Culture and Recreation
Where does golf sensation Tiger Woods rank among the greats?
Woods (1975-) ranks among the best players of all time. In 1999 he won 8 tournaments, including the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) and Tour championships, and he was the first player to win 4 consecutive starts since Ben Hogan (1912–1997) in 1953 (Hogan won a total of 5 tournaments that year). In 2000 Woods went on to win 9 tournaments, and in 2001 and 2002 he had 5 wins each season, giving him a total of 27 wins in four years. (In July 2005, with his victory at the British Open, Woods became only the fifth player in golf history to complete a career grand slam, winning golf’s four major tournaments: the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship. In 2001 he became the first player to consecutively win the grand slam.) This impressive run alone assures Woods a place in the annals of golf history.
As of mid-2005 Arnold Palmer (1929-) remained the PGA leader for the number of wins in any four-year period; between 1960 and 1964 he racked up 29 first-place finishes. He was also the first player to win the Masters four times (1958, 1960, 1962, and 1964). A couple of other legendary names in golf tallied record numbers of wins in short periods to dominate the sport: Ben Hogan won 30 tournaments in three seasons, 1946–48; and Byron Nelson (1912-) won 26 tournaments in just two years, 1944 and 1945. Sam Snead (1912–2002) and Jack Nicklaus (1940-) dominated the sport over the course of decades: Snead holds the record for the most wins in a career (81); and Nicklaus follows with 71.
At the age of 24 Woods was already the PGA’s career earnings leader. To put this in perspective, in 1999 he won a million dollars more for the year than golf legend Jack Nicklaus made in his entire PGA Tour career. Woods’s ability and appeal combined to help raise earnings overall for the sport. He was credited with expanding golf’s horizons by bringing new fans to the game. According to ESPN The Magazine, ratings for the final round of each of the four majors collectively jumped 56 percent in 1997 when Woods broke the Masters scoring record (he shot 270 over 72 holes to finish 12 strokes ahead of the second-place winner). At the end of the 2004 season and despite a slump, Woods remained on top for career earnings, but he was followed very closely by Vijay Singh (1963-).