Tiger Woods: A Long Journey Back

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Tiger Woods: A Long Journey Back

Golf

Tiger Woods: A Long Journey Back

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Eldrick “Tiger” Woods introduced himself to the world of professional golf in 1996. At the age of 20, the amateur phenoms’ exploits were well known to those who follow every facet of the game. Woods had already dominated at Stanford, and would soon take his talent to the next level. From there, the story of Tiger Woods became a global phenomenon.

For a moment, put aside the wins and the major championships. The appeal of a young man who had the rare opportunity to live out a dream we were all witness to. Forget how he drew the casual fan to golf, and those who never watched prior. The story of Tiger Woods is complicated. It’s a meteoric rise, followed by a crash and burn with an element of redemption that often conflicted with your senses as we watched it all unfold before our very eyes. 

1997 Masters – Augusta, GA

Wood’s performance in Augusta that year proved to be historic on many levels. Tiger would run away from the field to win The Masters by a record-breaking 12 strokes. In June of that same year, Woods would reach number one in the world rankings. 

After Woods’ sustained success, the money began to flow. Woods has totaled more than $118 million in career lifetime earnings. He’s the only golfer to reach the $100 million mark, which he achieved in 2012. His endorsement deals included brands like AT&T, Gatorade, General Motors, Gillette, Nike, and TAG Heuer. Tiger also developed a lucrative revenue stream from a golf course design venture. All told, Tiger Woods would gross more than $1 billion in his lifetime. 

2000 U.S. Open – Pebble Beach

In an epic performance, Woods destroyed the course with a blistering score of 272. He would set a record for most strokes under par in 72 holes, going 12 under. This score of -12 gave Woods a record margin of victory at a stunning 15-stroke lead. Woods’ record was not only for the U.S. Open but for all major championships. Sports Illustrated would call Tiger’s win in the 2000 U.S. Open, “the greatest performance in golf history.”

However, it was a win that almost wasn’t. On Saturday morning, Tiger unknowingly flirted with a disqualification. Nike provided Woods with a new golf ball, the Nike Tour Accuracy. This would be the ball he put into play at Pebble Beach. Woods would shoot an opening round 65. Christopher Powers of Golf Digest would write that Tiger didn’t finish the night before, [Saturday] until around 9:00 pm. Woods would recall the events in the August 2004 issue of Golf Digest. 

“I hadn’t putted well that day, so I took three balls out of my bag and putted on the hotel-room carpet. I normally take nine to 12 balls to the course, but I only had seven left—I probably scuffed up a couple and gave them to kids. I left the three balls on the carpet; now I’ve only got four balls when I get to the course.” Courtesy, Golf Digest.

Unaware of the number of golf balls in his bag, Woods put his ball into Carmel Bay at the 18th tee. At that moment, one bad swing would disqualify Tiger. Steve Williams, his caddie at the time, knew of the number of balls his golfer had left but it still didn’t matter. Woods would putt his second shot for a bogey to preserve the most dominant performance in golf history.

2007 PGA Championship – Southern Hills

  When Tiger Woods parred the final hole to win the 2007 PGA Championship at Southern Hills, it provided his 13th Major win in just over a decade. It also proved to be his most eventful. In the second round of the Championship, he recorded one of the lowest scores in his career. In the oppressive heat of Oklahoma, Woods tied the record for the lowest single-round score at a major championship.

 After a first round that included eight birdies, Woods faced a 15-foot putt on the 18th for his ninth of the day and a place in the record books. With the crowd pulling for the ball to go in, it appeared to be doing so, but the ‘golf gods’ intervened. The putt would lip-out, and Tiger would have to settle for an opening round 63.

The tournament still owns the record for the hottest major championship, as temperatures would hit 101, 99, 99, and 102 over the four days.

“It was brutal,” remembers Scott Verplank, a Dallas native who lives in Edmond, OK. “There was almost no wind the last few days, and Tulsa is usually more humid than other parts of the state. The only tournament I can compare it to is the ’94 U.S. Open at Oakmont when it was extremely hot and humid. Those are tournaments where you’re just surviving, really.”

It was looking good for Woods heading into the final round. He had at least a share of the 54-hole lead in his previous 12 Major wins. Although, his final round would not be without drama. Tiger would bogey the second before hitting his stride with birdies on the fourth, seventh, and eighth. However, Woody Austin played exceptionally well. He managed to stay close with birdies on the 11th, 12th, and 13th to move into contention. When Woods three-putted the 14th for a bogey, it reduced his lead to just one.

Woods bounced back with a birdie on the next hole to regain a two-shot lead. Tiger wouldn’t look back. Woods and Austin would par the remaining holes to hand Woods back-to-back PGA Championship victories and the Wanamaker Trophy for the fourth time.

December 2009 – Orlando, FL

On December 2, Us Weekly reported a purported voicemail left for mistress Rachel Uchitel. Woods released a statement where he admitted transgressions and apologized to “all of those who have supported over the years” while reiterating his and his family’s right to privacy. The next few days would reveal more than a dozen women claiming to have had affairs with Woods. On December 11, he released a statement admitting to infidelity. He also announced that he would be taking “an indefinite break from professional golf.”

Several companies re-evaluated their relationships with the golfing legend. Accenture, AT&T, Gatorade, and General Motors completely ended their sponsorship deals. Gillette suspended advertising featuring Woods. TAG Heuer dropped Woods from advertising in December 2009 and officially ended their deal when his contract expired in August 2011.

On February 19, 2010, Woods gave a televised statement that was watched worldwide. During his press conference, he revealed he had completed a 45-day therapy program that began at the end of December. He would apologize for his actions. “I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to,” he said. “I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled.” After six years of marriage, Woods and Elin Nordegren divorced on August 23, 2010.

2019 Masters – Augusta, GA

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

In 2019, Woods won his fifth Masters and 15th major title with a final round score of 13 under. Woods’ score was one shot ahead of Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele, and Brooks Koepka. Tiger would put on the famed green jacket 14 years after his last Masters win and 22 years after his first. Woods is alone in second place in wins at Augusta with five. 

Jim Nance, who has covered some of the biggest sporting events for CBS, says Tiger Woods’ 2019 Masters win is “the best event I’ve ever covered.”

It’s hard to imagine Woods ever wins another major championship. The final win at the Masters felt more like a celebration of his career, the start of another run of victories at any of the major events. If so, those last four days at Augusta are the perfect wrap on a brilliant career. Tiger Woods has won 15 golf majors in a spectacular career, including five Masters Tournaments, four PGA Championships, three U.S. Opens, and three wins at the British Open. 



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