ROCHESTER, New York: Tiger Woods might not currently have the intimidating aura that helped him become a 14-time major champion, but he has rivals who say he will win 100 career titles.
The 37-year-old world No. 1 will seek his 15th major crown, and first such title since the 2008 US Open, when the PGA Championship opens Thursday at Oak Hill.
“I’ve had my share of chances to win,” Woods said .
“I’ve had my opportunities on probably half of those Sundays for the last five years and just haven’t won it. But the key is to keep giving myself chances and eventually I’ll start getting them.”
Woods won his 79th career title last week at the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational, matching his career-low round with a second-day 61 and romping home by seven strokes over a top-class field at a Firestone course where he has now won eight times.
While Woods is best known for chasing the record 18 majors titles won by Jack Nicklaus, he is also only three shy of matching the all-time US PGA Tour career wins mark of 82 held by Sam Snead.
Plenty of players at the PGA Championship, the season’s last major, not only see Woods surpassing Snead but shattering the record and even reaching the century mark—100 career titles— before he is done.
“He can win 100,” said US 2014 Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson, an eight-time major winner.
“One of the impressive things I read last week is that he has had 10 seasons where he has won five tournaments or more. Five tournaments in one year. That’s amazing. That’s remarkable.”
It could have been more. Woods laments two major near-misses this year, a share of fourth at the Masters and sixth at the British Open.
“Frustrating part is I’ve been there and didn’t win two of the tournaments I was right in. One I hit a flagstick and I was leading the tournament and I ended up getting a penalty there,” he said, referring to the Masters.
“That was a tough round on Saturday but got it around and shot under par and put myself there with a chance on Sunday. Same thing at the Open.”
Rory McIlroy, last year’s PGA Championship winner, also likes the odds of Woods reaching the century mark.
“Yeah, Tiger Woods could potentially win 100,” the Northern Irishman said. “Very impressive the way he played last week.”
As much as McIlroy marvels at the sheer numbers, he was impressed that Woods withstood major swing changes and gaps in playing time, due to injury as well as his infamous sex scandal.
“The level of consistency throughout his career, even with a couple of swing changes, having a couple periods where he didn’t play much, to win the amount he has and to win tournaments with three completely different golf swings, it’s incredible,” said McIlroy.
That hits home for the 24-year-old, who has struggled this season after winning majors in each of the past two campaigns.
“It’s very inspirational in a way,” McIlroy said.
“People were writing him off at this time a couple years ago. He was outside the top 50 in the world. Now he’s back to where he was. It’s great to see. I think it’s good for the game.
“I would love to be able to get my game back to where I know it can be and be able to challenge him.”
Reigning US Open champion Justin Rose of England also said Woods could reach 100 wins.
“That’s a staggering amount of tournaments,” Rose said. “Just to put yourself in that many amount of positions to win is something, but to actually close out that many tournaments is a whole other thing.
“What’s that, 21 more he has to win? And how old is he? 37. Yeah, I think he will probably get to 100.”
Meanwhile, Mark Brooks, the 1996 PGA Championship winner, was forced to withdraw Wednesday due to an injury. He was replaced in the 156-player field by fellow Texan J.J. Henry.