There are literally books written about Tiger Woods’ golfing achievements and, as such, it is quite hard to boil down a laundry list of wins and achievements to a list of just 10.
For a stretch of 10-12 years, Woods was the most dominant professional athlete in sports. And quite honestly, it wasn’t really even close. Think, Michael Jordan in his prime—but with a golf club. He was fun to watch and just utterly overwhelming to the competition. With that in mind, let’s revisit some of his greatest achievements in the game.
1996 Las Vegas Invitational
The win that started it all—number one. Woods needed an extra round to best Davis Love III in a playoff, but it was worth the extra work. Tiger added after the tournament, “It’s been an unbelievable experience. It’s just like winning the Amateur, though.” That quote is perfectly fitting for Tiger, who understood that he’d already been a winner, and this was just the start of many, many more.
2002 U.S. Open
Tiger has 14 major championships to his name, and the 2002 U.S. Open is number eight. He was 26, and became the fastest ever player to get to eight. What’s interesting about this particular major is that he wasn’t all that great, but was still that much better than the competition. He lead by four strokes heading into the final round, and proceed to cough up two bogeys to open Sunday’s play. In the grand scheme of things, that didn’t really matter, as he’d go on to win by three strokes.
Padraig Harrington, who finished in a tie for eighth, said afterwards, “You could say he won this tournament with his B game.”
1999 PGA Championship
Medinah Country Club had hosted three previous majors, all U.S. Opens. The 1999 PGA Championship was Medinah’s first, and it would go down as the longest course in major history at 7,401 yards. The incredible length offered a great venue for two of golf’s young and bright stars to square off. Tiger Woods, 23, and Sergio Garcia, 19, went toe-to-toe in the Chicago suburbs.
At the time, this appeared to be a rivalry in the making that would last decades. It didn’t necessarily pan out as one of golf’s greatest rivalries, but it did provide a great PGA Championship. Woods would go on to win by one stroke, besting his young foe.
2006 PGA Championship
Tiger had previously won the 1999 PGA at Medinah, and then won again in 2006. He won fairly easily, by five strokes. For the 72-hole tournament, Tiger sank 21 birdies to just three bogeys. In repeating at Medinah he became the first and only golfer to win the PGA Championship twice at the same course.
2000 Open Championship
Tiger’s first Open Championship—and his fourth overall. He was just 24 when he took the Old Course at St. Andrews by storm, becoming the youngest (and fastest tournament-wise) player to complete the career grand slam.
At the time, Tiger set the record for lowest 72-hole score in relation to par at -19, a record broken by Jason Day at the PGA Championship in 2015. Tiger would win the tournament by eight strokes, posting all four rounds in the 60s.
2006 Open Championship
A lot of times in professional sports drama is staged off the field of play. In the 2006 Open, this was very clearly the case. Tiger had lost his father in May, and was still dealing with his loss leading up to the tournament. The conditions were also unseasonably dry and warm, with the course playing firm. Add to all that, Tiger was coming off missing his first cut at a major as a professional when he was cut from the U.S. Open a month earlier.
Overcoming the odds, however, Tiger pushed his way through the field, and held off strong runs from some of the best players in the world. In the end, Tiger would win by two strokes over Chris DiMarco and five over Ernie Els.
The scene after his tap-in for par in the final round is one of the most iconic of his career. The embrace with his caddie, Steve Williams, as he lets the emotions pour through him is incredible. Tiger said after the tournament, “To win my first tournament after my dad passed away, and for it to be a major championship, it makes it that much more special.”
2000 U.S. Open
One word: dominance. That’s about all we need to know about Tiger’s 2000 U.S. Open victory, the 100th playing of the tournament. Pebble Beach proved no match for Tiger, where he finished not only as the only player under par for the tournament, but also won by a record-setting 15 strokes. The record still stands today for both the U.S. Open, and any major tournament.
Tiger started with an opening round 65, but despite the low number, still had plenty of chasers, with five players within three strokes. Once the winds picked up Friday, many of the players faded, but Tiger kept going, pushing his lead to six strokes heading into the weekend. From there, Tiger never looked back. For the tournament Tiger’s rounds read: 65-69-71-67. That is insane for a U.S. Open.
The 2000 U.S. Open is a masterpiece for Tiger, which kick-started the “Tiger Slam.” He’d go on to win the 2000 Open Championship and PGA Championship, as well as the 2001 Masters—becoming the first golfer to ever hold all four trophies at the same time.
Tiger’s second Masters marked the end of the “Tiger Slam.” In winning the ‘01 Masters, he completed the greatest four-major stretch in golf’s illustrious history.
Tiger opened with a rather lackluster 70 on Thursday, but made his move on Friday posting a 66 to pull within two of the leader Chris DiMarco. A 68 on Saturday gave Woods a one-stroke lead on Phil Mickelson heading into Sunday. Phil ultimately would finish third with a final round 70. David Duval did as much as he could do, posting a 67 on Sunday, but it wouldn’t be enough. Tiger finished Sunday with a 68, and would hold on to win by two strokes at -16. Tiger’s -16 was just two strokes off the record he posted in 1997.
2008 U.S. Open
Two images come to mind: Tiger Woods grimacing off the tee after each shot and Woods, head back, fists up, just exuding pure emotion on the 18th green. The 2008 U.S. Open is one of Tiger’s biggest moments, for a variety of reasons. Torrey Pines provided the backdrop for one of the greatest tournaments, and performances ever seen.
Tiger was just a few months removed from his left knee being surgically repaired, and it was later found out he was also playing with two stress fractures in his left tibia.
Woods had a bit of a mixed bag through the first three rounds. He went out to the tune of 38 on Friday, leaving him three-over for the tournament. But Friday’s back nine are where things started to change. Posting a bogey-free 30 to get to two-under, Tiger was within one shot of the lead. Saturday he continued to do Tiger things, sinking a 65-foot eagle putt on 13, chipping in for birdie on literally one leg on 17, and last but not least, eagling 18 to take the lead heading into Sunday. Tiger would double the first hole Sunday, and bogey the second. He then proceeded to bogey 13 and 15 to lose control of the lead.
What happened next was quintessential Tiger. He sank an incredible birdie putt on 18 to force a playoff with Rocco Mediate. The aforementioned head back, fists up pose was the result of said putt. Woods and Mediate would come back Monday for an 18-hole playoff, which would actually end up going 19 holes, to sudden death. Woods would par the 7th hole in sudden death, Mediate bogeyed, giving Tiger the victory.
The victory is Tiger’s last major championship, but it was so much more than just that. While it did mark the end of an era of sorts, it also bookended one of the greatest stretches in professional sports history.
The historic ramifications of Woods’ ‘97 Masters victory are remarkable and momentous. Tiger was just 21 years old when he won, becoming the youngest Masters tournament winner ever. Historic as well, because he also became the first non-white Masters winner.
Tiger’s first professional major appearance didn’t get off on the right foot. He posted a rather ugly four-over 40 on the front-nine of the first round. What happened next was historic. Woods would make the turn and go on to fire a 30 on the back-nine. That gave him a first round 70, three shots off the pace.
Tiger would then card a 66 on Friday, and 65 on Saturday, in doing so setting the Masters record for lowest back-to-back rounds. He’d top the weekend off with a final round 69, setting the course record of 270 for the tournament. His 12-stroke victory set the tournament record for largest margin a victory—a record that still stands 20 years later.
It was not so much the records Tiger broke, and there were a lot of them, but it was the way he played that was so breathtaking. He played with a charisma, a smile, and supreme confidence. He was merely a kid, playing against the best players in the world, and he made it look downright easy. The ‘97 Masters was just a taste of what was to come. Tiger completely changed the game.
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