Tiger Woods returned to competitive golf at last year’s Farmers Insurance Open after both a long layoff and an even longer winless streak. However, in just over a year he went from “can he ever win again?” to 5-time Masters Champion.
In honor of his 15th major, we look at 15 of Tiger’s most memorable moments, from his days as a toddler, all the way to accomplishments of the recent past, to celebrate the greatest player of a generation returning to glory.
Tiger on the Mike Douglas Show – 1978
Tiger’s “Hello World” press conference near the end of 1996 wasn’t the first time we were introduced to the monstrous talent; that came when Woods was still knee-high on the Mike Douglas Show in 1978. A young Tiger impressed the talk show host as well as one of the most influential golfers of the era, Bob Hope.
Tiger’s First Win – 1996
You can’t have a list of career accomplishments without showing the one that started it all. The win was not an easy one for Tiger as he was 8 strokes off the lead at the end of the first day. Even back then he used that familiar Tiger magic to storm back and take the win in exciting fashion.
Even if he hadn’t already been a player to watch coming in, winning in a playoff against a legend like Davis Love III was almost certain to propel his career to new heights. Woods was not content with winning just once in ’96 as he followed it up a few weeks later with this second win on the PGA Tour and from there he was off to the races.
Tiger Wins the NEC Invitational in the Dark – 2000
They say nothing good happens after dark, but that wasn’t the case at the 2003 NEC Invitational, the precursor to the World Golf Championship event played at Firestone Country Club. Holding a 10-shot advantage with darkness descending upon Akron, Ohio, Woods decided he had a big enough cushion to try and finish his round on Sunday night. What happened next went down in Tiger lore. Woods hit his approach to a few feet, tapped in and won by 11.
Tiger Chips In on 16 at Memorial – 2012
Down the road from our No. 9 selection in Dublin, Ohio, Tiger again was putting his stamp on the Buckeye State. This time in a much tighter tournament, Woods seemed to have stymied himself behind the newly-renovated 16th green. No problem. With water creeping not too far from the hole, Woods took a full swing, lofted his ball barely onto the putting surface and holed a chip that would have maybe trickled six inches past the hole. Afterwards, Jack Nicklaus lauded the shot as one of the best he’s ever seen considering the circumstances.
Tiger’s Ace on the Famous 16th at the Phoenix Open – 1997
Tiger has had a lot of breakout moments, but this one put the raucous 16th hole on the map for casual sports fans. Before the 16th at Phoenix turned into a corporate hangout, we had this bastion of humanity unfettered by skyboxes and grandstands. Just look at the celebration, Tiger raising the roof and the amount of beer cups littering the course.
Tiger’s First Green Jacket – 1997
It is not often, if ever, that you can win your first major the way Tiger did in 1997. The then 21-year old broke records left and right at that year’s tournament, including first African American Masters Champion, first Asian American Masters champ, lowest cumulative total at 18 under, and largest margin of victory of 12 strokes. This also propelled Tiger to becoming World no. 1 later that year in the fastest time, marking another record for the young upstart.
Tiger’s Bunker Shot at the Bell Canada Open – 2000
This is the type of shot that makes Tiger so special — he’s taking on lines and shot-shapes that no one else on Tour at that time could see, much less play. Case in point, the announcers thought he pushed the shot. No, that was his line. Tiger, himself, calls it one of the best shots he’s hit in his career. If it’s good enough for Tiger, it’s good enough for our list.
Tiger’s “Better Than Most” Putt at The Players – 2001
This Tiger moment is perhaps as well known for the sheer difficulty of the putt as it is for the legendary call by NBC analyst Gary Koch. Locked in a tight battle down the stretch, Woods needed every birdie he could muster, and this one at 17 was an all-timer. He would go on to win by one stroke over Vijay Singh, Scott Hoch and Jonathan Kaye.
Tiger Becomes a Grand Slam Champion – 2000
Coming into the 2000 season Tiger Woods was already a 2-time major winner at just 24 years old and already a household name in the sport. After winning the U.S. Open earlier in the year, Tiger came to the “birthplace of golf” looking to make more history for himself and complete something only 4 men in the history of the game had done before.
By the time Sunday had ended, Woods had won by a commanding 8 strokes and became the youngest player ever to win all 4 majors, doing so in his first 3 years on the tour. While he didn’t know it at the time, Tiger was only just in the middle of an even more historic accomplishment.
Tiger Completes the “Tiger Slam” – 2001
Among the pantheon of Tiger’s achievements, winning the Tiger Slam may well be at the top when everything is said and done. The culmination of the Tiger Slam cannot be ignored, though. The only man to ever hold all four professional majors at one time deserves every superlative you can come up with, as it has still yet to be duplicated 18 years later.
Tiger’s “Greatest Shot” Ever at the PGA Championship – 2002
It’s hard to argue with the man himself when he says, “it was the greatest shot I’ve ever hit,” and this one is definitely impressive. Ironically, this shot came in a losing effort. During the third round of the 2002 PGA Championship at Hazeltine, Woods was faced with a nearly impossible shot: a 3-iron from a fairway bunker with an awkward stance and tree trouble. It’s a pitch out for 99 of 100 pros. Of course, we know who that one outlier is.
Tiger Chips in on 16 at Augusta – 2005
This is it. It has to be. Tiger dead to right behind 16 green on Sunday at the Masters. Needing every shot he could get — eventually winning his fourth green jacket in a playoff with Chris DiMarco — Woods clipped the absolute perfect chip shot that checked perfectly at the top of the ridge and slid down into the cup, putting Verne Lundquist on the spot to ask the entire world if, “in your life, have you seen anything like that?”
Tiger Forces a Playoff at the U.S. Open – 2008
Again, another monstrous moment in Tiger’s career that is accompanied by one of the best calls of the respective broadcaster’s life. Needing birdie on the 18th hole of the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines to force an 18-hole playoff, Woods hit his approach from the rough to 15 feet and then, “expect anything different?”
Tiger Returns to the Winner’s Circle – 2018
For every person who said that Tiger was finished and would never win again, there were those that knew that he had what it takes to hoist another trophy adorned in his “Sunday Red.” This win marked his first in five years and his 80th on the PGA tour, which at the time this put him just two behind Sam Snead for 1st all-time.
Tiger Claims Major Championship No. 15 – 2019
After winning the 2018 Tour Championship, Woods proved that he was still capable of winning tournaments on the PGA Tour, even if it was against a 30-man field at East Lake. That confidence was a prime reason he was able to get the job done at Augusta National at the first major championship of the season in 2019.
Entering the day two shots behind Francesco Molinari, Woods came from behind to win his 15th major championship at the age of 43.