The question facing Tiger Woods upon his return in 2018 from a two-year injury hiatus was not when he would win another major title but if he would add to his stockpile of grand slam victories, a total that had been stalled at 14 since 2008.
Now that Woods has answered that question with his win Sunday at the Masters, we might have to switch up our query again — namely, is Woods finished winning majors at age 43 or does he have a few more left in him? Considering he has finished no worse than a tie for sixth in the past three grand slam events, it’s a valid question.
And the next two majors on the calendar will be held at courses Woods has completely shredded in the past. Yes, those titles came years ago, when he was at his absolute peak, but the schedule could be shaping up nicely for a Summer of Tiger. Remember, he needs three more major titles to equal Jack Nicklaus, who holds the record with 18.
Here’s a quick look ahead.
PGA Championship, Bethpage Black, May 16-19
The PGA Tour’s schedule-tinkering means we only have to wait a month before Woods is back on the course at a major, and it’s a course at which he’s thrived. Woods led wire-to-wire at the 2002 U.S. Open here and was the only golfer to finish the tournament under par at the public course on Long Island. He also won the Masters that year. Hmm.
The U.S. Open returned to Bethpage Black in 2009, and Woods, the defending tournament champion that year, salvaged a tie for sixth even though he was 15 strokes off the pace at one point on Sunday. Woods eventually finished four strokes behind champion Lucas Glover. The tournament was marred by persistent rain that changed the composition of the notoriously difficult course, making the greens much less diabolical than they usually are.
“The USGA has gotten the short end of the stick on the weather both times we’ve been here,” Woods said after the 2009 tournament. “It rained in 2002, too. We have yet to play it hard and fast in either of the years it’s been here. This is a great golf course, but we haven’t seen what it’s supposed to be.”
U.S. Open, Pebble Beach, June 13-16
Two years before dominating the field at Bethpage Black, Woods atomized the competition at the famed seaside course in California, winning the 2000 U.S. Open by 15 strokes (a record for a major championship), finishing as the only golfer below par and becoming the first U.S. Open champion to end up double digits under par.
It actually was Woods’s second win at Pebble Beach that year: At February’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am, he trailed by seven strokes with seven holes to play yet won with a final-round 64.
The U.S. Open returned to Pebble Beach in 2010, and Woods shot himself into contention with a third-round 66. But a final-round 75 doomed his chances, and he finished tied with Phil Mickelson for fourth, three strokes behind winner Graeme McDowell.
“The golf course has always had a special place in my heart,” Woods said after winning the 2000 U.S. Open. “One, for its pristine beauty and another [for] its mystique . . . the [dramatic] finishes that we’ve had in tournaments over the years on this golf course . . . I’ve always absolutely loved playing here, from the time I was 13. And I’ll always continue to love it.”
British Open, Royal Portrush, July 18-21
Woods and many others in the field won’t have much experience, if any, at the site of the year’s final major. Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland last hosted the British Open in 1951 (it did host the 2012 Irish Open, with a number of current pros competing). But it’s not like Woods hasn’t conquered a links course before: He has hoisted the Claret Jug three times, twice at St. Andrews (his 2000 title there was by eight strokes, the biggest margin of victory at the British Open since 1913) and once at Royal Liverpool.
“It’s my favorite type of golf to play,” he said of links golf before last year’s tournament at Carnoustie (he finished tied for sixth). “I love playing here, this type of links golf . . . because it is creative. We’re not going to get the most perfect bounces. And I think that’s the fun challenge of it.”
What about 2020?
After Woods defends his title at next year’s Masters, the next grand slam event on the 2020 PGA Tour calendar will be the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. Woods won a WGC event there in 2005, beating John Daly in a playoff, and went 5-0 in match play there during the 2009 Presidents Cup.
Next year’s U.S. Open is at Winged Foot in suburban New York, a course at which Woods has found less success: He missed the cut at the 2006 U.S. Open and finished tied for 29th at the 1997 PGA Championship.
Finally, the 2020 British Open will be at Royal St. George’s in southeastern England. Woods tied for fourth in his lone British Open appearance there in 2003 (he missed the 2011 tournament because of a knee injury).
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