

"As soon as he said it, I knew when Seve came down the stretch on Sunday, he wasn't going to be as tough as he'd usually be. When he hit his ball into the water at 15 in the final round, it was the type of swing you'd expect from somebody who wasn't sharp.

"And being sharp is being tournament tested on a recent basis. That'd be the only negativity for Tiger at Augusta -- he'd not be tournament tested, though as a golfer and having practiced all the shots, he will be fine. So it's going to be very interesting."

Woods's alleged goal in the game is to win 19 major championships, one more than Nicklaus, to claim the title of "greatest ever golfer." Woods's last major victory at the 2008 U.S. Open got him to 14. Nicklaus said Woods has a "good chance" to win five more majors, but added, "It's not a cinch."

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