Tiger Woods — by the numbers
Determining the greatest golfer of all time will never be about pure numbers, or attempting to level the equipment playing-field, or taking into account our modern-day ball flies nearly twice as far as when Gene Sarazen was cementing the first-ever professional career Grand Slam.
But whether your personal pick for GOAT is Hogan or Snead, Nicklaus or Jones, Nelson or Hagen, a guy who turned 41 this past weekend is high up in the mix.
If Woods never wins again, indeed if he never even makes a full comeback after his multiple back surgeries, how will his final numbers stack up? Well, as you are about to see, singularly impressive for someone who has not won a major championship in the past eight years.
First, take the four majors. Woods won ten of these before his 30th birthday. Since 1934, which is when the Masters began, the only player to come close to that number is Jack Nicklaus, who won seven. Woods was 24 when he completed the career Grand Slam, the youngest-ever. Only five golfers in the history of the game have been able to pull off the Slam.
Perhaps most remarkably, from the PGA Championship in August 1999 up to the US Open in June 2008, Woods won seven of the eleven majors and was cumulatively 94 under par, 60 strokes better than any other competitor in these fields. Going back to 1997, when Woods won his first Masters, up to 2008 and that last US Open title, he astonishingly recorded 34 rounds of 67 or better.
Anyone who has followed Tiger’s career will be aware he virtually owns the first 10 years of the limited-field World Golf Championships; but here’s a staggering fact that you might have missed: Woods won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational seven times and earned over US$11 million in official earnings from that event alone — more than six times Arnold Palmer’s entire PGA Tour career earnings. Woods won 18 World Golf Championships. Second on that all-time WGC list is Geoff Ogilvy, with three.
As for the regular PGA Tour, where Woods is second only to Sam Snead in total wins (79 to 82) he is the only player to win eight times on a single course, which he has done at three different venues. Plus he has won five consecutive PGA Tour starts three times. Woods also owns the longest streak without missing a cut, 142 events, which handsomely bests Byron Nelson’s second-placed 113.
Few will dispute the fact that Bobby Jones was the greatest amateur golfer ever, but it may come as something of a surprise to learn that Woods and Jones are tied for most all-time career USGA Championships, nine each.
In other words, if he never picks up a club again, Woods is still possibly the greatest ever. And now we have some clarity on Woods plans for his full-time return to tournament golf. He’s already committed to the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club mid-February (where there’s a direct connect to his own Foundation). On Thursday he announced he intends to play the Farmers Insurance Open (January 26-29) at Torrey Pines Golf Course (South); San Diego, California, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic (February 2-5) at the Emirates Golf Club, Dubai, United Arab Emirates and the Honda Classic (February 23-26) at PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.