PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — In what seemed like a formality from the first time he played in a PGA Tour event at the Greater Milwaukee Open in August 1996, or perhaps even before then, Tiger Woods was officially inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Wednesday.
Woods, 46, was elected to the Hall of Fame in March 2020 and was to be inducted the next year, but the ceremony was delayed because of COVID-19. The event was held at PGA Tour headquarters; the World Golf Hall of Fame is about 25 miles away in St. Augustine, Florida.
Woods was introduced at the ceremony by his 14-year-old daughter, Sam.
During his induction speech, Woods talked about being denied entrance to all-white country club clubhouses when he was a junior and his parents taking out a second mortgage on their house to pay for his travel expenses.
Woods said his late father, Earl, and mother, Kultida, “instilled in me this work ethic to fight for what I believe in, chase after my dreams, nothing’s ever going to be given to you, everything’s going to be earned.”
“If you don’t go out there and put in the work, you don’t go out and put in the effort, one, you’re not going to get the results, but two, and more importantly, you don’t deserve it,” Woods said. “You need to earn it.”
No one had a more profound impact on the game of golf than Woods, whose daring play and dominance attracted minorities to the sport and made it cool for younger generations to play. His popularity transcended sports and made him one of the richest and most famous people in the world.
Woods claimed his first of 15 major championships in his second year on the PGA Tour, when he won the 1997 Masters by a record-breaking 12 shots and set the scoring record at 18 under. He won the 2000 U.S. Open by 15 strokes and the 2000 Open Championship by eight. In 2001, Woods became the only player in history to win four consecutive majors — winning the last three majors in 2000 and then the 2001 Masters — a feat that became known as the “Tiger Slam.”
Woods won the Masters five times, the PGA Championship four times and the U.S. Open and Open Championship three times each. He was ranked No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for a record 683 weeks, tied a PGA Tour record with 82 victories and made a record 142 consecutive cuts.
After multiple knee and back surgeries, Woods won the 2019 Masters, his first major championship in 11 years.
“I know that golf is an individual sport,” Woods said. “We do things on our own a lot for hours on end, but in my case, I didn’t get here alone. I had unbelievable parents, mentors, friends, who allowed me and supported me in the toughest times, the darkest of times, and celebrated the highest of times.”
Woods might not be done yet. He hasn’t played in an official PGA Tour event since the Masters in November 2020. He suffered serious injuries to his right leg and right foot in a car wreck near Los Angeles on Feb. 23, 2021. He underwent multiple surgeries and said last month that he plans to return to competitive play, but just doesn’t know when.
When Woods and his family arrived at PGA Tour headquarters a few hours before Wednesday night’s ceremony, he wasn’t wearing a large black sleeve that was on his right leg in recent public appearances.
“Recently, Dad had to train harder than ever,” Sam Woods said during her introduction speech. “About a year ago you were stuck in a hospital bed at one of your ultimate lows and one of the scariest moments of your life and ours. We didn’t know if you’d come home with two legs or not. Now, not only are you about to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but you’re standing here on your own two feet.
“This is why you deserve this, because you’re a fighter. You’ve defied the odds every time, being the first Black and Asian golfer to win a major, being able to win your fifth Masters after multiple back surgeries and being able to walk just a few months after your crash.”
Several PGA Tour players, including Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau and Bubba Watson, attended the induction ceremony.
“I think the fact that he is a person of color and what that brings to the table in terms of golf being a more acceptable sport to play if you’re from a certain ethnic background, I think that’s left a huge mark on the game,” Rory McIlroy said this week. “I certainly think the game is more diverse because of him. And just his play in general and the excitement he created around the game of golf, he was, I’d say in his pomp in the early 2000s, he was probably the most famous man in the world.”
To put Woods’ impact on the PGA Tour in perspective, consider that when he first played in the Players Championship in 1997, the total purse was $3.5 million. The winner of this week’s tournament at TPC Sawgrass will receive $3.6 million of a $20 million purse.
“We, as his colleagues and peers, we’ve all benefited from that,” McIlroy said. “He made golf, professional golf at the highest level, a very, very attractive thing to be involved in. TV paid more. Sponsors paid more. And then all of a sudden, his peers and colleagues and other players were getting paid more because of that.”
Former LPGA star Susie Maxwell Berning, a three-time winner of the U.S. Women’s Open; former PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem; and Marion Hollins, the 1921 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion and the first female golf course developer were also inducted.