Jack Nicklaus says a resurgent Tiger Woods is "absolutely" a chance to surpass his record 18 major championship wins after overcoming a former weakness in the driver.
Admitting he was transfixed by Woods' emotional Masters victory in April, his 15th major title, Nicklaus says Woods' significantly improved driving means he is clear favourite to win the US Open.
Woods is using this week's Memorial Tournament in Ohio hosted by 18-time winner Nicklaus as his PGA Tour warm up before attempting to claim a 16th major at California's famed Pebble Beach next month.
Although Woods missed the cut at the recent US PGA Championship in New York, 79-year-old Nicklaus says Woods' quest for 19 major wins is still on the table.
"Absolutely; it always has been," Nicklaus said in Ohio on Tuesday.
"Before he even won at Augusta, (I always knew) he had another 10 years or 40 major championships in front of him.
"Coming off a win as emotional as the Masters was for him, (the US PGA Championship) was understandable and I don't think he's going to let that happen again. It was a wake-up call."
Nicklaus says the fact Woods is averaging 299 yards off the tee and finding 63 per cent of fairways is a recipe for success.
"He won (his first 14) majors hitting it all over the world off the tee; now he's driving the ball well now and it's a huge difference for him," Nicklaus said.
"And he's always been a great iron player; that's not going to change. He's always chipped well. He always putts well."
RIGHT: Nicklaus has been impressed by Woods’ efforts off the tee throughout 2019. PHOTO: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images.
Woods sent 'Tigermania' into overdrive with his first major victory in 11 years at Augusta National.
"Once I sat down and saw that shot on the 12th hole (where Woods took command of the Masters), I didn't move again. What he did was pretty special to watch," Nicklaus said.
"I was very proud of him; he just played the way a champion should play."
Nicklaus believes Woods is again the man to beat at Pebble Beach, where he won the 2000 US Open by a record 15 shots.
"I would consider him the favourite, he won by 15," Nicklaus said.
"For Tiger to dominate (like 2000) will be difficult. He could win but (not like) 15 years ago."
But Woods' attention is on this week's Memorial Tournament, where he has won five times including three straight from 1999.
"I expect him to play very well this week," Nicklaus said.
- Evin Priest, Australian Associated Press