Tiger Woods' breakthrough major moment? It's not what you'd expect

July 15, 2020

By the summer of 1996, one would think Tiger Woods knew he was good enough to turn professional. He had won five straight USGA national championships—three U.S. Junior Amateurs (1991-93) and two U.S. Amateurs (1994-95)— the 1994 NCAA individual title and finished as low amateur at the 1995 Masters.

Still, Woods wasn’t quite sure he was ready to make the jump. He felt he hadn’t performed up to his standards in a PGA Tour event and had made the cut in just four of the 13 professional events he’d played, with no finish better than T-41.

That all changed at the 1996 British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s. After an opening-round 75, Woods fired a five-under 66 on Friday and was the only amateur to make the cut. A solid weekend of back-to-back 70s saw him finish T-22, his best finish in a pro event and all the evidence he needed that he was ready to make the jump.

“The way I played that (Friday), I had never done that in a Tour event, let alone a major championship,” Woods said in the third episode of our Tiger Vault series. “They had all been nothing but failures.

“I felt like that British Open set me up to have that run I did later that summer.”

Woods would go on to win his third straight U.S. Amateur shortly thereafter, then turned professional in August. We all know the rest.

For Woods’ full comments on his love for links golf and that fateful week, watch the embedded video.