Tiger Woods enters his 39th year as the world’s top-ranked golfer, the biggest earner in sports and PGA Tour player of the year for 2013, and still four titles short of Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major championships.
Woods, who celebrated his 38th birthday on Monday, showed no signs, during a stellar ’13 season, that he was entering his dotage, and he had five wins and the more than $78 million in prize money, endorsement moolah, and lucrative appearance fees to go with them. Indeed, Forbes has estimated that Tiger’s earnings topped those of a slew of big-time athletes, including Roger Federer, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers.
To put Woods’ earnings in perspective, Phil Mickelson, who claimed his first Claret Jug in July, was the only other golfer among the top-10 sports moneymakers, and Lefty pocketed about $49.5 million in purses and sponsorship deals -- some $28.5 million less than the 79-time PGA Tour winner.
With Tiger doing pretty well on and off the course, the golfer termed "the greatest player in the history of the game" by reigning U.S. Open champ Justin Rose faces a couple of perennial questions as he makes the turn toward the big 4-0. Mainly, if/when will he finally clinch that evasive 15th major trophy, and can he overtake Nicklaus’ mark?
Woods has done the math and, despite the fact that he’s gone major-less since the 2008 U.S. Open, he still likes his chances of overtaking Jack’s place in history in 2014. After all, as Tiger has noted often, Nicklaus was 46 when he captured his final major, and golf does not exact the same toll on its participants as other athletic endeavors, in which Woods would be an old man.
"Every other sport you’re done at my age, or younger. You know, in golf you can still win golf tournaments in your 50s, and guys have done it," Woods told Sky Sports earlier this month. "Probably the more difficult thing is that you can still finish top 10, top 5s, but you’re probably just not quite as efficient as you need to be to win golf tournaments. But you can still be there."
Woods, despite his advancing age, plans to chip away at the annals of history beginning as early as April in Augusta, where he has triumphed four times.
"As far as the major championships, I've won at every one except for Pinehurst [site of the U.S. Open in June], and I'm trending in the right way. I've finished third [at the Open in 1999], second . You get the picture, right?" he quipped ahead of the recent Northwestern Mutual World Challenge.
"I'm looking forward to the major championship venues this year," said Tiger, who was victorious at this year’s PGA Championship track, Valhalla, in 2000, and at the Open Championship’s Hoylake course in 2006. "They have set up well for me over the years and I look forward to it.
So, happy birthday, Tiger Woods. In honor of your day, here’s a look back at the year that was (sans those four high-profile penalties):