On Sunday, Tiger Woods did something that he hasn't done much of over the past few years: he won a golf tournament. With his win at the Memorial Tournament, Woods garnered the 73rd PGA Tour victory of his career, tying Jack Nicklaus for second all-time behind only Sam Snead's 82 career PGA wins. In addition, he had another "Tiger Moment" with his incredible chip-in at the par-3 16th hole, giving him a two-shot lead that he would not relinquish. With the U.S. Open less than two weeks away and Woods seeking his 15th major championship yet again, this got me thinking about his greatest performances, hence why I decided to put together a top five list of said performances. Ironically, all of the ones I chose occurred in majors.
Performance #5: 2006 British Open
This one finds its way onto the list because of the circumstances surrounding it. Following the death of his father Earl Woods to cancer in early May of '06, Woods missed the cut at the U.S. Open in June. However, he bounced back just one month later to win the British Open, running his record of majors won when leading after three rounds to 11-0 (a mark that would eventually improve to 14-0). Once the clinching putt hit the bottom of the cup, Woods collected his ball and walked over to caddie Steve Williams, burying his head in Williams' shoulder as tears rolled down his face.
Performance #4: 2008 U.S. Open
Playing ninety-one holes in five days is bad enough. Try playing 91 holes in five days with a torn ACL and multiple stress fractures in your left leg with a pesky player like Rocco Mediate constantly breathing down your neck. Well, that's what Woods did at the '08 U.S. Open, when he had to make a birdie on the 18th hole of the fourth round just to force an 18-hole sudden death playoff with Mediate, which turned into 19 holes when the two were still tied after 18. Two days later, Woods announced the aforementioned injuries, resulting in a surgery that would sideline him for the rest of '08, making the fact that he was able to stand, much less win a tournament against the best golfers in the world, even more unbelievable. While he hasn't won a major since, this amazing performance will never be forgotten.
Performance #3: 2000 British Open
This was the tournament that clinched Tiger's Career Grand Slam, meaning that he had won all four major championship trophies, and the fact that he did so in such dominant fashion is even more impressive. Not only did he finish 19 under par over four rounds - the lowest score in the history of the British Open - but he won the tournament by eight strokes over his closest competitors, Thomas Bjorn and Ernie Els. By the way, this feat also made him the youngest person ever to win all four of golf's majors, a mark that remains his to this day.
Performance #2: 2000 U.S. Open
As if winning by eight strokes wasn't enough, try winning by nearly twice that. Well, once again, what most people couldn't even imagine, Woods did. Just a month before the 2000 British Open, Woods embarrassed the rest of the field, winning by 15 strokes and being the only player to shoot under par for the tournament by finishing an incredible 12 under par. As was often the case during this time period, including the previous entry on this list, it was Ernie Els who finished with at least a share of second place, tying Miguel Angel Jimenez for the runner-up spot.
Performance #1: 1997 Masters
Speaking of incredible, what the then 21-year-old Woods did at the '97 Masters deserves absolutely every superlative you can think of. To me, while he only won by 12 strokes over Tom Kite, this performance was more impressive than his 15-stroke victory because of the combination of age, venue, and score. As a newly-legal human being with the weight of the world on his shoulders playing on golf's biggest stage against the world's premiere players, Woods really began to turn heads and fulfill the expectations that had been placed upon him ever since he appeared on The Mike Douglas Show as a tyke. Like he had said when he first announced that he was turning pro less than one year before, this was once again a "Hello, world" type of achievement.
Other articles by Josh McKinney:Is There a Double Standard in Sports? Why Sports Need Egos Chicago Cubs Pitcher Kerry Wood to Call it Quits: A Fan's Take Word Association Chain: From the Texas Rangers to the New York Yankees Fact or Fiction: MLB May 15, 2012