Jack Nicklaus is confident Tiger Woods will beat his own record of 18 majors - provided he is fit enough to compete at the top level for the next 10 years. 

Woods, 38, will miss this week's Masters for the first time since 1994 after undergoing a microdiscectomy on his back to heal a pinched nerve, and he will spend most of the 2014 season rehabilitating as a result. 

As always, that has led to many questioning once again whether his pursuit of Nicklaus' record is all-but over - but the man himself doesn't think so. 

Speaking ahead of the season's first major, Nicklaus said: "I still think he'll beat my record, as long as he's physically able to do it. 

"I feel very bad for him, he's really worked towards the record." 

The Golden Bear famously won his last major title at Augusta National at the age of 46, six years after his previous triumph. 

However, ever since Woods lit up the Georgian course in 1997 with a record-breaking performance to claim his first Green Jacket, the game has evolved rapidly with courses being made longer and more physically demanding. 

The 38-year-old has used tough fitness regimes throughout his career to maintain his pursuit of Nicklaus and to keep up with the demands of modern-day golf. 

But it appears he is now paying a heavy price for that lifestyle with this new injury set to sideline him for at least three of four majors this year. 

Nicklaus had won 15 majors by the time he turned 40 - adding two more that same year - a feat that now looks beyond Woods, who has struggled to claim another major title ever since the issues in his private life surfaced back in November 2009. 

It's six years since his US Open victory at Torrey Pines - his last major victory - but Nicklaus still believes time is on his side. 

"He's 38 and probably still has another 10 years left of competing - that's 40 majors for him to win five of them," he added, before claiming that 'shouldn't be too difficult'.

Woods last week admitted it was a tough time for him but he was 'optimistic about the future'.

One man who is not optimistic about Woods' chances of being the all-time leading major winner is former European Ryder Cup captain and a six-time major winner himself, Sir Nick Faldo. 

The three-time Masters champion told BBC Radio 5 Live: "If you want a yes or a no, it's a no. 

"If he can get to 15 it will be his greatest golfing achievement, after going through all that. Time if flying by. 

"It's six years since his last major win, eight since he was last dominant. The last three years he's also had some serious injuries to deal with. 

"Mentally it's hard; he's been a professional golfer for 20 years. That's a lot."

There's no date set for a Woods come back, leaving the door open for a possible return to the course later on this summer as the season reaches it's climax. 

In the mean time, Rory McIlroy will go in search of his first Masters title after being installed as favourite for the Green Jacket in the absence of Woods. 

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