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Ranking Tiger Woods’ major wins is no simple task.
Friday is Tiger Woods’ 47th birthday, but unfortunately for him, the only present he would like is probably a 16th major title.
Woods’ birthday comes 97 days before the 2023 Masters this year and we aren’t even sure if he will play for the second straight year, but we can at least look back on one of the two greatest major championship careers in golf.
We’ve seen shots that made you question everything you know about the game, stupid low rounds, fist pumps and a lot of red Nike golf shirts.
Below you’ll find a ranking of Woods’ 15 major wins (five Masters, four PGA Championships, three U.S. Opens and three Open Champions) ranked by their memorability.
Well, one of them had to be last in the rankings. Woods finished at 18 under — and gave 20 under a scare on the back nine — for the week at Medinah, winning the PGA for the second time at the Chicago-area club. He entered the final round tied with Luke Donald and improved his conversion rate to 12-0 when leading or co-leading a major after 54 holes.
The 2002 Masters was the only time Woods ever defended a title at Augusta National. He entered the final round tied with Retief Goosen, but the South African bogeyed the opening hole and never again was within three strokes of Woods after the third hole. Vijay Singh was the only other player near Woods but fell out of contention with a bogey-quad run on 14 and 15.
I remember this tournament (or at least replays and old news clippings) more for a 19-year-old Sergio Garcia hitting a shot from a try root than for anything Woods did. Woods struggled after his breakout 1997 season, but a 1999 laser eye surgery jump-started him to five-straight victories in 1999, including his second major at the PGA. Woods’ final round 72, despite playing the final seven holes in four over, was enough to hold off the teenage Garcia by one stroke. Many thought Woods, then 23, and Garcia would start a rivalry that week, but Garcia only finished second to Woods one other time.
Woods opened the final major of 2007 with a one over 71, but stormed into in control with a then-major record-tying 63 in the second round. With temperatures around 100 degrees at Southern Hills during the week, Woods was even hotter Friday, lipping out for what would have been the first major championship 62 on the 18th green. It is his lowest career round in a major. Woods’ three-stroke 54-hole lead was down to one on the back nine, but he played one under over the final four for a 69 and a two-stroke win.
Another trip to St. Andrews and another Tiger Woods Open Championship romp. Woods’ second trip to the Old Course was nearly as dominant as the first as he won by five strokes over Colin Montgomerie. He completed his second career Grand Slam with the win and won his 10th major overall. Woods worked hard to play the Open at St. Andrews this past year and after dominating his first two Opens there, it’s easy to realize why it’s his favorite golf course.
This is where I feel this list really starts to take shape. The 2002 U.S. Open was dubbed the “People’s Open” as it was being hosted at a municipal golf course for the first time. This was one of just a handful of times we saw Woods and Phil Mickelson paired together in the final round of a major championship. It’s also the only time Woods and Mickelson finished 1-2 in a major. The New York crowd was behind Mickelson as he searched for his first major title, but Woods was the only player under par that week, and his final round 72 at Bethpage Black was good enough for a three-stroke win.
While no one has ever completed the modern, single-year Grand Slam, Woods completed the “Tiger Slam” at the 2001 Masters. With the win, he was the first player ever to hold the Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship trophies simultaneously. Woods entered the final round one ahead of Mickelson, but it was David Duval who made a serious charge at Woods with a final round 67. Duval tied Woods at 15 under with a birdie on 15 but fell right back with a bogey on the par-3 16th and Woods birdied 18 for a two-stroke win.
At just 24 years old, Woods became the youngest winner of the career Grand Slam, winning the Open Championship by eight strokes at St. Andrews. Woods established a new 72-hole major championship scoring record in relation to par of 19 under by breaking 70 every day of the tournament. During the final round, Woods even became the first player to reach 20 under in a major but gave it back with a bogey at the 71st hole. Woods did not hit into any of St. Andrews’ bunkers during the tournament.
This is one I wish I could have higher up on the list but again, only so many places to rank these. Woods ended a nearly three-year major drought by winning his fourth Masters in 2005. Woods opened with a 74 and was a distant third, six shots back after two rounds to Chris DiMarco. During a rain-delayed third round that was finished Sunday morning, Woods shot 65, highlighted by a Masters record-tying seven birdies in a row, three before play stopped Saturday and four more Sunday. He entered the final round with a three-stroke lead. He hit perhaps his most memorable shot in a major on the 16th hole of the final round when he played the slope perfectly and holed his chip on the final roll from left of the green. He couldn’t hang on to his two-shot lead, however, bogeying the final two holes. He and DiMarco went to a sudden death playoff where Woods buried a birdie putt from 15 feet to win.
Woods’ third straight major of 2000 is perhaps best remembered for the finger-point celebration he made during his first playoff hole. Woods and Bob May lit it up on the back nine at Valhalla, shooting matching 31s to make it a two-horse race and send it to a three-hole aggregate playoff. Woods then made the iconic walk-in — before it was cool — on the first playoff hole and parred in to win his second Wanamaker Trophy. This was the first time someone defended the PGA since 1937, and the first of two times Woods would do it.
Woods’ most recent Open win was also his most emotional major title. Woods dominated Royal Liverpool, finishing at 18 under and winning by two over Chris DiMarco, but doing it, while only hitting driver once all week. Woods put on a clinic with long irons, hitting 86 percent of his fairways and even holing one from 209 yards during a second-round 65. When he holed the winning putt on Sunday, he immediately collapsed into caddie Steve Williams’ shoulder sobbing. This was his first major title since his father, Earl, passed away two months prior.
*The top four can probably go in any order you fancy. This is just how I see it.
There is no more dominating performance than Woods at the 2000 U.S. Open. Faced with doubt he would ever win a U.S. Open because of his control off the tee, Woods opened with a 65 and a one-stroke lead. It only grew from there. After hitting a shot over a tree and up the hill on the par-5 6th from 205 yards with a 7-iron, NBC’s Roger Maltbie famously said, “It’s just not a fair fight!” Woods led by six after the second round and 10 after the third. He opened the final round with nine straight pars before making four birdies in five holes to get to 12 under. He went bogey-free Sunday to finish at 12 under, the lowest aggregate and lowest score to par in a U.S. Open at the time. Oh, and he won by 15.
Remember that time Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open on one leg? He also doubled the first hole on three out of the four days of the tournament and had to go 91 holes to do it. Woods grimaced many times throughout the week at Torrey Pines and revealed later he was playing with a torn ACL and stress fracture in his left leg. Some wondered if he would actually finish the tournament, but he was right there on 18, needing a 12-foot putt to go to tie Rocco Mediate at 1 under. The putt just caught the edge, leading to a crazy double fist pump from Woods. The next day, Woods and Mediate again tied in the 18-hole playoff before Woods finally won his 14th major with a par on the first sudden-death hole. He announced two days later he would miss the rest of the 2008 season to rehab his leg and returned in February 2009. Interestingly enough, Woods won the U.S. Open only on public access golf courses.
Woods hadn’t won a major since his triumph at Torrey Pines 11 years before, but something about this Masters week felt different. Woods had just picked up his first PGA Tour win in five years the previous September and contended in two majors in 2018. His body had started failing him years prior and an infidelity scandal rocked his world in 2009. Yet here he was again on Sunday, in the final group of a major. There was no barrage of birdies and Woods actually entered the final round trailing by two. But just like the old days, the rest of the contenders wilted. Woods watched as both of his playing partners rinsed their tee shots on the par-3 12th at Augusta National and Woods made a steady par to grab the lead. He then birdied 15 and dramatically spun his tee shot down off the same slope on 16 his chip rolled off of in 2005 to just a few feet to slam the door shut. When Woods tapped in for his 15th and maybe most unlikely major, the broadcasters went silent as Woods triumphed his way to Butler Cabin. This was the only major Woods won when trailing after 54 holes.
A debut like no other. In his first major start as a professional, Woods opened with a front nine 40 before roaring back with a second nine 30 to jump into the top 5. He took the lead, his first in a major, the next day with a 66 and never looked back. He entered the final round with a nine-stroke lead and fired a final round 69 for a 12-shot win, the largest lead in Masters history. His 18-under winning score was also a tournament record. The final round set ratings records for golf, with an estimated 44 million people tuning in to the broadcast. CBS’s Jim Nantz called it, “A win for the ages.”
Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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