Tiger's Road Back To No. 1
Revisiting Tiger Woods' 877-day journey back to the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking
March 24, 2013
Bumped From The Top
For the first time since March of 2005, Woods is replaced as the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Rankings in October 2010. Lee Westwood ends a record-long streak of 281 weeks on top of the ranking for Tiger, who had broken his previous mark of 264 weeks set from 1999-2004. Martin Kaymer and finally Luke Donald would also hold the top spot during the 2011 season, as Woods plummeted out of the top 50.
Glimmer of Hope
Woods had viewers thinking they were witnessing history as he went out in 31 in the final round of the 2011 Masters, highlighted by this eagle on No. 8. But after taking the lead on a Sunday for the first time since his comeback, Tiger stalled on the back nine with a disappointing 36 that left him T-4 at Augusta National for a second straight year. His next nine holes, about a month later at the Players, were even worse. Woods opened with a six-over 42 before withdrawing with knee and Achilles injuries.
In July 2011, Woods announces on his website that he has ended his player-caddie relationship with Steve Williamsafter capturing 13 major championships in their 12-plus years together. The move comes shortly after Williams caddied for Adam Scott at three events while Woods was sidelined due to injury. Williams would get his first win on Scott's bag at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational later that summer. In a post-round interview, he called it the "best week of my life," indicating there was still plenty of tension between the caddie and his former boss. Childhood Bryon Bell becomes Tiger's interim caddie before he settles on Joe LaCava -- Dustin Johnson's bag man, who previously worked for Fred Couples -- as a permanent replacement.
Return From Injury
After a three-month layoff due to knee and Achilles injuries that caused him to miss both the U.S. and British Opens, Woods returns at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August 2011 announcing he's fully healed. At a tournament where he's won seven times, he appears to have a bounce in his step during an enjoyable opening round with friend Darren Clarke. While Woods isn't particularly sharp with his ball-striking, some great putting after switching back to his old Scotty Cameron gets him around Firestone in two-under 68. But he struggles enough on the greens the next two days to put his Nike Method in the bag for the final round. He shoots 70 on Sunday to finish T-37 in a field of 76.
Five holes into the 2011 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, Tiger had people thinking that a win in one of golf's biggest events could be close. Three early birdies briefly gave him a share of the lead, but then the wheels fell off. He would play the next 13 holes in 10 over and wind up with a 77. After a 73 on Day 2, Woods went home before the weekend at a major for only the third time in his illustrious career, missing the cut by a whopping six shots.
A Low Point
With a T-30 at the Frys.com Open in October 2011, Woods earns zero world ranking points and falls to No. 52. By the time he teed it up at his next event, he had dropped even lower, to 58th.
Woods returned Down Under -- the site of his last win in 2009 -- and took the 36-hole lead at the 2011 Australian Open with rounds of 68 and 67. But continuing the trend of not being able to put four rounds together, Woods stumbled to a 75 on Day 3. His closing 67 wasn't enough to end a two-year losing streak, however, it did give him a solo third-place finish -- his best result since his last victory.
Finally, A Win
After a two year drought, Woods finally returns to the winner's circle at the 2011 Chevron World Challenge in a thrilling fashion reminiscent of his glory days. Trailing Zach Johnson by one shot, Woods birdied the final two holes to claim the title and begin his climb back up the world rankings. Despite the title not counting as an official PGA Tour victory, Woods ends 2011 by moving up 31 spots to No. 21 in the world.
Woods looks like he'll begin 2012 the way he ended 2011 when he grabs a share of the 54-hole lead in Abu Dhabi. But after making two bogeys total the first three days, he makes three on Sunday on his way to an even-par 72. That allows unheralded playing partner Robert Rock to top him, as Woods slips back to T-3.
In his first PGA Tour event of the 2012 season, the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Woods once again puts himself in position to win. But again, he struggles on a Sunday, this time shooting a 75 to fall back to T-15. What makes the day more painful for Woods is having to watch Phil Mickelson, playing alongside him, fire a flawless 64 to win his 40th PGA Tour title.
Playing in the Honda Classic for the first time, Woods puts his trend of Sunday troubles behind him with a 62 that includes and eagle on the final hole (left). Unfortunately for Tiger, his problems came during the early portion of the week and despite recording the lowest final-round score of his professional career, it's not enough to catch 54-hole leader Rory McIlroy. However, it does spark excitement that perhaps is ready to challenge his heir apparent and the sport's new No. 1 player.
For three days, an inconsistent putter plagues Woods at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. On Sunday, though, things get much worse for the 14-time major champ. Noticeably limping on the front nine, he changes his shoes for the back, but it doesn't make a difference. After hitting his drive on the 12th causes a grimace (left), he decides he's had enough and walks to the parking lot. Woods later releases a statement that he suffered a strained left Achilles tendon. It marks the third time since returning from his scandal that he's had to withdraw from a tournament due to an injury and it leaves his status for the Masters in question.
Just two weeks after re-injuring his Achilles' tendon and withdrawing late in the final round at Doral, Woods shows he is indeed ready to win again. Grabbing a share of the lead with a second-round 65, Woods looks like the Tiger of old, playing steady golf and extending his lead throughout the weekend. The end result is a five-shot victory for his first win on the PGA Tour in 924 days. With the win, Woods also jumped to No. 6 in the Official World Golf Ranking, putting him back in the top 10 for the first time since the previous May.
Not There Yet
Fresh off his five-shot win at Bay Hill, Woods entered the 2012 Masters as the odds-on favorite to win. Instead, he put forth his worst performance as a pro ever at Augusta National -- both in score and behavior. The low point came Friday afternoon, when on his way to a 75, Woods kicked his 9-iron on the 16th tee(left) after dumping a shot into the front bunker. With a T-40 finish, Woods' major championship drought grew to four years.
Coming off the worst three-tournament stretch of his professional career -- T-40s at the Masters and the Players and a missed cut at Quail Hollow -- Woods hangs around the leader board all week before pouncing late in the 2012 Memorial. He birdies three of the last four holes, including holing an improbable flop shoton No. 16 (left) to win his fifth Memorial Tournament. Fittingly, at Jack Nicklaus' annual event, he ties the "Golden Bear" on the all-time PGA Tour wins list with his 73rd career victory and moves to No. 4 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Unable To Close
Woods' Memorial momentum carries over for the first two rounds of the U.S. Open, as he grabs a share of the 36-hole lead at Olympic Club. But he stumbles on the weekend with rounds of 75 and 73, including playing one nine-hole stretch at eight-over par. A disappointing T-21 makes it a full four years since his last major win at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
Woods closes with a two-under 69 on a tough Congressional course to hold off Bo Van Pelt by two shots. He shows a flair for the dramaticin winning his PGA Tour-leading third event of 2012 -- the 74th of his career to pass Jack Nicklaus on the all-time list -- and staking his claim as the best player in the world.
For a third straight major, Woods puts himself in contention through 36 holes only to stall on the weekend. This time, a 74-72 finish in the 2012 PGA at Kiawah drops him to a T-11, 11 shots behind Rory McIlroy, who Woods led heading into Saturday's third round. Despite three regular PGA Tour titles, Woods finishes 2012 having not broken par on the weekend at any of the four majors and extends his winless drought at golf's biggest events. Still, his improved play at the majors, especially a T-3 at the British Open, moves him back to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Startng 2013 Strong
With a Monday finish, Woods wins his first PGA Tour event of 2013. It's his eighth win at Torrey Pines, including his 2008 U.S. Open title. Woods builds an eight-shot lead at one point during the final round and winds up winning by four.
Woods' wire-to-wire win at the WGC-Cadillac Championship is his seventh career victory at Doral. His second early-season PGA Tour title closes the gap even more between him and a struggling World No. 1 Rory McIlroy.
Back To No. 1
Two weeks after winning at Doral, Woods wins for an eighth time at Bay Hill, holding off Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler in a Monday finish. He ties Sam Snead for the most wins ever in a single tour event. The 77th PGA Tour title of Tiger's career also completes his return to No. 1 in the world.