Norman: Tiger 'better than Niklaus' under pressure

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The Independent Online

"I think he and (Jack) Nicklaus are equal inside six feet. Outside nine feet, Woods is by far the best you've ever seen play the game."

Norman, one of the most charismatic players in the game, believes Woods was a better ball striker in 2000 and 2001 when he won an unprecedented four consecutive majors.

"His ball striking is not as good now but his mind is better and his putting is better," the Australian said. "His putting now (added) to his ball striking in 2000, he would win every golf tournament by four, five or six shots."

Current world number one Woods, a winner of 14 major titles, trails only fellow American Nicklaus (18) in the all-time standings.

He has long targeted golf's 'Holy Grail' of 19 majors or more and has twice remodelled his swing to become a better and more consistent player.

After clinching his 14th major at last year's US Open, Woods had reconstructive knee surgery and was sidelined from the game for eight months while recovering.

Remarkably, he won his 66th PGA Tour title at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational in only his third comeback event, denting Phil Mickelson's faint hopes of taking over at the top.

Had Woods not triumphed in Orlando, second-ranked Mickelson would have become world number one for the first time with victory at this week's Houston Open.

Asked about the relative strengths of Woods and Mickelson, Norman replied: "Both approach the game of golf to win and whatever happens after that is secondary, to tell you the truth.

"If you look at all the categories that they go through - driving, long iron, medium iron, short iron and sand play -- I think they're both pretty much the same.

"I think Tiger has got him on the mental edge and Tiger has got him outside nine feet, and that would be my assessment on the two.

"It's good for the game of golf to have two guys vying for it," added Norman, a winner of 20 PGA Tour titles whose only two major victories came at the 1986 and 1993 British Opens.

"I'd love to see four or five guys up there, not just two. But I think the players themselves, they just go play.

"Phil is more enjoyable to watch in a lot of ways because he just goes after everything. He's also got a great short game, probably on a par (with Woods)."