Tiger Woods not only became the GOAT, he made it fun doing it

Gabriel Strasbaugh, Columnist

From majors, to records galore, to being elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame, Tiger Woods’ mark on sports has transcended more than just the playing green. Woods has become an instant icon throughout the 21st century of sports with his exciting high energy style of golf. From his first professional appearance in the PGA in 1996, the 20-year-old kid named Tiger would change the perception of golf forever. 

Within his first year, Woods already had three Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) tournament wins under his belt, along with a record-shattering dominant showing in the 1997 Masters, winning his first of five green jackets by 12 strokes. Woods’ dominance at Augusta gave notice to the golfing world, earning a number one world rank in June 1997, a ranking that he would continue to achieve and hold for stretches at times of over five years.

While his style of play and consistency rivaling that of Jack Nicklaus, Woods introduced an almost college-football-like atmosphere to the tournaments he took part in. From the twirl of his clubs to his drives that lead to “Tiger Proofing,” which was the lengthening of courses due to Woods’ mastery of the game, fans were drawn to the biggest name possibly in sports. The crowds’ roars rivaled any World Series game, finals or Super Bowls.

Companies such as Nike also became fans of the standout performer. Woods signed a five-year $40 million deal before he won his first of 15 majors. He was must-see TV. This was never more apparent than during his first Masters when 43 million viewers tuned into CBS to catch a glimpse at his greatness. 

The spike in television numbers was monumental for the sport of golf. The revenue brought in allowed for the PGA to offer purses more than double of those in years past. Woods took home $486,000 for his first Masters compared to $2.07 million for his most recent green jacket in 2019. This brought out the best of his competition.

For other golfers, this meant they were able to compete for these higher stakes against the best to ever do it. With life changing money on the line against the Greatest of All Time (GOAT), the world had to pay attention.   

As golf’s popularity was on the rise, so was Woods’ stock in becoming one of the greatest golfers of all time. Sports Illustrated called his performance at the 2000 U.S. Open the “greatest performance in golf history,” in which Woods blew away the record book winning by 15 strokes. A new record of lowest scoring average in tour history became one of the more impressive records in his career. The same year saw Woods become the youngest golfer to achieve a Grand Slam winning all four majors in succession. This would later be known today as the “Tiger Slam.” 

Despite some personal turbulence and injuries sidelining the former world number one in the midst of his run to glory, Woods was able to cap off one of the greatest comeback stories in American sports history. After dropping out of the world’s top 1,000 golfers list between August 2015 through January 2018, Woods bounced back immediately with his first tournament win in five years. While fans were thrilled with his tournament victory, nothing could prepare fans for one of his more impactful moments as a professional. 

Woods’ return to glory was complete, once again at Augusta, shooting 13 under par with a one stroke lead to finish off his 15th major win. A moment that is almost overshadowed is when cameras broadcasted a man who wanted nothing more than to hug his son on the 18th celebrating another championship. A maestro’s finale for the man who brought heart, swagger, intensity and a will to win to the gentlemen’s game. 

Just as Verne Lundquist so eloquently said at Augusta, during Woods’ 2005 Masters winning shot, the sentiment he shared is one that will forever be a phrase that paints Woods’ legacy for as long as the game of golf lives. “Oh wow! In your life, have you seen anything like that?”