(Editor's note: This is part of a series in which GolfChannel.com staff reveal their favorite or personal moments of 2014.)
By: SEAN STEINEMANN
Just how focused is Tiger on catching Jack? You decide.
This story begins on the Sunday prior to the PGA Championship, during the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone. Tiger Woods injured his back while hitting a fairway bunker shot on the second hole at Firestone and withdrew after nine holes. With just days until the final major of the season, the golf world wondered if Woods would be able to compete at Valhalla, where he won in an epic playoff over Bob May in 2000.
Having already missed the Masters and U.S. Open, and finishing five shots behind 64-year-old Tom Watson at the British Open, that 15th major looked more and more elusive with every passing minute.
While there was no decision excepted from Woods and his ailing back until Tuesday, at the earliest, our first hint that he might give it a go came when his caddie, Joe LaCava, was spotted charting the greens early Monday morning. Why take the time if you know your guy is out?
As Tuesday was coming to a close, so too was the deadline to register for the 96th PGA and there was still no word from the Woods camp. Then, just before "Live From" was set to air, we received word that Tiger had requested an extension to register for the event. Hint No. 2 that he was going to play.
Business went on as usual on Wednesday, with the long-drive competition making a comeback and the world’s No. 1 player, Rory McIlroy, out for an early practice round. Just as Rory was finishing (and walking to the 10th tee just to take part in the long-drive competition) word surfaced that Tiger was expected to arrive and play a practice round in the early afternoon. Instantly the mood, the feel and the buzz around the event all changed.
Within 10 minutes, a large media scrum assembled around his empty parking space in the past champions' lot.
The media was so locked in to Tiger’s arrival, so oblivious to everything else going on, that the eventual winner of the event - and arguably the hottest athlete on the planet – walked out of the clubhouse, claret jug in hand. Not a single member of the media noticed (except for Golf Channel, of course):
As soon as Tiger put his Mercedes in park and exited the vehicle, a shockwave of electricity was sent across the property.
He wasted little time getting to work, and when he made it to the range there were people 40-50 deep just to watch him warm up. One can only imagine it was the same for Babe Ruth taking batting practice back in the day.
There was a deafening silence as Tiger put his peg into the ground, so much uncertainty as to what to except from his golf and from his health. He then proceeded to pipe a small draw down the center of the fairway. In that moment, one thought, maybe, just maybe, there was a chance he could pull it off. He is Tiger Woods, after all.
Woods ended up missing the cut, pulling out of the Ryder Cup, firing Sean Foley and hanging it up until December to focus on healing his back. Now, more than ever, the question that was once 'When will Tiger catch Jack?' has become 'Will Tiger catch Jack?' and it looks less and less likely with each passing major.
One thing is certain, however: When Woods (good, bad or ugly) tees it up in his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major victories, the golf world comes to a screeching halt to watch.