By the time Tiger Woods was 26, he had already won eight majors and it seemed like it was just a matter of time before he shattered Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 career major championships. However, Woods won just six more over the next 13 years — including none in the last six years — and now, several injuries and numerous swings later, many think he will never win another.
Even if Woods fails to win another major, he will still finish with the second most major championships of all time. Yet most will look at his career as a huge disappointment. To that end, Woods’ legacy may have been better off if his career followed the same arc as Rafael Nadal’s.
Like Woods, Nadal has won 14 major championships (grand slams) and injuries appear to have derailed his once seemingly high hopes of catching Roger Federer’s record of 17 career grand slams. But unlike Woods, Nadal’s chase started much later, with his first grand slam coming in his fifth pro season. Even after he started to win, Nadal’s titles were mostly limited to the French Open. It was not until seasons eight through 10 that Nadal broke through at the other Grand Slams and made people wonder if he could chase the record.
Even if Nadal never wins another grand slam — he hasn’t advanced past the quarterfinals in the last four — his career will be celebrated. Woods will also be celebrated, but that reverence will also be accompanied by a deeper feeling of “what if?”
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