January 14, 2015 / 7:40 PM / 5 years ago

Nicklaus optimistic on Tiger, U.S. Ryder Cup future

(Reuters) - Jack Nicklaus, golf’s greatest major winner, says Tiger Woods and the U.S. Ryder Cup team are both going through golfing lulls but is optimistic they will bounce back.

PGA golfer Tiger Woods tees off on the 5th hole during the second round of the 2014 PGA Championship golf tournament at Valhalla Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The 39-year-old Woods, returning from a back injury, has not won a major since he took his total to 14 — second on the all-time list — at the 2008 U.S. Open.

“Tiger’s had a great career, and I don’t think his career is over,” 18-times major winner Nicklaus said during a conference call on Wednesday to promote a documentary on his career that will air on Fox TV on Sunday.

“He’s had a little lull in his career and we’ll see what happens from here. I had lulls in my career, too,” the Golden Bear said about two three-year periods and one six-year gap between majors.

“I came back from that and I think Tiger may do the same.”

Nicklaus, who will celebrate his 75th birthday next week, also said the sinking fortunes of the U.S. team in the Ryder Cup, spotlighted by last year’s 16-1/2 to 11-1/2 rout by Europe at Gleneagles, was likely to turn around.

The victory gave Europe wins in six of the last seven editions of the biennial match play series.

“There’s a lot of criticism that came from the Ryder Cup and not winning that,” he said about some player dissatisfaction with Tom Watson’s captaincy and the formation of a task force to look at the U.S. approach to the competition.

“But I think you’re going to go in cycles on that and right now there’s a lot of really good players in Europe. They just played better than the American players. That’s all there was to it. There’s nothing magic about it.

“But that’ll turn around. The American players have their pride. They’ll play better as time goes on, and they’ll win their share of Ryder Cup matches.”

Nicklaus never played on a losing Ryder Cup team in six Ryder competitions, and was 1-1 as U.S. captain.

He said the current depth in the game poses challenges in the Ryder Cup and for Woods in his quest for majors.

“You’ve got some really good players out there right now, and they’re winning on all continents,” Nicklaus said. “You probably have as great a depth as you’ve ever had in the game. I think it will become more difficult to win, yes, absolutely.”

Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue

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