It’s the Cinderella story. It’s the circle of life. Tiger Woods’ career has been a script Hollywood producers would have turned down for being too unbelieveable.
First there was the meteoric rise, followed by the precipitous and ugly fall. Now, nearly 11 years since Woods won his last major title at the U.S. Open, the most dominant athlete of a generation has completed his ascent back to the top of the sporting world.
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Woods’ one-stroke victory at the 2019 Masters gave him his fifth green jacket and a 15th major championship, both the second-most all time, trailing Jack Nicklaus in both categories.
Dating back to his appearance on CBS News at age 2, to his first year as a professional in 1996 at the age of 20, to his most recent Masters win as a 43-year-old, no one has had a career timeline quite like Woods. Below is the incredible 23-year timeline of Woods’ career.
At the age of 20, Woods became the first golfer to win three consecutive U.S. Amateur titles and won the NCAA individual golf championship as a sophomore at Stanford. Following the conclusion of the school year, Woods left college to turn pro. He signed the most lucrative deals ever at the time for a golfer with Nike and Titleist. Woods was named Sports Illustrated’s 1996 Sportsman of the Year and the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year and quickly ascended to No. 33 in the world ranking. He earned $940,420 worldwide in 11 tournaments.
Woods became the youngest ever to win the Masters and the first major champion of African or Asian heritage. His win at Augusta was a Masters 72-hole record with a total of 270. The 12-stroke margin of victory was also a record. Woods won four more PGA events that year en route to becomming the youngest (21) and quickest (42 weeks) golfer to reach world No. 1 ranking status. He won $2,066,833 on the PGA Tour, the most ever in a single year.
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Woods became the first golfer since 1974 to win eight PGA events in a single year. At one point he won four in a row, a feat not accomplished since Ben Hogan in 1953. He won his second major at the PGA Championship and was named the AP Athlete of the Year for the second time in three years. Woods won $6,616,585 on the PGA Tour.
The new millenium brought peak Tiger Woods. Woods won three of the four majors — failing only to win the Masters — including an unbelievable record 15-stroke margin of victory at the U.S. Open that Sports Illustrated dubbed “the greatest performance in golf history.” At the age of 24, Woods was the youngest ever to complete the career grand slam. In total he won nine PGA events that year, including six straight, and won $9,188,321 on the Tour. He was named Sporting News’ Most Powerful Person in Sports.
By winning the Masters for his second time, Woods became the first ever golfer to hold all four major championships at the same time. Woods set the PGA Tour record with 52 consecutive rounds of par or better and broke another record when he spent his 97 consecutive week as the world’s No. 1 golfer. He won eight PGA events in ’01 and $5,687,777 in winnings.
Woods won the Masters a third time and the U.S. Open a second time in ’02. He became the first ever to have won two or more titles each in the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Junior Amateur, and finished ’02 as the world’s No. 1 golfer for 176 consecutive weeks.
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These were the “low” years of Woods prime as he failed to win a major in either of the years. Despite the “slump”, he still became the first player to win at least five events on PGA TOUR every year for five consecutive years in ’03 and received his fifth consecutive PGA Tour Player of the Year award. In September of ’04, Vijay Singh overtook Woods for the world’s No. 1 golfer, ending Woods’ streak of 264 consecutive weeks atop the Official World Golf Ranking. His career earnings on the PGA Tour pushed to $45,142,737.
Woods returned to his status of world No. 1 in July of ’05. He also picked up his fourth Masters win and second British Open title, completing the career Grand Slam of major championships for a second time. His record streak, however, of 142 consecutive tournament without missing a cut came to an end at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship.
In ’06 Woods won the first two events of the PGA Tour, but took time off in May following the death of his father. Woods missed the cut at his first major back (US Open) since the death, but rebounded to win six consecutive Tour events.
Woods won his 13th major in ’07 at the PGA Championship, pushing his career winnings on the PGA Tour to $76,579,376.
Woods won four of the first six PGA events before undergoing knee surgery in April, forcing him to miss the next two months. He returned in time for the U.S. Open, where Woods defeated Rocco Mediate in an 18-hole playoff to claim his 14th major. Two days later Woods announced he needed a more extensive knee operation, prompting him to miss the rest of the season. At the time of his surgery, Woods completed his 500th week as No. 1 on the Official World Golf Ranking.
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For the first time since ’04, Woods failed to win a major. Despite the disappointments at the majors, Woods still won the FedEx Cup and was part of the victorious US team at the Presidents Cup.
In November, the shocking fall from grace began. The National Enquirer published a story claiming Woods had an extramarital affair with a New York City nightclub manager. Two days later, Woods was driving from his Florida mansion in his Cadillac Escalade when he collided with a fire hydrant, a tree, and several hedges near his home. His wife, Elin Nordegren, pulled him from the vehicle.
Several claims by additional women claiming affairs with Woods quickly mounted in the next few weeks, prompting Woods to take an “indefinite break” from professional golfing. Woods checked into a sex rehab clinic in December. Woods lost endorsement deals with Accenture, AT&T, Gatorade, General Motors and Gillette.
Woods returned after a 144-day hiatus from professional golf to a fourth-place finish at the Masters. Woods and his wife divorced in August.
Woods again finished tied for fourth at the Masters, but sprained his MCL and left Achilles tendon, sending his play downhill from there. After withdrawing from the Player’s Championship in May and the firing of his longtime caddy Steve Williams in July, Woods dropped to No. 58 in the world rankings.
Woods spent much of 2012 managing injuries before finally winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his first PGA win since September of 2009. In July Woods Woods won his 74th PGA Tour event at the AT&T National, surpassing Jack Nicklaus for second all-time, trailing only Sam Snead’s 82.
2013 saw Woods win five more PGA titles and his return to world No. 1, his 624th week in that position.
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Woods undergoes two back surgeries in two years as he struggles to really contend for any title. In March of ’15 Woods dropped out of the top 100 of the golf rankings before undergoing a third microdiscectomy surgery in October. 2015 was the first time Woods missed all four majors in a calendar year.
In May of ’16, Woods drops out of the top 500. In December he returned to play in the Hero World Challenge, his first competitive rounds in 466 days., but just four months later in April of ’17 had his fourth microdiscectomy surgery, forcing him to miss another ten months.
Woods finished one-shot back and tied for second in March at the Valspar Championship, his first top-five finish on the PGA Tour since 2013. He then tied for sixth at the Open Championship before finishing second and two strokes back of winner Brooks Koepka at the 2018 PGA Championship in September.
Finally on September 23, Woods returned to the winning circle for the 80th time of his PGA career by winning the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club.
Woods comes from two strokes back entering the final day of the Masters to win his fifth green jacket and 15th major.
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