(Reuters) - While some pundits have questioned whether Tiger Woods will ever regain top form after being sidelined for 15 months due to back issues, Jack Nicklaus thinks he could compete at the highest level for another decade and challenge his record of 18 majors.
Woods, who turns 41 next month and won the last of his 14 majors at the 2008 US Open, will make his comeback at this week’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.
He has not played on the PGA Tour since August 2015, having undergone back surgeries in September and again in October of that year, and not won anywhere since 2013.
However, Nicklaus said it was perhaps only the mental side of the game which had prevented him from returning sooner.
“I’ve always thought that he’s got at least another 10 years of good competitive golf in front of him if he’s healthy and as talented as he is,” Nicklaus was quoted as saying by BBC Sport.
Woods, who spent a record 281 consecutive weeks as world number one but has now fallen to 898th in the rankings, needs four majors to tie Nicklaus’s record.
“I don’t think anything is safe,” added the 76-year-old.
Woods had planned to return at last month’s Safeway Open in California but withdrew three days before the opening round, saying his game was not sharp enough.
”He keeps saying he is fine ... he’s ready to play, yet he has not come back to play. That probably is the five inches between his ears that is the part that he’s having trouble with.
“(He) has got to re-evaluate that and find out what’s going to happen to him and how can he mentally get himself back into the idea of playing golf again.”
Reporting by Debanjan Bose in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford