Ranking Tiger Woods' 15 majors: What was his finest hour?

This weekend marks the anniversary of Tiger Woods’ landmark 2019 Masters victory, a triumph of skill and will that stands as one of sports’ all-time great comeback stories. But where does it rank in Woods’ own pantheon of majors? On the anniversary of his 15th major, we size up how well it ranks against the previous 14.

15. 2007 PGA Championship - Notable primarily for the relentless heat that gripped Southern Hills in Tulsa, and for the fact that Woods came within a horseshoed birdie putt on 18 of carding the first-ever 62 in a major in the second round. Woods kept the field at bay for most of the tournament’s final three days; Woody Austin closed to within a stroke late on Sunday, but Woods stiff-armed him to win by two strokes.

14. 2006 PGA Championship - Coming right after his win at the 2006 Open Championship, Woods’ victory at Medinah signaled that he’d scraped off whatever rust may have gathered on his game after the passing of his father. Woods was three strokes off the pace after the first day, one stroke off after the second, and tied with Luke Donald for the lead after Saturday. Woods then buried Donald to win by an easy five strokes.This marked the first time Woods had notched consecutive major wins since 2002.

13. 2002 Masters - You don’t want to say any Masters victory is routine, but this is as close as you get: Woods winning his second straight green jacket, only the third player ever to defend his title, by three easy strokes over Retief Goosen. Despite a third-round leaderboard that included giants like Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia, nobody stepped up to challenge Woods, and he strolled up 18 like he owned the place. Which, by the numbers, he did.

2019, the most unexpected major of all. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
The 2019 Masters, the most unexpected major win of all for Tiger Woods. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

12. 2005 Open Championship - A wire-to-wire win for Woods, and the culmination of his second career Grand Slam. This marked Woods’ second win at St. Andrews, and he held off Colin Montgomerie by five strokes to take the victory. Not one of Woods’ more remarkable tournaments in and of itself, but the history of the venue and the significance of the achievement vault it above a typical Tour win.

11. 2002 U.S. Open - The Great Phil Showdown That Wasn’t. At Bethpage Black, Woods again led wire-to-wire, and Mickelson couldn’t close the gap. This marked Woods’ second win of 2002, the first time any golfer had won the first two majors of the Grand Slam since Jack Nicklaus did it in 1972. (Woods would go on to finish T28 at the Open and solo 2nd at the PGA.)

10. 1999 PGA Championship - It’s impossible to remember now, but there was a time when golf observers were writing off Woods as a one-major pony. He’d gone 10 majors without a victory since his 1997 Masters triumph, but at Medinah, Woods pulled his usual trick of lurking before creeping up to a Saturday lead. He won his second major by outdueling 19-year-old Sergio Garcia by a single stroke, the first match in what many predicted would be an epic rivalry between the two. Only one held up his end of the deal.

9. 2001 Masters - Once again, Woods and Mickelson had a chance at a duel, and once again Mickelson couldn’t keep up. Mickelson trailed by only a stroke after Saturday, but fell off the pace as Woods won by two strokes over David Duval. This marked the culmination of the Tiger Slam, the wraparound Grand Slam that took Woods 10 months to complete.

8. 2000 PGA Championship - With his victory at Valhalla, Woods became the first player to win three majors in a calendar year since Ben Hogan in 1953, and he did it by winning a three-hole playoff over Bob May. This was an early look at how good Woods was under pressure; May was leading as late as the 16th hole on Sunday, and Woods needed to hole a knee-knocking five-footer on 18 to force a playoff. He did, he won … and May never contended in a major again.

7. 2006 Open Championship - Earl Woods was a constant presence in Tiger’s life — part stage dad, part cheerleader, part sensei, part locomotive — so when he died in May 2006, there was legitimate cause to wonder how Tiger would react without his anchor. After missing the cut at the U.S. Open, his first missed cut in a major as a professional, Woods roared back at Royal Liverpool. He outran Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk and Chris DiMarco for the victory, then collapsed on caddie Stevie Williams’ shoulder and sobbed at winning this one without his father around to watch. One of the most emotional moments in Woods’ career.

6. 2005 Masters - Woods had gone nearly three years without a major win, the longest in his career to that point. On a rainy week in Augusta, he broke Chris DiMarco’s heart yet again, winning on the first hole of a playoff. That victory kickstarted a run of 14 majors in which he’d finish lower than fourth only twice.

5. 2000 Open Championship - Woods’ first Open Championship win came at the home of golf, St. Andrews, and much like his other first-time wins, it was a thundering statement of purpose. This marked Woods’ completion of the career Grand Slam, a feat only five golfers have managed, and he did it a full two years younger than Nicklaus. Woods stormed to an eight-shot victory over Thomas Bjorn and Ernie Els, and if anyone had doubted that Woods was already one of the greats before, this erased any lingering concerns.

Tiger Woods after completing the Tiger Slam. (Reuters/Files)
Tiger Woods after completing the Tiger Slam. (Reuters/Files)

4. 2000 US Open - Simply one of the most dominating performances in golf history. Playing in the 100th U.S. Open at iconic Pebble Beach, Woods dominated the field from the jump. His first-round lead of one stroke grew to six, then 10, and finally a record-setting 15. This was Woods’ first U.S. Open win and the start of what would become the Tiger Slam. It wasn’t a competitive golf tournament, it was a parade.

3. 2008 U.S. Open - In retrospect, this one only grew in prominence. You remember the broad strokes — Tiger defeating Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines for his 14th major, at a time when passing Jack didn’t just seem possible, it seemed inevitable. But the specifics of the round remain astounding — Woods had to hole a 12-foot birdie putt to even force a playoff with Mediate, then another birdie putt to force sudden death after an 18-hole Monday playoff. All that, and Woods was effectively playing on a broken leg. The toughest major win of his career, and for 11 years, it looked like it would be his last.

2. 2019 Masters - The most unexpected major of them all. Eleven years after his last victory, nine years after the scandal that ripped apart his life, two years after he privately said at the 2017 Champions Dinner that he was done with professional golf, Woods again returned to the top of golf’s mountain. The tournament itself wasn’t particularly dramatic; what clinched the victory was Woods’ ability to remain steady while all of his competitors were losing themselves in Rae’s Creek. He didn’t need to bludgeon the field the way he’d done two decades before; he simply waited and played patient, smart, winning golf right up to the 18th hole … the first time he’d ever come from behind on a Sunday to win a major.

1. 1997 Masters - Less a tournament, more a coronation. Woods turned the entire sports world sideways, instantly transforming golf from a sport of doddering old guys into a cool, fist-pumping, highly marketable endeavor. And the wild thing is, he upended the entire Masters after shooting a front-nine Thursday 40. His 12-stroke margin of victory over Tom Kite and his final score of -18 still stand as Masters records. With one tournament, he completely rewrote sports history and American cultural history all at once. Not bad for a 21-year-old kid.

Look how young he was. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/PGA TOUR Archive)
Look how young he was. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/PGA TOUR Archive)


Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him with tips and story ideas at jay.busbee@yahoo.com.

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