Tiger gets back in major form at the 1999 PGA Championship
Following his win at the 1997 Masters, Woods won twice more, including his very next start at the Byron Nelson and then again in July at the Western Open. However, he didn’t contend at the rest of the majors, faring a bit better in 1998 with top-10 finishes at all except the U.S. Open. Going through a full swing change, Woods won just two tournaments that season, one coming on the European Tour, and although he had taken over the top spot in the world rankings, people began to wonder if he would ever follow up that win at The Masters with another major. He finished 18th at Augusta in 1999, took solo third at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst and then finished in seventh at The Open Championship.
With the swing change now seemingly complete, Tiger, still just 23 years old, came to the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah with something to prove and got off to a decent start, shooting a 2-under 70, good for a tie for 10th and four shots behind 19-year-old Sergio Garcia. Garcia shot a 73 in the second round while Woods shot a 67 to get to third place, just two behind Jay Haas. A 68 on Saturday moved him into a tie for the lead at 11-under with future Masters champion Mike Weir, two clear of Garcia and future Open Championship winner Stewart Cink.
Now, let’s not pretend that Sunday’s final round was pretty. It wasn’t. But it set off a rivalry that would last for years, even if that rivalry turned out to be a bit one-sided. Playing a group apart, Tiger and Sergio battled down the stretch in the final major of the year and showed that the youth movement had come. After a birdie at the 13th, Garcia stared back at Tiger and then provided perhaps the most memorable shot of the tournament three holes later. After his tee shot cozied up to a tree at the par-4, Sergio took out a 6-iron and with his eyes closed slapped at the ball and ran after it like a kid running down the street after the ice cream truck. But it wasn’t enough.
This day proved that Tiger was more mature than his 23 years. After a hot start, Tiger had come back and came to the difficult par-3 17th clinging to a one-stroke lead. Playing 212 yards downhill with swirling winds, Woods hit his 6-iron over the green into the deep rough and left himself eight feet down the hill to save par. But in what would become one of his defining characteristics, he drained it and one ho-hum par later, Woods had secured his second major and the second leg of the Grand Slam.
Woods won four more times in 1999, giving him nine wins for the year. Heading into the year 2000, Tiger was on top of his game but nobody expected what would happen next.