Tiger Woods alternative history: Here's who could have won in each of his 79 PGA Tour victories

By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
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Series: PGA Tour

Published: Sunday, November 26, 2017 | 1:37 p.m.

Close your eyes and imagine this with me for a minute: After making his PGA Tour debut at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open (GMO) and finishing in a tie for 60th, then 20-year-old Tiger Woods decides that professional golf just isn't for him.

Impossible to wrap your head around it, right?

Four days before teeing off in the GMO, Woods won his third consecutive U.S. Amateur Championship in stunning fashion over Steve Scott at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Oregon and quickly had his famous, "Hello, world," presser ahead of his first PGA Tour start.

However, with all the expectations placed on who many consider today to be the best to ever play the game, Woods decides, "You know what? I'm not sure I'm cut out for this life as a professional golfer."

The pressure can be suffocating. How many can't-miss amateur stars actually pan out when they hit the pro ranks?

RELATED: A history of Tiger comebacks | Lessons learned from Tiger's '97 Masters book

What would the "alternative history" look like on the PGA Tour if Woods hung up the sticks after that GMO, where he finished 12 shots behind winner Loren Roberts?

What if, five starts after his debut, Woods hadn't defeated Davis Love III in a playoff at the Las Vegas Invitational for the first of his 79 PGA Tour wins to date, which is second all-time to Sam Snead's record of 82.

Here, assuming the leaderboards in all 79 of those events remained the same with the exception of Woods, we look at how the paths -- and win totals -- would have changed for a lot of players.

Some fun facts from the research:

- In 76 stroke-play tournament victories (don't forget, he won three Match Play Championships), Woods finished a combined 224 strokes ahead of the next closest finishers.

- 75 players total -- several multiple times -- finished second or tied for second in Woods' 79 PGA Tour wins. Of those 75 players, 29 are major winners.

- No player was a runner-up to Woods more than Ernie Els. The Big Easy was a runner up to Tiger on five occasions.

- Seven players -- Sergio Garcia (1999 PGA Championship), Miguel Angel Jimenez (2000 U.S Open), Thomas Bjorn (2000 Open Championship), Bob May (PGA Championship), Chris DiMarco (2005 Masters and 2006 Open Championship), Colin Montgomerie (2005 Open Championship) and Rocco Mediate (2008 U.S. Open) -- would/could be major champions.

- Rather than one major victory (1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach) and three runner-up finishes in the Masters, Tom Kite would be a two-time major champ. In the five U.S. Opens contested at Pebble, Kite and 2010 winner, Graeme McDowell, are the only two champions who haven't also won a Masters. The other Pebble Beach U.S. Open champs -- Tiger Woods (2000); Tom Watson (1982) and Jack Nicklaus (1972) -- all have two or more Masters green jackets to their credit.

- Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk have all been runner up to Woods on four occasions each.

- Chris DiMarco's three runner-up finishes to Woods were in three huge events -- the 2005 Masters; 2006 Open Championship and the World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational.

- John Daly would have a World Golf Championships win – the 2005 American Express Championship, where he lost to Woods on the second hole of a playoff at Harding Park – to go along with his two majors.

- Nine players -- Lee Rinker, Phillip Price, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Thomas Bjorn, Bob May, Esteban Toledo, Colin Montgomerie, Roland Thatcher, Josh Teater -- would/could be PGA Tour winners. That "could" part is because they may have been in a playoff with someone else.

- Shaun Micheel would be a two-time PGA Champion (won in 2003; finished second to Woods in 2006).

In chronological order, here's the "alternative history" look at those 79 official events without Woods.

1996: Two victories

1. Las Vegas Invitational
Alternate winner:
Davis Love III
Woods margin of victory: Won in playoff

2. Walt Disney World/Oldsmobile Classic
Alternate winner:
Payne Stewart
Woods margin of victory: 1

1997: Four victories

3. Mercedes Championships
Alternate winner:
Tom Lehman
Woods margin of victory: Won in playoff

4. Masters
Alternate winner: 
Tom Kite
Woods margin of victory: 12

5. GTE Byron Nelson Golf Classic
Alternate winner:
Lee Rinker 
Woods margin of victory: 2

6. Motorola Western Open
Alternate winner:
Frank Nobilo
Woods margin of victory: 3

1998: One victory

7. BellSouth Classic
Alternate winner:
Jay Don Blake
Woods margin of victory: 1

1999: Eight victories

8. Buick Invitational
Alternate winner:
Billy Ray Brown
Woods margin of victory: 2

9. Memorial Tournament
Alternate winner:
Vijay Singh
Woods margin of victory: 2

10. Motorola Western Open
Alternate winner:
Mike Weir
Woods margin of victory: 3

11. PGA Championship
Alternate winner:
Sergio Garcia
Woods margin of victory: 1

12. World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational
Alternate winner:
Phil Mickelson
Woods margin of victory: 1

13. National Car Rental Golf Classic/Disney
Alternate winner:
Ernie Els
Woods margin of victory: 1

14. THE TOUR Championship
Alternate winner:
Davis Love III
Woods margin of victory: 4

15. World Golf Championships-American Express Championship
Alternate winner:
Miguel Angel Jimenez
Woods margin of victory: Won in playoff

2000: Nine victories

16. Mercedes Championships
Alternate winner:
Ernie Els
Woods margin of victory: Won in playoff

17. AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
Alternate winner:
Vijay Singh or Matt Gogel in a playoff
Woods margin of victory: 2

18. Bay Hill Invitational
Alternate winner:
Davis Love III
Woods margin of victory: 4

19. Memorial Tournament
Alternate winner:
Ernie Els or Justin Leonard in a playoff
Woods margin of victory: 5

20. U.S. Open
Alternate winner:
Miguel Angel Jimenez or Ernie Els in an 18-hole Monday playoff
Woods margin of victory: 15
Woods destroyed the field in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He was the only player to finish 72 holes under par -- 12 under to be exact -- which was 15 shots clear of runners up Jimenez and Els.

21. Open Championship
Alternate winner:
Thomas Bjorn or Ernie Els in a playoff
Woods margin of victory: 8

22. PGA Championship
Alternate winner:
Bob May (by five strokes over Thomas Bjorn)
Woods margin of victory: Won in a playoff

23. World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational
Alternate winner:
Justin Leonard or Phillip Price in a playoff
Woods margin of victory: 11

24. Bell Canadian Open
Alternate winner:
Grant Waite
Woods margin of victory: 1

2001: Five victories

25. Bay Hill Invitational
Alternate winner:
Phil Mickelson
Woods margin of victory: 1

26. Players Championship
Alternate winner:
Vijay Singh
Woods margin of victory: 1

27. Masters
Alternate winner:
David Duval
Woods margin of victory: 2
This victory for Woods marked his fourth consecutive major -- the "Tiger Slam."

28. Memorial Tournament
Winner:
Sergio Garcia or Paul Azinger in a playoff

29. World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational
Alternate winner:
Jim Furyk
Woods margin of victory: Won in a playoff

2002: Five victories

30. Bay Hill Invitational presented by Cooper Tires
Alternate winner:
Michael Campbell
Woods margin of victory: 4

31. Masters
Alternate winner:
Retief Goosen
Woods margin of victory: 3

32. U.S. Open
Alternate winner:
Phil Mickelson
Woods margin of victory: 3

33. 2002 Buick Open
Alternate winner:
Fred Funk, Brian Gay, Mark O'Meara or Esteban Toldeo in a four-way playoff
Woods margin of victory: 4

34. World Golf Championships-American Express Championship
Alternate winner:
Retief Goosen
Woods margin of victory: 1

2003: Five victories

35. Buick Invitational
Alternate winner:
Carl Pettersson
Woods margin of victory: 4

36. World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship
Alternate winner:
David Toms*
Woods margin of victory: 2&1

37. Bay Hill Invitational presented by Cooper Tires
Alternate winner:
Stewart Cink, Brad Faxon, Kenny Perry or Kirk Triplett in a playoff
Woods margin of victory: 11

38. 100th Western Open presented by Golf Digest
Alternate winner:
Rich Beem
Woods margin of victory: 5

39. World Golf Championships-American Express Championship
Alternate winner:
Stuart Appleby, Tim Herron or Vijay Singh in a playoff
Woods margin of victory: 2

2004: One victory

40. World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship
Alternate winner:
Davis Love III*
Woods margin of victory: 3&2

2005: Six victories

41. Buick Invitational
Alternate winner:
Luke Donald, Charles Howell III or Tom Lehman in a playoff
Woods margin of victory: 3

42. Ford Championship at Doral
Alternate winner:
Phil Mickelson
Woods margin of victory: 1

43. Masters
Alternate winner:
Chris DiMarco
Woods margin of victory: 3

44. Open Championship
Alternate winner:
Colin Montgomerie
Woods margin of victory: 5
Can you imagine an Open Championship win for a native Scot -- Montgomerie, especially -- at the Home of Golf?

45. World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational
Alternate winner:
Chris DiMarco
Woods margin of victory: 1

46. World Golf Championships-American Express Championship
Alternate winner:
John Daly
Woods margin of victory: Won in a playoff

2006: Eight victories

47. Buick Invitational
Alternate winner:
Nathan Green or Jose Maria Olazabal in a playoff
Woods margin of victory: Won in a playoff

48. Ford Championship at Doral
Alternate winner:
David Toms or Camilo Villegas
Woods margin of victory: Won in a playoff

49. Open Championship
Alternate winner:
Chris DiMarco
Woods margin of victory: 3

50. Buick Open
Alternate winner: J
im Furyk
Woods margin of victory: 3

51. PGA Championship
Alternate winner:
Shaun Micheel
Woods margin of victory: 5

52. World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational
Alternate winner:
Stewart Cink
Woods margin of victory: Won in playoff

53. Deutsche Bank Championship
Alternate winner:
Vijay Singh
Woods margin of victory: 2

54. World Golf Championships-American Express Championship
Alternate winner:
Padraig Harrington or Ian Poulter in a playoff
Woods margin of victory: 1

2007: Seven victories

55. Buick Invitational
Alternate winner:
Charles Howell III
Woods margin of victory: 2

56. WGC-CA Championship
Alternate winner:
Brett Wetterich
Woods margin of victory: 2

57. Wachovia Championship
Alternate winner:
Steve Stricker
Woods margin of victory: 2

58. World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational
Alternate winner:
Justin Rose or Rory Sabbatini in a playoff
Woods margin of victory: 8

59. PGA Championship
Alternate winner:
Woody Austin
Woods margin of victory: 2

60. BMW Championship
Alternate winner:
Aaron Baddeley
Woods margin of victory: 2

61. THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola
Alternate winner:
Mark Calcavecchia or Zach Johnson in a playoff
Woods margin of victory: 8

2008: Four victories

62. Buick Invitational
Winner:
Ryuji Imada
Woods margin of victory: 8

63. World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship
Winner:
Stewart Cink*
Woods margin of victory: 8 and 7

64. Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard
Winner:
Bart Bryant
Woods margin of victory: 1

65. U.S. Open
Winner:
Rocco Mediate
Woods margin of victory: Playoff win

2009: Six victories

66. Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard
Alternate winner:
Sean O'Hair
Woods margin of victory: 1

67. the Memorial Tournament
Alternate winner:
Jim Furyk
Woods margin of victory: 1

68. AT&T National
Alternate winner:
Hunter Mahan
Woods margin of victory: 1

69. Buick Open
Alternate winner:
Greg Chalmers, John Senden or Roland Thatcher in a playoff
Woods margin of victory: 3

70. World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational
Alternate winner:
Robert Allenby or Padraig Harrington in a playoff
Woods margin of victory: 4

71. BMW Championship
Alternate winner:
Jim Furyk or Marc Leishman in a playoff
Woods margin of victory: 8

2012: Three victories

72. Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard
Alternate winner: Graeme McDowell
Woods margin of victory: 5

73. the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance
Alternate winner:
Rory Sabbatini or Andres Romero in a playoff
Woods margin of victory: 2

74. AT&T National
Alternate winner:
Bo Van Pelt
Woods margin of victory: 2

2013: Five victories

75. Farmers Insurance Open
Alternate winner:
Brandt Snedeker or Josh Teater in a playoff
Woods margin of victory: 4

76. World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship
Alternate winner:
Steve Stricker
Woods margin of victory: 2

77. Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard
Alternate winner:
Justin Rose
Woods margin of victory: 2

78. THE PLAYERS Championship
Alternate winner:
David Lingmerth, Jeff Maggert or Kevin Streelman in a playoff
Woods margin of victory: 2

79. World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational
Alternate winner:
Keegan Bradley or Henrik Stenson in a playoff
Woods margin of victory: 7

*Editor's Note: In the event of a match play championship, we awarded the victory to the player who finished runner up to Woods in the final for the purposes of our "altered history." Without Woods in those fields, the brackets obviously would have been different. 

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.