DUBLIN, Ohio -- Tiger Woods, dressed in a royal blue shirt, hopped over a short fence and onto the range at Muirfield Village. Jack Nicklaus, in grey blazer and tie, hosted a ceremony on the other end of the range.
Two players so closely linked in golf history suddenly seem so very far apart.
A year ago, after Woods won the Memorial for a record fourth time, Nicklaus was more convinced than ever that Woods was going to take another step toward his record 18 majors.
"I suspect No. 15 will come for Tiger Woods in about two weeks," Nicklaus said, referring to the U.S. Open. "If he drives the ball this way, and plays this way, I'm sure it will. And if not, it will surprise me greatly."
Woods didn't win the U.S. Open because of a balky putter. He didn't win the British Open because of a shocking six-hole stretch in Turnberry that caused him to miss the cut. He didn't even win the PGA Championship despite a two-shot lead going into the final round.
If that wasn't enough to make Nicklaus wonder whether his record was safe, he watched Woods' personal life unravel with sordid tales of infidelity that shattered his image.
One thing hasn't changed, though.
Nicklaus still talks more in terms of "when" than "if" while talking about Woods' pursuit of his record.
"Do I still think Tiger will break my record? Yeah, I think he probably will," he said. "He is a very dedicated, hard-working golfer. But then again, I've always said you have to do it. It's not just a gimme. You've got to go do it. We'll watch."
Adding to his tumultuous six months were Woods' last two tournaments -- events unbecoming the world's No. 1 player. He missed the cut at Quail Hollow with the highest 36-hole score of his career, then failed to finish The Players Championship because of a neck injury that only Woods knew about.
Of greater interest to Nicklaus is what happens in the next two majors.
First up is the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, which Woods dominated like no other 10 years ago with a 15-shot victory. Then it's off to St. Andrews for the British Open, where Woods has won twice by a combined 13 shots. He will try to become the first player to win the claret jug three times at the home of golf.
-- The Associated Press