We had no clue that on December 30, 1975, a little boy who was born in California would take us on his life long journey to the top of the golf world. That little boy was Eldrick Tont (Tiger) Woods.
Over the years there have been many milestones in Tiger’s life and looking back, it seemed that this golf prodigy was destined to be in the public limelight from toddler age to the present day. We watched in amazement as the toddler demonstrated his ability to hit a golf ball on the “Mike Douglas Show” in 1978 alongside Bob Hope and Jimmy Stewart.
And, if that early TV appearance didn’t send a loud message to the golf world, surely playing with the legendary Sam Snead as a six-year-old did. To recap, Snead was playing in an exhibition in California fairly close to where Tiger lived and Tiger had been invited to play the final two holes with the legend. Snead was one of the all-time greats as he won the Masters three times, the PGA Championship three times, and the Open Championship once but oddly enough, he joins Phil Mickelson in that neither won a U.S. Open Championship.
On Tiger’s first hole playing alongside Snead, he hit the ball into a little creek, then played it out of the water but still recorded a bogey to Snead’s par. On the second hole, Tiger had a bogey to Snead’s par, but the impression that six-year-old Tiger made upon Snead was one of total amazement at the youngster’s ability. I’m pretty sure, even at that young age, Tiger was miffed that he hadn’t done better.
In his career, Snead won 82 times, a record that has stood for over 50 years. With his three-shot victory at the ZOZO Championship (the first-ever PGA Tour event held in Japan), Tiger Woods recorded his 82nd Tour win, an unbelievable feat in the modern game, to tie Snead’s record.
Eight-two titles my friends. Eighty-two titles. To help put this milestone in perspective, consider that Sergio García, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Ernie Els, Davis Love III, and Rory McIlroy combined have won a total of 82 times.
Just a few years back, when Tiger’s physical injuries combined with some tawdry off-course behavior took place, all but the diehard Tiger fans were convinced that he could never reach Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championship victories. The nay-sayers may still be right, but despite the fact that he will be 44 years old at the 2020 Masters, his recent return to manageable good health and good form could indicate that the race to overtake Nicklaus’s record might be back on Tiger’s radar screen (maybe it never left). I have had the good fortune to have covered all 15 major wins by Tiger. Are three more major titles doable? Conventional wisdom says no, but nothing is really conventional about a determined Tiger Woods.
With the Presidents Cup scheduled to be played in Melbourne, Australia, from December 12 to 15, there’s only one more tournament week to go before Tiger announces his Presidents Cup team. He must choose four players to round out the team. With his victory in Japan and his well-known desire to be a playing captain, there may be little doubt now that Tiger will choose himself to be on the U.S. team. After all, a good argument can now be made that he’s earned his way into serious consideration and there’s little doubt that NBC Sports, which will be providing the television coverage of the Presidents Cup, would like to have a Tiger hitting shots rather than a Tiger sitting in a golf cart handing out dry towels, making pairings, cheering on the team. A Tiger on the team will generate a lot more interest and more people will choose to watch the broadcast.
It was not so long ago that all the young up-and-comers on the PGA Tour were quick to say they wanted Tiger back, that they wanted to play against him when he was at his best so as to test their own game. Well, he’s back and now the old adage comes into play — “Be careful what you wish for.”
It took Sam Snead 425 events to win his 82 tournament titles. It took Tiger just 329. Now that Tiger is back and healthy again after his fifth knee operation, has come to terms with his “new normal,” and has found a way that he can win again, my gut is telling me that #83 isn’t too far away.