Tiger Woods has long been outspoken about his focus on Major tournaments. His ultimate goal in golf, he has said, is to eclipse Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 Major victories.
But his runner-up finish to Trevor Immelman at the Masters last Sunday, leaving him stuck at 13 Major victories (already second-best all-time), was a step toward another Nicklaus record, one that might be even more difficult to break.
Nicklaus finished second in 19 Majors. That’s a remarkable 37 top-two finishes. Veteran golfer Jay Haas, a pro since 1976, has zero top-two finishes in Majors.
From 1962, Nicklaus’s first year as a professional, through 1983, Nicklaus finished first or second in a Major in every year but one–1969, when his best finish was sixth. He also famously finished second to Arnold Palmer at the U.S. Open in 1960 while still an amateur. And Nicklaus went on of course to win the 1986 Masters, at age 46, making him the second oldest Majors champion ever.
The 32-year-old Woods has finished second in Majors five times. At that age Nicklaus had 8 second-place finishes (and 11 wins) in Majors. From 1997, Tiger’s second year as a pro (but the first year he entered Major tournaments as a pro), through the 2008 Masters, Woods already has three years without a top-two finish (1998, 2003, 2004).
Other comparisons: Nicklaus ended his career with nine third-place finishes in Majors; Tiger currently has two. Only Woods had more PGA Tour wins in his 20s than Nicklaus–Tiger 46, Nicklaus 30. Both Nicklaus and Woods have multiple U.S. Amateur titles and an NCAA championship.