On December 30, Tiger Woods will turn 40 years old, and will do so having gone 879 days since his last victory, finding himself ranked outside the top 400 golfers in the world and ravaged by injuries.
But for the tough road the last couple of years have been in his career, this is as good a time as any to celebrate all Woods’ has done for golf, and the over-arching effects are still unfolding.
Although Tiger won’t blow out the candles for another 20 days, but we’ll start the celebration early with a look at his top 20 victories of all time, with #11-20 below.
11. 2006 Open Championship – On paper it was his second straight Open Championship, but it was so much more – his first win since father Earl Woods passed away two months prior at age 74, victim of a fatal heart attack. He was 12-under through two rounds at the Royal Liverpool, a stroke up on Ernie Els. His lead was one stroke over Els, Chris DiMarco, and Sergio Garcia through 54 holes, and he put major distance between he and they with an eagle 3 on No. 15. DiMarco climbed within a stroke with a birdie on No. 13, but Woods countered with birdies on 16, 17, and 18 to finish 18-under and win by two strokes.
12. 2007 PGA Championship – The defending champion wasn’t even on the leaderboard on Day 1, but that changed rapidly on Friday as he tied a course record with a 63, taking a two-stroke lead in the process. Once he had it, he never relinquished it, building his lead to three strokes after 54 holes. Woody Austin made a run late, drawing within one stroke with five to go on Sunday, but Woods’ birdie on No. 15 pushed his lead back to two, his winning margin.
13. 2008 US Open – He was limping and hurting the week of the tournament, but Woods pulled off one of the guttiest performances of his career, joining Jack Nicklaus as the only two men to win all four Majors at least three times. An opening-round 72 saw him just outside the top 10, but a Day 2 68 got him within a stroke of the lead, and he was up a stroke at 3-under through 54. He double-bogeyed the first hole on Sunday to fall into a tie for the lead, and had to birdie 18 to tie Rocco Mediate for a playoff. An 18-hole playoff followed, with Woods up three strokes after 10 only to see Mediate go ahead on 17, with Woods birdying 18 again to send the epic to sudden death. A par proved enough on the 19th hole of the day and the 91st of the tournament, as Mediate bogeyed it. Two days later, Woods had knee surgery that ended his 2008 season.
14. 1996 Las Vegas Invitational – He had been a pro for two months and wasn’t even 21 yet when he took part in the 1996 Las Vegas Invitational, which in those days was still a 90-hole, 5-round tournament. After an opening-round 70, Woods shot 63-68-67-64 to tie Davis Love III, whom he defeated in a playoff for his first professional win. his second would come just two weeks later.
15. 2006 PGA Championship – The course, the No. 3 at Medinah Country Club just outside of Chicago was the longest to date in major championship history. In other words, right up Woods’ alley. At the halfway point he was 7-under, in a crowd of 11 men at least 6 strokes under par, but when Woods matched the course record with a 7-under 65 on Saturday, he moved into a tie for first with Luke Donald. On Sunday, he birdies his first hole to take the lead, and never gave it back, going 4-under on the front nine and leading by five strokes the rest of the way.
16. 2002 US Open – For the first time since Jack Nicklaus did it in 1972, the winner of the Masters also took the US Open, with Woods taking it at the Black Course of Bethpage State Park in New York. It was a classic wire-to-wire job for Woods, who often seemed to be on a different level as the rest of the field struggled to stay under par. Through 54 holes only Woods (-5) and Sergio Garcia (-1) were under par, and by tournament’s end, it was Woods alone, who finished 3-under, three strokes ahead of Phil Mickelson’s even par.
17. 2005 Open Championship – Two more records fell as Woods became the first man to win his 10th Major and his second career Grand Slam before age 30. As he did so many times during his Major run, Woods staggered the rest of the field early on; 6-under after 18 holes and 11-under through 36 with a four-stroke lead. Jose Maria Olazabal closed within two strokes after 54, but Woods switched it into overdrive and won by five strokes.
18. 1999 WGC-NEC Invitational – The 23-year-old Tiger was already No. 1, but found himself two strokes off the lead at the midway point, following that with a course record 62 to go up five strokes, but it was barely enough as Phil Mickelson’s closing-round 65 set the two men up for a decade-long rivalry.
19. 2000 WGC-NEC Invitational – A year after barely getting by here, Woods was a force of nature, setting records for lowest aggregate score (259), score under par (-21), a third-round 62, and a final approach in the dark on No.18 that basically blew everyone’s mind. Second place Justin Leonard was a whopping 11 strokes behind.
20. 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational – In winning the event for an eighth time, Woods looked insanely dominant. Who could know it would be his last win to date? He shot a course-record 61 in the second round to sit at 13-under midway through the tournament. He finished 15-under to win the event by seven strokes.