Tiger Woods redefines greatness at the 2013 PGA Championship

Stuart Franklin

The Tiger Woods of old used to measure success by the number of major trophies he had amassed. Has an older Tiger Woods lowered the bar?

Tiger Woods, by the standards of any other golfer, alive or dead, has had a tremendous year.

The world No. 1 reclaimed his front-running status atop the world golf rankings and, thanks to a league-leading five PGA Tour wins (with a major and four FedEx Cup playoffs still pending this year), cemented his position as the best golfer on the planet.

Fresh from a stunning seven-shot drubbing of the field at Firestone last week, Woods also has a humongous lead in the FedEx Cup standings, owns the money list, and boasts the lowest scoring average among his heavy-hitting peers, at 68.608. For good measure, he’s had two top-10 finishes in three grand slam events in 2013 as well (an elbow injury flared up at the U.S. Open, where he tied for 32nd).

Not a bad season so far, eh, Tiger?

"I think it's been a great year so far for me, winning five times, and you look at the quality of tournaments I've won, a Players [Championship] and two World Golf Championships in there," Woods told reporters Tuesday ahead of this week’s final major, the PGA Championship, at Oak Hill Country Club.

"That's pretty good," Woods, circa 2013, summed up.

Those are the precise words the 31-year-old Tiger Woods employed when he showed up six years ago at the final major of the season with four 2007 tour blue ribbons but an 0-for-3 record at the Masters, U.S. Open, and Open Championship. Except Eldrick the younger added, "But not great."

"I just think the major championships are valued that highly, and I've come close, just haven't got it done yet," said Woods, who had yet to withstand a five-year span without kissing a single major trophy. "The whole idea is to win. That's it."

The Tiger of yore might scoff at his elder for seemingly lowering his sights, but much -- injuries, swing changes, sex scandal, divorce -- has happened in the intervening years that would cause an attitude adjustment in anyone. Indeed, while Woods staunchly contended back in the day that he entered tourneys to win, period, Tuesday he noted that at least he’s been in the hunt a bunch of times.

Let the record show that Woods, whose goal since picking up a golf club has been to overtake Jack Nicklaus' mark of 18 major championships, has nine top-10 finishes in his previous 17 majors, including a T4 at the Masters in April and a T6 at Muirfield two weeks ago.

"I’ve had, certainly, my share of chances to win," Woods said. "I’ve had my opportunities there on the back nine on those -- probably half of those Sundays for the last five years where I’ve had a chance, and just haven’t won it. Frustrating part is I’ve been there, and didn’t win.

"The key is to keep giving myself chances," added Woods, who has recently started out strong only to falter on the weekends, "and eventually I’ll start getting them."

Before he can get "them," though, he has to claim "it" -- that increasingly elusive No. 15, which Woods acknowledged has been the toughest so far to corral.

"It kind of seems that way," said Woods, who ended up winning the 2007 PGA Championship for his 13th major victory and went on to win four additional tour contests that season. "It’s been probably the longest spell that I’ve had since I hadn’t won a major championship. I came out here very early and got my first one back in ’97."

We’ll know Sunday night (if not before) whether Woods, who’s been stuck on 14 since grinding out that 2008 U.S. Open W, can finally cadge his 15th in ’13.

More golf from SB Nation:

Predictions for Tiger and Phil at Oak Hill

After Tiger and Phil, who's next in USA Golf? | Phil wants Tiger on Sunday

Crazed autograph seekers scare away Tiger

Tiger Woods and an impossible standard

• GIFS Casual Phil and his backpack full of Claret Jug | The best Tiger birdie celebration

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