Happy birthday, Tiger Woods! The 15-time major winner is officially 45 years old today.
That means a few things, of course. For one, we are nearly 24 years removed from Woods’ big splash on the global scene when he won the Masters at 21 years old. It also means he is just five years away from the big five-oh. Fifty. Will he play on the Champions Tour like longtime rival Phil Mickelson? No one knows, even Woods himself. Theoretically, time is running out to appreciate the greatest golfer of all-time.
For now, we can just set reasonable goals for Woods as he continues to age. Can he still win? Of course he can. Can he win majors? You’d be silly to promise otherwise. But over the next five years what will come of Woods? The goals below are a fair starting point.
1. 12 to 15 events per year
This is the secret number, folks. Tiger has long played this many tournaments, both when he was playing well and when he wasn’t. In the last 24 months, he’s only played in 24 sanctioned tournaments. So 12 to 15 is a reasonable goal. If he reaches this threshold, it means a couple different things; mainly that he’s not injured. No surgery is needed for an ankle or a knee or whatever. That number of events means he’s likely not skipping events, either. He’ll play Arnie’s event and the Players in the run-up to the Masters. We didn’t have that happening in March, 2020.
2. Sustained flashes of brilliance
We won’t be so ignorant to think that Woods will play like the greatest golfer of all-time forever. But we know there’s still some brilliance within him. We saw it in one-round spurts in 2020, the trickiest year in memory. That third-round 69 at Torrey Pines in January that brought him into contention? That was nice. So was his opening 68 at Augusta in the fall.
But most of Woods’ 2020 was difficult to take seriously. Oh, a first round 68? How will he give it back in the second round? The most devout Tiger fans don’t want to hear it, but he did not follow up good rounds with good rounds this year. It didn’t happen. When Woods carded two rounds in the 60s at the PGA Championship, it happened on Thursday and Sunday, with not-so-great golf in-between. He doesn’t have 63s and 64s in the bag anymore, so consecutive 68s are where his contention begins.
3. Tell it all within the memoir (or at least most of it)
Much has been written about Woods since his incredible comeback and 15th major win. Even more of his life story is set to be revealed in a two-part HBO Documentary coming in the next three weeks. But even more tantalizing, to an extent, is the forthcoming memoir Woods is writing titled Back.
Woods has reportedly teamed up with J.R. Moehringer, the ghost writer for similar books on Andre Agassi and Phil Knight. As our senior writer Michael Bamberger wrote already, a revealing Woods would benefit us all, even Tiger himself. We can only hope. The release date has yet to be announced.
4. Win No. 16 (and maybe 16.5, too)
We all know that the count Woods cares about most is major championship victories. We want one more. Sixteen would be so much fun. Especially if it happened somewhere other than Augusta National. Sure, beggars can’t be choosers, but if Woods could somehow contend at St. Andrews in 2022? Or at Torrey Pines in 2021? Would Pinehurst be too difficult for a 48-year-old Woods in 2024? Perhaps, but the winning score will likely be right around par. Who’s betting against Mr. Grit?
What would really be great is if we just get Woods to deliver major no. 15.5, and if he wins one, major 16.5, too. There is no greater rush than the back nine when he’s in contention. Major no. 14.5 was at Bellerive against Koepka, or perhaps at Carnoustie against Molinari, when he didn’t get the job done but damnit, he was close. Of course those finishes don’t hit quite the same as a major victory, but they’re worth something. We learn something from them. A couple more of those would be really impressive, too.
5. Keep being (and showing himself as) a great father
Woods potentially earned more fans from his week playing golf with his son at the PNC Championship than he did winning the 2019 Masters. Seriously! More was made of Woods’ fatherly actions — hugging Charlie after his first eagle, protecting his son from rampant questions, smiles galore — than anyone needed, but it was a warm, cuddly story during a horrible, horrible year. We don’t often get that from Tiger.
The more we see this familial, fatherly side of Woods the more we can appreciate the growth he’s made as a human in his very public lifetime, and the more we can aspire to be like him, too. Not everything he has done in his life is worth repeating, but passing the game on well as he seems to be doing is definitely one of them.