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Chasing history: LeBron James passes Tiger Woods

COMMENTARY — James is more likely to catch Michael Jordan in championships than Wood is to catch Jack Nicklaus in majors.
by Berry Tramel Modified: July 17, 2013 at 7:00 pm •  Published: July 16, 2013

Tiger Woods trails Jack Nicklaus by four major championships, 18-14.

LeBron James trails Michael Jordan by four major championships, 6-2.

But it's LeBron, not Tiger, who has the best chance to scale the mountain. And who saw that coming?

Fifteen minutes ago, LeBron was a bum. A loser. A neurotic narcissist who couldn't win the big one.

Not much more than 15 minutes ago, Tiger was the world's most prominent athlete. A messiah, his dad had called him, and danged if we didn't wonder if ol' Earl was right. Tiger was Babe Ruth. Tiger was Elvis. On top of, and even bigger than, his craft.

Now, both need four more championships to reach the ghosts they chase. And the smart money is on LeBron, not Tiger, to catch the mark. The tides do change.

Five summers ago, Tiger beat Rocco Mediate in that memorable U.S. Open duel at Torrey Pines, and Tiger's major total hit 14. Nicklaus' once-invincible record seemed doomed. Tiger was 32 years old, and surpassing Nicklaus was not a case of if, but when.

Tiger ruled American sport.

Last month, LeBron James and the Heat won the NBA championships with that memorable duel against the Spurs. Now LeBron wears the mantle. And the King James version of this story is not just that LeBron is the hottest athlete on the American stage. LeBron, trailing Jordan by the same number of crowns by which Tiger trails Nicklaus, has a better chance to reach the summit. Dare we say a much better chance.

Talk about stunning. In 2008, Tiger seemed capable of not just catching Nicklaus, but lapping the Golden Bear. Twenty majors. Twenty-five. Nothing seemed impossible for Tiger, who won 13 of 35 majors stretching from the 1999 PGA Championship through the 2008 U.S. Open.

But when Tiger crashed his car into his neighbor's fire hydrant and his career back to Earth, he brought parity back to golf. Now anyone can win a major, and a lot of anyones has.

Going into the British Open, which starts Thursday at Muirfield, eighteen golfers have won the last 19 majors. The sport has become an equal opportunity game. Keegan Bradley is as likely to win as is Phil Mickelson. Webb Simpson has more majors than Lee Westwood. Lucas Glover the same as Ernie Els.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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