It's hard to believe it all started 11 years and a few months ago, with his victory at the Masters. Thirteen more have been captured by Tiger—and last weekend's remarkable victory at Torrey Pines has me pondering how each stacks up against the rest.
Tiger hates comparing Major victories, which explains why he rarely does it. That also explains how highly he views his most recent Major victory.
"I think this is probably the best ever. All things considered, I don't know how I ended up in this position, to be honest with you," said Woods after his sudden-death playoff victory on Monday.
I won't put it quite that high on the list, but it sure was pretty darn epic.
1. 1997 Masters
His first Major win. The first win by an African-American at a place that is notorious for its "conservative and traditional values" (ahem, excuse me—white, male values). Won by 12 shots. Made golf hip (or at least compared to what it was before).
Sorry, Tiger. I know you won the U.S. Open on a broken leg last week, but nothing tops this. It was that important and impressive.
2. 2008 U.S. Open
Alright, so it was his second-best performance. After hearing that he would need three weeks on crutches and three weeks of rest after he fractured his knee during rehabilitation in May, Tiger told his doctor, "I'm playing in the U.S. Open and I'm going to win."
He played. He limped. He cringed. He made a 10-footer on a crappy area on the 18th green (the 72nd hole) to force a playoff.
There were eagles, there were fist pumps, and there were huge roars over the course of those 91 holes. Tiger had never played in this much pain before. Heck, no golfer has ever played through that much pain.
He played. He won. He did exactly what he said he was going to do.
3. 2000 U.S. Open
The most dominant performance in golf history. Tiger was the only player to finish under par, and he was way under par. He finished fifteen shots ahead of the field on one of the most hallowed golfing grounds on the planet.
We will never see that again. Well, we'll never see another '08 Open or '97 Masters again, either.
4. 2005 Masters
I'm sure many golf experts will argue with me on this one, but it is remarkable how quickly we forget that Tiger went Major-less from July 2002 to April 2005. Often referred to as the "Tiger slump," those months of average play by Sir Eldrick left us all wondering whether he would even come close to Jack's record of 18 Majors.
All of that was put to bed when Tiger chipped in on 16th to pull ahead of Chris DiMarco in the final round.
Actually, not quite. Don't forget—he had to hold off DiMarco in a sudden-death playoff.
This tournament, though, will be remembered for that remarkable, side-winding chip that resulted in the single-greatest advertising moment any endorser has ever experienced. As the Tiger legend continues to grow, I'm beginning to think that Tiger set that up with Nike for a few extra benjamins.
5. 2000 British Open
Another dominating performance at the birthplace of golf, St. Andrews. An eight-shot victory over Ernie Els and Thomas Bjorn gave Tiger Woods the career Grand Slam, a feat accomplished by only a handful of golfers.
While it wasn't too dramatic, Tiger himself considers it one of the best wins of his career.
6. 2001 Masters
Nobody has ever completed the modern-day Grand Slam in one golfing season. With this win, though, Woods became the first to hold all four trophies at one time. Jack never did it, which is and will always be some material on Tiger's side in the Tiger v. Jack debate.
Tiger held off David Duval—who would finally break through to win his first Major championship later that year—and Phil Mickelson to win his second green jacket.
7. 2000 PGA
This was a duel for the ages. It rivals the Mediate-Woods showdown of last weekend. Bob May played his heart out—wait, who?
May was the PGA's version of Cinderella in this championship. He never backed down. Time and time again, we all thought that Tiger would pull away. If not for a shorter version of the putt we saw from Tiger on 18 on Sunday, though, May would have prevailed in regulation.
But Tiger squeaked it out in a three hole playoff. Key moment in the championship? Tiger points at the hole. Tiger walks at the hole. Tiger picks his ball out of the hole.
8. 2006 British Open
The victory at Hoylake marked Tiger's first win without his dad, Earl, in his life. After the win, he completely broke down in the arms of his caddie. Similar to losses that we all experience, Tiger never appreciated how important pops was in his life.
His game didn't suffer in the following months, but this was the beginning of a very, very long grieving process. Without Earl, Tiger now had to learn how to compete without the help of a man that turned him into the best competitor the game has ever seen. This was the start.
9. 1999 PGA
His second Major win was a fairly important one. Tiger hadn't won a Major since the 1997 Masters, and this one was pretty tight.
Sergio hit the shot of the tournament when he landed his approach shot on the putting surface after his drive had finished up against a tree trunk.
El Nino put up a valiant effort, but this tournament proved to be the start of a legendary stretch of golf for Tiger. 2000 and 2001 were just around the corner.
10. 2002 U.S. Open
Tiger beat Phil and Sergio in New York, on a true municipal golf course. This was the People's Open. Phil was the People's Choice. Tiger was the People's Champ.
Playing at well over 7,000 yards, Bethpage Black was the site the first of many brutal USGA setups that we've all become acquainted with over the past few years. The Open returns to Bethpage next year, and it won't be any shorter.
After my recent visit to the beloved "muni," I can tell you one thing: new tee boxes, more yardage. I'll go out on a limb and say Tiger will likely win there next year.
11. 2007 PGA
Between the 2006 British Open and the 2007 PGA, Tiger wasn't feeling great. The grieving process took much longer than we all thought. He kept on winning, but he wasn't himself. "There was a sense of loneliness about Tiger that didn't go away for a long time," said Steve Williams, Tiger's long-time caddie.
With the birth of his first child, Sam, that all changed. The 2007 PGA was his first victory as a father, and it jump-started a string of victories that lasted until the winter of 2008.
12. 2002 Masters
Tiger became the first repeat winner of the Masters since Nick Faldo accomplished the feat in 1990. The last player before Faldo? Jack in 1966.
Tied for the lead going into the final round, Tiger eventually pulled away, finishing three strokes ahead of Retief Goosen.
13. 2005 British Open
This was Scotland's Colin Montgomerie's chance to shine—and, of course, he blew it.
It wasn't quite as bad as Winged Foot in 2006, but this was Montgomerie's golden opportunity. He was vying for his most coveted trophy, going head-to-head against the world's best at St. Andrews, the home of golf.
It was almost too good to be true—until Tiger's power and course management bettered Montgomerie's accurate drives and sound putting stroke. Woods went on to win by five.
14. 2006 PGA
Nothing against the victory at Medinah, but it provided the least drama, implications, and dominance out of his fourteen Major victories.
If any other golfer won the PGA Championship by five shots, it would probably be the most defining moment of his career.
Not Tiger. It isn't even his thirteenth finest moment.