Across a body of work that is now approaching a quarter of a century, we pay tribute to Tiger Woods' career record and his unsurpassed if turbulent dominance of the game
I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain,
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend,
But I always thought that I’d see you again.
– James Taylor, Fire and Rain (1970)
The bare statistics of Tiger Woods’ career record tell us that he has won tournaments at the rate of almost four a year ever since turning professional aged 20.
But you don’t accumulate 82 PGA Tour events across 23 years in a linear fashion. There have been plenty of times in the last decade when there was a suspicion that Tiger’s career at the top was over. The most recent was a week before his Zozo Championship win.
There have also been times when a Tiger win seemed as inevitable as night following day. In his utterly dominant prime he began majors as the odds-on favourite with the bookies. Or, to put it another way, there was more chance of Tiger winning than all the rest of the other players put together.
There have been career-saving back operations, and career-threatening knee injuries. The loss of his father, Earl, whose profound influence on his son is felt to this day, and not always in a positive way. The collapse of his marriage to Elin, the mother of his two children, as his life fell apart. Being exposed in humiliatingly public fashion as a serial philanderer and self-certified sex addict who required therapy.
In what remains to this day the single oddest tableau I can recall a sporting figure subjecting themselves to, he broadcast his apology for his actions to a studio audience that included his own mother as well as the watching world.
This from a man who called his yacht ‘Privacy’ and last gave a written journalist a one-on-one interview in the last millennium.
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Then you look down the list of those 82 victories. What an astonishing sweep of greatness they document.
The 15 majors – five Masters, three US Opens, three Opens and four PGAs – speak for themselves but there is really no significant title that he hasn’t won.
Tiger’s career record includes dozens of WGCs – strokeplay and matchplay – Players Championships, Tour Championships, Memorials, AP Invitationals, Buicks, Western Opens. The list goes on. And on.
It took Sam Snead, whose record he has now tied, until he was 52 to reach this tally. Tiger is 43. We can only presume he will now stretch away from Slammin’ Sam.
When it comes to the frequency of the wins, only Ben Hogan can be mentioned in the same breath, with a respectful nod to Byron Nelson. Tiger has won 22.8 per cent of the PGA Tour events he has played in. That’s compared to Hogan’s 21.3 per cent and Nelson’s 18.1 per cent. Snead is on 14 per cent while Jack Nicklaus is on 12.2 per cent. Little more than half Tiger’s strike rate.
And all this while playing on a limited schedule and only against the strongest fields.
On majors alone, he is still chasing Jack. On just about any other meaningful metric Tiger’s career record leaves even the Golden Bear trailing behind.