The immeasurable impact of THE GREATEST PLAYER OF ALL TIME, “Tiger Woods”, the 25th anniversary of Tiger Woods turning pro

The immeasurable impact of THE GREATEST PLAYER OF ALL TIME, “Tiger Woods”, the 25th anniversary of Tiger Woods turning pro
THE TIGER WOODS UPDATEA prediction: Tiger Woods will receive the $8 million first-place award of the inaugural Player Impact Program.
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At year end, the disbursements for the nine other players will be finalized, all part of the PGA Tour’s response to the still speculative golden lures of a world “super league.” It shall be neither ironic nor surprising when the runaway winner is the guy who didn’t strike a competitive shot in 2021, owing, of course, to back surgery in January followed by the car crash in February. As much as Phil thrilled, Rahm rammed, and Bryson and Brooksy bickered, Tiger still contributes more to golf’s global awareness. Video of his putt from 2008 got more airtime than any other shot from Torrey Pines this year. Google search and Q-rating? That’s a lot of dots on Big Cat’s scorecard.
Such impending compensation only underscores that Woods is an active professional, and so with this special issue we celebrate the 25th anniversary of his pro debut. While our hearts root for Tiger to recover well enough to compete again, for now we mark this milestone.
I caught up with Curtis Strange, who was steps away, practicing putting, when Woods teed off Thursday at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open. “Very few people ever bother to watch some young kid hit his first shot as a professional. But everyone, players and fans, stopped in their tracks.” The day before, Strange had interviewed Woods about his expectations for the week, the veteran making first forays into what would become a lengthy broadcasting career. When Woods said, “Second sucks, third is even worse,” Strange got a tad huffy and said, “You’ll learn.”
The clip lay dormant for years until the dawn of social media. “It wasn’t meant as derogatory to Tiger, rather that this is a tough game and to expect that much out of yourself will set you up for a lot of disappointment … I made the mistake of interjecting. I should’ve said it in a more sober way and given him space to respond.” Over dinner together years later, when Woods’ winning percentage was hovering near one-third, Strange told Tiger that he had learned. “His comment changed the way golfers speak to themselves and the public,” Strange says. “The big players today don’t have Tiger’s ability, but they outwardly show similar confidence. Psychologically, it’s a step in the right direction in how to compete.”
Tiger’s influence across so many levels of the game almost can’t be overstated. “His wasn’t just a sports story, it was a general celebrity news story,” says Joe Beditz, president of the National Golf Foundation, the organization that keeps annual tabs on the golf biz. As for the growth of tournament sponsorships and purses over the past quarter-century, “Tiger was directly responsible for much if not most,” Beditz says. The Tiger Woods Foundation, also celebrating 25 years, has helped more than two million kids.
Tiger’s iconic fist pumps, initially interpreted in fusty circles as disrespectful, ultimately revealed much more. They symbolized, as Jaime Diaz wrote, “accomplishing the most difficult thing in this game, which is to be free. To be fully engaged, without inhibition, without indecision, without fear. To release.”
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The front and back covers of Golf Digest’s ‘Tiger: 25 years a pro’ special collector’s issue.

For most of his career, Tiger Woods has served as Playing Editor for Golf Digest. This access has led to not only instruction articles of unsurpassed authority but also insightful features on his life. The contents of this issue are both new and old, and it’s the gems from our archive that give the experience of reliving the suspense of Tiger’s career all over again.
As for the future, Tiger’s guess is as good as yours. The trauma of this car accident is different than any previous athletic injury. There’s no set timeframe for when certain medical issues will be resolved enough to next think about golf. Word is, Tiger’s spirits are positive, optimistic. If he heals, it’s hard to imagine tireless Tiger won’t give it another try.
For now, call it backpay or a future annuity, but I think Tiger has several Player Impact Awards ahead of him.

The Tiger Quiz: Here’s what happens when you put Woods’ photographic golf memory to the test

This month, Golf Digest is commemorating the 25th anniversary of Tiger Woods turning pro with a special 116-page collector’s issue celebrating his career. This story is one of several that appear in the magazine.

Tiger Woods is known as having something of a photographic memory. According to legend, he can recall yardages, club selections and reads years later. We wanted to put that famous memory to the test by seeing if he could recall details about all types of wins: majors, blowouts, comebacks, you name it. So we looked into all his 82 PGA Tour victories—which span four presidential administrations, four decades, four back surgeries and 23 years—to pick a relatively representative sample and quiz the player tied for the most wins in tour history. The results were, as things tend to be with Tiger, remarkable. Woods’ face lit up as he discussed intricacies of victories from the 1990s, recalled competing against players who are now on the PGA Tour Champions (or beyond) and relived his favorite activity: winning.
*Correct answer in bold; Woods’ answer, if incorrect, underlined.
• • •
Win No. 5: In the 1997 Byron Nelson Classic, you fell two behind after hitting your drive on the third hole into the water. You went on to win by two shots. Who is the player you trailed after that water ball, the same guy who wound up finishing second?
A. Chris Perry
B. Dan Forsman
C. Lee Rinker
D. Jim Furyk
Woods blurted out Rinker’s name before I finished asking the question. “That was my first start after the Masters. I remember that one. Oh, yeah, I do.”
A month earlier at Augusta National, Woods had shown the world what its next sporting icon looked like with a 12-shot triumph. At the Nelson, Woods suggested he didn’t have his “A” game but still got the victory—prompting Rinker to ask: “What is his ‘A’ game, 40 under par?”
 
Win No. 13: Heading into the final round of the 1999 Disney Classic, you shared the lead with Bob Tway. But a different player made a charge until a three-putt on 17 doomed his chances, and he finished one behind you. Who was that player?
A. Ernie Els
B. John Huston
C. Vijay Singh
D. Jeff Sluman
Right after I finished saying “Disney Classic,” Woods said: “I beat Ernie Els in the final round.”
Win No. 20: You entered the final round of the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach with a 10-shot lead and won by a record 15 shots. What did you shoot in the final round?
A. 68
B. 71
C. 67
D. 69
“I won by 15. Shot 12 under. That’s what I remember.”
With Woods leading by double digits heading into the final round, the question wasn’t who would win but by how many. So as not to lose focus, Woods played a game within a game, setting a goal of going bogey-free, which he did.
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The front and back covers of Golf Digest’s ‘Tiger: 25 years a pro’ special collector’s issue.

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Win No. 32: At the 2002 U.S. Open, you took control with two brilliant rounds. You led by three heading into the weekend. What was your 36-hole total?
A. 134
B. 138
C. 137
D. 135
“I was the only guy who finished under par. I’m gonna say five under.”
Bethpage Black played to a par 70 that week. Five under is correct. By following his Masters win with a victory at Bethpage, Woods generated considerable Grand Slam talk. No one had won the first two majors of the year since Jack Nicklaus in 1972.
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Tiger Woods celebrates his 2002 U.S. Open win on the 18th green at Bethpage Black.

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Win No. 35: In 2003, you returned from offseason knee surgery to win the Buick Invitational. Carl Pettersson finished second. How many shots did you win by?
A. 3
B. 4
C. 1
D. 5
“The final group that day was Phil, me and Brad Faxon. No idea how much I won by. Dude! I won by enough. It was enough.”
Win No. 39 came at one of Woods’ favorite courses, Torrey Pines. It was the first of five victories in 2003, though he failed to win a major that year.
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Win No. 54: You won the 2006 WGC-American Express Championship by eight shots over Ian Poulter and Adam Scott. Where did that tournament take place?
A. The Grove
B. Harding Park
C. Doral
D. Capital City
“That tournament moved around. I beat Vijay up in Atlanta. I won in Ireland. I won in England. Then they moved it to Valderrama, won it there. Then Doral. How’s that? Pretty good.”
The tournament most recently known as the WGC-Mexico Championship kept on moving around in the 2000s, and Woods kept winning it. Tiger won six of the first eight editions at six different courses, though his sequencing is a bit off: It went to Valderrama in Spain, then Mount Juliet in Ireland, then Capital City outside Atlanta, then Harding Park in San Francisco, then The Grove in England, then Doral in Florida.
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Win No. 65: At the 2008 U.S. Open, an 18-hole playoff wasn’t enough to settle things between you and Rocco Mediate. It went to an extra hole when you finally won. What score did you make on the par-5 18th hole during Monday’s playoff?
A. 3
B. 4
C. 5
D. 6
“I hit a 4-iron into the center of the green and two-putted [for birdie]. He made par.”
Perhaps the signature win of his career, Woods found a way at Torrey Pines despite playing on a badly injured leg, making a 12-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to force Monday’s playoff.
Both players shot 71, and then Woods parred the first sudden-death playoff hole to win. This was Woods’ 14th major-championship victory and his last before an 11-year drought ended at Augusta National in April 2019.
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Win No. 66: You holed a birdie putt on the 72nd hole of the 2009 Arnold Palmer Invitational for a one-shot victory, your first since reconstructive knee surgery after the 2008 U.S. Open. Who finished second?
A. Justin Rose
B. Zach Johnson
C. Sean O’Hair
D. Bart Bryant
Woods wouldn’t let me read the options. He wanted to remember this one on his own. After a few seconds, he replied, “Sean O’Hair.”
No hole has delivered as much drama in Woods’ career as the finisher at Bay Hill. A year after dropping a 24-footer to beat Bart Bryant, Woods made another winning birdie at 18 right in front of host Arnold Palmer. It completed a comeback from five down to begin the day.
• • •
Win No. 70: At the 2009 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, you hit a shot to six inches on the 16th hole on Sunday to cap a come-from-behind victory over Padraig Harrington. What club did you hit?
A. 9-iron
B. 7-iron
C. 5-iron
D. 8-iron
“It was like 180 yards. We were on the clock. That’s what put off Harrington; he had to play quickly and made a mistake.”
Woods is correct in recalling his fifth victory of a six-win 2009. Harrington hit a flop shot into the water down the stretch to help seal Woods’ fourth straight victory at Firestone and seventh overall at the site. At that point, Woods had won 16 of his 30 starts in World Golf Championship events.
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Tiger Woods, with caddie Steve Williams, walks off the 18th hole at Firestone the winner over Padraig Harrington at the 2009 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

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You won your record-tying 82nd PGA Tour event in October 2019 at the Zozo Championship, a three-shot victory over Hideki Matsuyama. What was your winning score in relation to par?
A. -14
B. -16
C. -19
D. -17
“I won by two. I don’t remember the winning score, but I know I won by two.”
Woods actually won by three for his first PGA Tour victory in Japan. Coming off a three-month absence for knee surgery, Woods began with a pair of 64s and led the rest of the way.
Woods answered seven of 10 questions correctly, and even the ones he got “wrong,” he had no issue talking in detail about the tournament. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising. When contending, Woods is so invested in the task that the memories remain vivid all this time later. But Woods’ phrasing made one other thing clear: He largely viewed Sunday afternoons as a head-to-head competition against the other player challenging for the title. He said numerous times, “I beat Player X.” Reading between the lines, Woods likes to reduce the 140-odd-man tournament to a personal battle against the player in second, or the player he’s chasing. Beat him, the thinking goes, and I win the tournament.
He beat him—82 times.

Tiger Woods’ TGR Foundation Hits Notable Milestone As It Celebrates Its 25th Anniversary

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PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — As far as golf goes, Riviera Country Club has not been friendly to Tiger Woods. At least, not as friendly as other golf courses—he does have a runner-up and seven other top-20 finishes at this kikuyu-covered gem, but he’s played 13 tournaments here and left without the trophy 13 times. It’s the most starts he’s made in a single PGA Tour event without a victory.

Woods’ relationship with Riv, however, extends much deeper than a scorecard. It’s where he made his first tour start, as a rail-thin 16-year-old in 1992. It’s a traffic-dependent hour away from where Tiger honed his game, at the Navy Golf Course in Cypress. And since 2017 it has hosted his event, the Genesis Invitational, which has coincided with major growth for his TGR Foundation.

Founded in 1996, the year Woods turned pro, the foundation’s initial mission was to give disadvantaged youth better access to the game of golf. Woods famously transformed the direction of his foundation shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, when during a 17-hour drive from Missouri to Florida (flights were grounded) he had an epiphany and instructed his father to change the focus to providing educational access to underprivileged kids.

Fast forward 20 years, and Woods’ foundation has now reached more than 2 million children through its in-person and digital programs.

“To have so many first-gens go off to college—then they come back and they’re the leaders of their community,” Woods, who is not playing this week at Riviera as he continues to recover from a back procedure, said before last year’s Genesis. “No one expected anyone in their community to go to college. And these kids go to Harvard and Princeton, Yale, Brown. You start meeting these kids who never ever thought they would go to college. It’s pretty unbelievable.”

This is the second year that the Genesis has had elevated status on tour, a change more significant than simply having “Invitational” replace “Open” in the tournament title. The field has been reduced from 144 to 120; the winner receives a three-year exemption, rather than the two for a “normal” PGA Tour event; and the purse increased to $9.3 million, highlighted by a $1.674 winner’s check. Symbolically, Woods’ tournament now stands level with Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial and the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

That, combined with perhaps the finest course on tour in Riviera, has attracted remarkably strong fields each of the past two years. Eight of the world’s top 10 players are teeing it up this week, and all the extra attention a field like this one demands only serves to bring more eyeballs to the TGR foundation and its mission.

“TGR foundation has experienced tremendous growth since Tiger became host of the Genesis in 2017,” TGR foundation President & CEO Gordon McNeill said. “As the benefiting charity, our programs have expanded to reach more students in the L.A. community and around the world.

“As we celebrate our 25th anniversary, we are excited to build on the 2 million students reached through our programs, in person and digitally.”

The foundation is particularly excited about Pathways Forward, the initiative it launched in January to enhance its current education programs and expand resources to reach more students on their pathway to college and career success.

Woods has always taken as much pride in his philanthropic endeavors as his athletic ones, and perhaps this week is a preview of what’s to come. Woods knows his days as a world-class golfer will not last forever, and there will be plenty of Genesis Invitationals that he does not play in. This is one of them, but his presence at Riviera is felt through the TGR Foundation, which will continue to impact children long after Woods’ playing days are finished.