Tiger Woods tells CNN he plans to play long enough to break Jack Nicklaus' record
American is four major titles behind the 18 won by Nicklaus, whose last came at 46
Woods, 36, says he constantly has to answer questions about whether he can win again
His young rival Rory McIlroy says he aims to match Woods' longevity at the top of golf
It has been four years since Tiger Woods won a major title, but the former world No. 1 insists he still has time to beat the record held by his hero Jack Nicklaus.
The “Golden Bear” won his last major at the age of 46, six years after his 17th triumph – and Woods, stuck on 14 wins, says he plans to play for just as long.
“Absolutely. With the fitness routine and eating properly and staying in shape I could play for a very long time and I’m looking forward to that opportunity,” the 36-year-old Woods told CNN’s Living Golf in an exclusive joint interview with his heir apparent, Rory McIlroy.
“If you say hypothetically 10 years, that’s 40 more major championships I get a chance to play in and compete in and try to win, and hopefully I can try to at least win five of those.”
Woods ended a long wait for a title of any kind in March, won again in June, and overtook Nicklaus on the all-time PGA Tour list with his third victory of the season in July. It was his 74th overall, putting him behind only Sam Snead’s 82.
However, over the the last four years Woods’ best finish in a major was 11th, and he has been plagued by constant questioning about his ability to follow up his last win at Torrey Pines – which came at the cost of a serious knee injury that sidelined him for several months.
“Every press conference I go to I get hammered – ‘Oh you’re never going to win again blah blah blah’ – and it was every tournament I went to,” said Woods, who ended 2012 second on the PGA Tour money list behind McIlroy with more than $6 million in earnings.
“It was a lot there for about a year and a half where I had to answer that question every single round, pre-tournament, and to do that all a lot and then to pass Jack on the all-time win list this year and do it 10 years younger than him, I think that’s a pretty neat accomplishment.”
This year McIlroy won his second major, the PGA Championship in August, at the tender age if 23 – slightly younger than when Woods won his second at the same event in 1999.
“I’m halfway there to the career slam,” McIlroy said. “I’ve won two, and when I get my third I want to try and get my fourth.
“It’s never been something that I’ve put a number on – obviously I looked up to Tiger so much as a kid and obviously he’s always had that goal of trying to surpass Jack’s number and maybe one day I’ll think about it a little more and try and put a number on it, but right now I’m at two and I want to get to three.
“I think the next big goal for me is if I could win the career gland slam, it would be a huge point. Not many players have done it in the past and it would be great to add my name to that list.”
At the peak of his powers, Woods held all four major titles after 2001’s Masters victory – three of them coming in the previous season.
It’s the closest any golfer of the modern era has been to a calendar grand slam – a feat only achieved by Bobby Jones in 1930 when two of the tournaments were amateur championships.
“It was just the best run of golf that was ever seen,” McIlroy said of Woods’ achievement – known as the “Tiger Slam.”
“Holding all four major championships at the one time is incredible,” added McIlroy. “It is probably just a pity that it didn’t all happen in the one year because I am not sure that would ever happen again.”
McIlroy and Woods were both criticized for missing the World Golf Championship event in China immediately after their “Duel on Jinsha Lake” exhibition last week, citing fatigue in a busy end to the season.
But McIlroy insisted his biggest challenge is to avoid burnout.
“One of the biggest things for me is longevity. I have still got a lot of years ahead of me. I just don’t want to be burnt out,” he said.
“I don’t want to get to the stage where I am 30 or 35 years old and I … I don’t want to say fed up with the game, but it is a long time to be playing the sport and I just want to pace myself.
“I think Tiger has done that so well for the last 15 years and that is something that I am going to try to do going forward.”
Woods said he fully understands the pressures McIlroy is facing as one of golf’s biggest drawcards, having blazed that trail himself for more than a decade.
“Everyone is going to be trying to bring you to their event, deter you away from time that is spent practicing,” said the American.
“How did you get there? You didn’t get there by sitting on your butt the entire time, you got there by working hard and doing all the things you need to do to prepare, and people are going to be trying to take you away from that.
“So trying to manage one’s time – for me that has been the biggest key.
“Some guys they just show up and they try to practice just for the week and build themselves into it. I would much rather practice at home, be ready.
“When I go to an event it is to win, period. I learned that at a very early age.”