Tiger Woods oh so close to a Major win

Tiger draws a crowd. Courtesy of Larry Fitzgerald

Tiger Woods has been so successful in his career despite some obstacles — well-documented surgeries, injuries, personal life issues and setbacks. He’s now 42 years old with 14 Majors and 79 career wins and is the first billionaire ($1.7) athlete in sports history. Today so many love to talk about him in the past tense, highlighting what he has not done recently, like win golf tournaments.

It’s been well documented that Woods has never won any of his career 14 Major Golf Championships when he has had to come from behind. This was the case on Sunday when he started the final round four shots back of the tournament leader Brooks Koepka. I’m a firm believer that the player who plays the best over four days usually wins.

Koepka was that guy, shooting 69-63-66-66 for a 264 total and the lowest PGA Championship record score. Woods had the huge crowd in St. Louis at Bellerive Country Club in an absolute frenzy with eight birdies and spectacular shots saving pars despite failing to hit any fairways on the front nine.

Woods shot a final round 64, tied for the lowest score of the day and the lowest score of his remarkable career in the final round of a Major. Nobody other than, say, Michael Jordan, moves the meter from a TV ratings standpoint like Woods. Golf fans on CBS were glued to the incredible drama of Wood’s will and determination, which have been staples of his career.

Again, Woods did not win; he last won a Major in 2008. In the Open Championship in July he rallied on the final day as well, and actually had the lead in the final round on the back nine, but then faltered.

He finished sixth at the Open Championship, but on Sunday, Woods never got the lead. He closed to within one shot on the back nine, but long-hitting Koepka, the newest golf superstar, never faltered and maintained his lead.

Koepka has now won three of the last seven Majors he’s played in. He missed the Masters in April with an injured left wrist. Still, he joins elite company — Gene Sarazen 1922, Ben Hogan 1948, Jack Nicklaus 1980 and Woods 2000 — as the only players to win the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in the same calendar year.

Koepka is also just the seventh player to win three Majors before the age of 29, following Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Woods and Jordan Spieth.

Woods has battled back from four back surgeries this year. He’s climbed from number 1,066 in world ranking to now number 26. He’s likely clinched a spot on the 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup team that plays Europe in September in Ireland. He won $1,188,000 for his solo second in the PGA Championship.

No, Woods did not win Sunday. He had two lip-outs on putts and one that hung on the edge of the cup. However, his desire, intensity, and heroic effort to win has inspired a new legion of golf fans. Woods shot 70-66-66-64 for 266 total. It was the lowest of his career in a Major.