Can Spieth make a run at history?
Will Tiger catch Jack?
For the last two decades, that has been the number one topic bandied about by golf fans and the golf media.
Of course, we're talking major championships here. Jack Nicklaus, the all-time leader with 18. Tiger Woods, battling all kinds of problems, physical and otherwise, has been stuck on 14 for nine years. Into his 40s now with questionable health, it's hard to fathom Tiger chalking up another four majors.
So let's move on to the question that'll likely dominate golf for the next 15 years, namely, can Jordan Spieth catch Tiger? With the PGA Championship in the books, this season's majors are concluded.
Spieth will end 2017 a three-time major winner at just 24 years of age, he compares favorably to both Nicklaus and Woods in that regard. What's it going to take for Spieth to make a serious run at Woods? Staying healthy and keeping his head on straight are no-brainers for sure.
Numbers-wise, sure, it's easy enough to proclaim that if Spieth wins a major per year for 11 years he'll catch Tiger by age 35, at which point he would even have an outside shot to make a run at Nicklaus. But it's not that simple.
Folks played that numbers game with Rory McIlroy a few years back when he was striping every drive 330 yards down the middle and nailing every important putt. But golf is a finicky game. Players get hot, players cool off. In fact, Woods won all but one of his majors in a pair of four- year stretches, winning seven from 1999 to 2002, and six from 2005 to 2008. The rest of his career was spent fiddling with or completely reworking his swing while attempting to avoid his golf-club wielding wife and the surgeon's knife.
Spieth has been somewhat streaky also early in his career. He had one of the best seasons in golf history back in 2015, winning the Masters and U.S. Open while finishing fourth at the British and second at the PGA.
Spieth came right out of the gate hot in 2016 and held a five-shot lead on the back nine at Augusta before registering a quadruple bogey on the par-three 12th and handing the Masters to unknown Brit Danny Willett. That collapse seemed to shake him up, and Spieth was not the same player until this year's wire-to-wire win at the British Open, but again, the young Texan coughed up a final round lead before burying Matt Kuchar with a late charge.
So early in his career, it's safe to say that Spieth has not consistently shown a Tiger-like ability to close out major championships—yet. Will that ability come with age? If it does, it's quite possible Tiger, and possibly even Jack, may be peeking in that rearview mirror a few years down the road.
And what about McIlroy? Is he still in this conversation? With four major titles to his credit at age 28, barely. But a good multi-year run could definitely bring the curly haired kid from Northern Ireland back into the mix.
One last thought to keep in mind.
The level of competition that Spieth and McIlroy face in their quest for major championships is arguably at an all-time high. That reality will definitely work against any player with intentions of making a run at Mr. Woods.