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May I be more blunt? Impossible. No chance. Zip. Zilch. No way, Jos� (not you, Olaz�bal).
Based on his skill, his fitness, his penchant for amazing shots in the most pressurized situations, I concede that Tiger has surpassed Jack as the greatest golfer of all time. However, I am 100% certain that Tiger will not surpass Jack in the record book by achieving 19 major championship ... runner-up finishes.
Eighteen major titles? Hell, yes. That's a layup for Tiger, who is already at 13 and likely will drag that milestone somewhere into the mid-20s, obliterating Jack's mark. But major runner-up finishes? Jack is kicking Tiger's rear end, big-time. The current score, even after Woods's second-place finish last week at Augusta: Jack 19, Tiger 5.
Tiger's immortal line is "Second place sucks," but clearly he has eyes for this record too. Over the last year he's come in second in the last two Masters and in the 2007 U.S. Open. But the truth is, when it comes to finishing second, he's no Nicklaus. Jack already had four runner-up major finishes by the age of 24. By the time he was Tiger's age, 32, Jack had amassed 11. Jack piled up at least two seconds in a year four times, including his near-perfect season of 1964, when he was runner-up in the Masters, British Open and PGA Championship. His only blemish was a 23rd in the U.S. Open that Ken Venturi won in Congressional's sizzling heat.
Just think how deep Jack could've taken this record. If Doug Sanders makes that three-footer on the final green at St. Andrews in the '70 British ... if Arnold Palmer doesn't lose a playoff at Oakmont, a home game for him, to a 22-year-old Jack in the '62 U.S. Open ... if Jack doesn't make that crazy putt up the 16th green at the '75 Masters ... if Tom Kite or Greg Norman holes a putt on the 72nd hole in the '86 Masters....
Jack's record of 19 major runner-ups is one golf milestone that never will be topped. It's safer than Byron Nelson's 11 straight victories, a statement made unassailable now that Tiger has come within striking distance of Lord Byron a few times. Here's how lopsided this contest is: If Tiger nails one major second a year in each of the next 10 years, he will still have only 15 runner-ups. He'd need five more. But he'd be 42 then and, if he really is human, perhaps facing declining skills. And consider this: Jack won his last major at 46. But he earned his last runner-up three years earlier, in the '83 PGA at Riviera. Nothing lasts forever, except second-guessers.
Nineteen runner-ups in majors is as out of reach for Tiger as another one of Jack's great achievements—number of grandchildren. The current score there: Jack 21, Tiger 0.
Your move, Tiger.