Can We Call Tiger Woods the Best Ever Without 18 Majors?

This Blog is largely excerpted from an AP report right after Tiger’s Announcement that he is not only unable to play the Masters but will also likely sit out the rest of the 2014 PGA season due to back surgery.  There was no commentary to this report, but it lists in great detail the LONG list of injuries that Tiger Woods has endured over the years.

The implication is that Tiger Woods began his career with epic promise and expectations which he has for the most part either met and exceeded.  But the culmination of these expectations at the beginning of his his career was that he would wind up to be the best golfer who has ever lived.   The question is, does he Tiger NEED to beat Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 Major Tournaments to be coronated.  Or does Tiger’s illustrious list of achievements speak for themselves;  And he has a VERY LONG List of Lifetime Achievement Records:

  1.  Woods has won 79 official PGA Tour events, second only to Sam Snead, and six ahead of Jack Nicklaus with 73 wins.
  2.  Woods has won 14 majors, second all time, behind Jack Nicklaus.
  3.  Woods is 14–1 when going into the final round of a major with at least a share of the lead.
  4.  Woods scoring average in 2000 is the lowest in PGA Tour history, both adjusted, 67.79, and unadjusted
  5.  Woods has the lowest career scoring average in PGA Tour history.
  6.  Woods has amassed the most career earnings of any player in PGA Tour history (even after inflation is considered).
  7.  Woods is one of five players (along with Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player) to have won all four professional major championships in his career, known as the Career Grand Slam, and was the youngest to do so
  8. Woods is the only player to have won all four professional major championships in a row, accomplishing the feat in the 2000–2001 seasons. This feat became known as the “Tiger Slam”.

Woods set the all-time record for most consecutive cuts made, with 142. The streak started in 1998, he set the record at the 2003 Tour Championship with 114 (passing Byron Nelson’s previous record of 113 and Jack Nicklaus at 105) and extended this mark to 142 before it ended on May 13, 2005

  1. Woods has won a record 27.2% (79 out of 290) of his professional starts on the PGA Tour.
  2. Woods is the only golfer to have won the U.S. Amateur three consecutive times (1994–96).
  3. Woods has been the PGA Player of the Year a record eleven times.
  4. Woods has been the PGA Tour Player of the Year a record eleven times.
  5. Woods has been the PGA Tour Money Leader a record ten times.
  6. Woods has been the Vardon Trophy winner a record nine times.
  7. Woods has been the recipient of the Byron Nelson Award a record nine times.

This list can actually go on and on if I look hard enough.  The point of the list is to demonstrate the remarkable career that Tiger Woods has had.  It is also to debate whether or not winning 18 Majors will or will not define him as the greatest golfer of all time.  Because if the achievements as listed above are not enough, then the road ahead is going to be a very tough one.

And that brings us back to the AP news report which outlines all the injuries that Tiger Woods has had since 1994… And it is a very long list .  What this list implies to us is that despite the obvious skills of Tiger; and despite the promise that he may or may not still have; we have to wonder whether his body will hold up to age and injuries.  And if he doesn’t break the record of 18 Majors… can we still call him the best golfer who has ever lived?

List of Tiger Woods Injuries:

December 1994 — Surgery on left knee to remove two benign tumors and scar tissue.

Dec. 13, 2002 — Surgery on left knee to remove fluid inside and outside the ACL and remove benign cysts from his left knee. Misses the season opener in 2003.

August 2007 — Ruptures the ACL in his left knee while running on a golf course after the British Open, but is able to keep playing. Wins five of the last six tournaments he plays, including the PGA Championship for his 13th major.

April 15, 2008 — Two days after the Masters, has arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to repair cartilage damage.

May 2008 — Advised weeks before the U.S. Open that he has two stress fractures of the left tibia and should rest for six weeks, the first three weeks on crutches.

June 24, 2008 — Eight days after winning the U.S. Open, has surgery to repair the ACL in his left knee by using a tendon from his right thigh. Additional cartilage damage is repaired. Misses the rest of the season and does not return until the Match Play Championship at the end of February 2009.

December 2008 — Injured his Achilles tendon in his right leg as he was running while preparing to return to golf.

Nov. 27, 2009 — Hospitalized overnight with a sore neck and a cut lip that required five stitches when the SUV he was driving ran over a fire hydrant and into a tree.

May 9, 2010 — Withdrew from the final round of The Players Championship, citing a bulging disk. He later said it was a neck issue that caused tingling in his right side, and that it first became a problem as he began practicing harder for his return to the Masters a month earlier.

April 10, 2011 — Injures his left Achilles tendon hitting from an awkward stance below Eisenhower’s Tree on the 17th at Augusta National. Withdraws from the Wells Fargo Championship.

May 12, 2011 — Withdraws from The Players Championship after a 42 on the front nine. Diagnosed with an MCL sprain in his left knee and in his left Achilles tendon. He misses the next two months, including two majors, returning at the Bridgestone Invitational.

March 11, 2012 — Feels tightness in his left Achilles tendon and withdraws after 11 holes of the final round in the Cadillac Championship at Doral. He wins in his next start at Bay Hill, his first PGA Tour victory since the scandal in his personal life.

Aug. 24, 2012 — Moves stiffly during the second round of The Barclays and later says he felt pain in his lower back, which he attributed to a soft mattress in his hotel room.

June 13, 2013 — Is seen shaking his left arm during the opening round of the U.S. Open. He later says it’s a left elbow strain that he injured while winning The Players Championship a month earlier. He misses two tournaments and returns at the British Open.

Aug. 11, 2013 — Said he felt tightness in his back during the final round of the PGA Championship.

Aug. 21, 2013 — Two weeks after the PGA Championship, he only chips and putts on the back nine of the pro-am at The Barclays, complaining of a stiff neck and back that he attributed to a soft bed in the hotel. By Sunday at The Barclays, he dropped to his knees after one shot because of back spasms.

March 2, 2014 — Withdraws after 13 holes of the final round at The Honda Classic because of lower back pain and spams, describing it as similar to what he felt at The Barclays.

March 9, 2014 — Plays the final 12 holes with pain in his lower back, saying it began to flare up after hitting out of the bunker from an awkward lie in the Cadillac Championship at Doral. He shoots 78, the highest score of his career in a final round.

March 19, 2014 — Withdraws from the Arnold Palmer Invitational because of the persistent pain in his back. He was the two-time defending champion.

March 31, 2014 — Has surgery in Utah for a pinched nerve.

April 1, 2014 — Announced he will miss the Masters and not return to golf until the summer.