AUGUSTA - Jack Nicklaus still says his all-time record of 18 major titles will be eclipsed by Tiger Woods, even though the current world number one is missing this week's Masters tournament.
Nicklaus told ESPN Radio on Tuesday that he thinks Woods, a 14-time major champion whose last major victory came at the 2008 US Open, will eventually capture at least 19 majors.
Woods has battled an assortment of injuries in recent years, most recently back pain that required surgery last week to fix a pinched nerve.
The operation forced Woods to miss the Masters for the first time in his career and his timetable for a return is uncertain.
"I feel very bad for Tiger," Nicklaus said. "He has really worked towards my record.
"I still think he'll break my record. As long as he is physically able to do it.
He's 38 years old and he's probably got another 10 years at least of being able to compete -- that's 40 more majors to win five of them. It shouldn't be too difficult."
Nicklaus admitted that in his position, he was unlikely to doubt Woods' ability to overtake his landmark total.
"I've always said he has just got to do it," Nicklaus said. "It's going to be difficult, but if I said anything different I think I would be a jerk. So I think I better say he will do that... and I actually believe that."
Woods has 79 career titles overall, three shy of Sam Snead's record career PGA win total.
"It's tough right now, but I'm absolutely optimistic about the future," Woods said last week.
"Sam and Jack reached their milestones over an entire career. I plan to have a lot of years left in mine."
Woods must win either the US or British Open to remain ahead of Nicklaus' record pace as he has been for many years based upon the age of major victories. Nicklaus won two at age 40 and his last at age 46 at the 1986 Masters.
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