-- It was 20 years ago Thursday that a young Tiger Woods won his second of what would be three straight U.S. Amateur Championships.
But nothing Woods did against Pennsylvania car dealer Buddy Marucci that day has us writing a column on the 20th anniversary. It was what was said after -- that I found while paging through the Sept. 4, 1995, Sports Illustrated recently -- that caught me off guard.
As in, when you read the words of Tiger's father, Earl, after that round, captured in the article's first sentences by Tim Rosaforte, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
"I'm going to make a prediction," Earl Woods said that Sunday night, as champagne both tingled and loosened his tongue. "Before he's through, my son will win 14 major championships."
There's a reason the prediction has, for the most part, been lost to time. While it's unclear exactly where Earl Woods said it, it wasn't captured by anyone else.
"That was supposed to be a privileged conversation," Earl Woods told Golf Digest for its November 2001 issue, when it was brought up. "We were at the U.S. Amateur and we were celebrating Tiger's win, and this reporter violated that."
With a 26-year-old Tiger at six major wins at the time of the 2001 interview, the publication asked Earl whether he would like to make a revision. He declined.
"I will not put a limitation on Tiger in the form of a prediction," Earl Woods said. "I have no clue. There are so many things that can affect him, especially injury."
Yet here we are. As many of you know, 14 major wins is where Tiger sits now. That's where Tiger has been since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. That's where Tiger will be when he turns 40 on Dec. 30.
What's so strange about the prediction that day from Earl Woods, who passed away in May 2006, is that the number 14 is just in no man's land.
So will Woods eclipse the all-time mark? Only 35 of 434 major champions were older than 40 when they hoisted the trophy.
Jack Nicklaus' 1986 Masters was his 18th and final major win, and the greats Walter Hagen (11), Ben Hogan (9) and Gary Player (9) come next with no one in between from the professional ranks. (Bobby Jones, at 13, competed against amateurs in many of his majors.)
So 14 isn't one or two better than any pro; it's four away from Jack. That's where Tiger stands now and could very well stand when he finishes his career.