Will Tiger ever match “The Golden Bear’s” 18 majors?

U.S. golfer Tiger Woods reacts as he teaches junior golfers how to tee off during a golf clinic at Jade Palace golf club in the eastern South Korean city of Chuncheon April 14, 2011. Woods is in South Korea on the “Make it Matter” promotional tour aimed at promoting golf in Asia. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak (SOUTH KOREA – Tags: SPORT GOLF)

There was a time in Tiger Woods’ career when it almost seemed guaranteed that he would not only match Jack Nicklaus’ record for 18 majors victories, but surpass “The Golden Bear’s” historic feat.

Now it almost seems guaranteed that Tiger won’t touch Nicklaus’ landmark.

After playing only nine holes at The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass on Thursday, Woods withdrew from the event citing multiple injuries. He visibly winced after hitting his approach shot onto the fifth green and observers noticed he was limping following the round. Clearly the same knee that was surgically repaired two years ago after his victory at the U.S. Open was giving him trouble yet again.

Whether it’s nagging injuries or a wide range of personal problems, Tiger appears destined to struggle for the rest of his career. That may sound dramatic, but it’s been nearly two years since he last won a PGA Tour event (the BMW Championship in September 2009) and nearly three years (the 2008 U.S. Open) since he last won a major.

It’s not surprising that Woods’ golf game fell apart right around the time when the entire world (not to mention his ex-wife) found out that he was sleeping with anything with two legs and a pulse. But golf observers just assumed that he would eventually get past the embarrassment and be Tiger again. Everyone assumed he would return to the winner he always has been.

Call it karma, fate or anything else you believe in: but he hasn’t. Now people are left to wonder if this is it for Tiger – if he’ll continue to struggle from here on out.

Surely he’ll win more events before he hangs up his cleats for good – maybe even a major. But the four majors he needs to catch Nicklaus? That seems like an insurmountable task for someone playing on a balky knee and who mentally may have checked out the moment his wife took a swing at him with his own 9-iron. (Sorry, allegedly took a swing at him with his own 9-iron.)

It might be time to come to grips with the fact that Nicklaus’ record for majors is safe until the next once-in-a-generation golfer comes along and threatens it again.

It might be time to come to grips with the fact that Tiger will never be Tiger again.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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