By DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Already among the greatest on the golf course, Tiger Woods will join them in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Woods was elected Wednesday to be part of the 2021 induction class, a decision with as much suspense as a tap-in. Woods shares the PGA Tour record with 82 career victories, and his 15 majors are second only to Jack Nicklaus. He has 11 other victories in tours around the world, including Europe, Japan, Asia and Australia.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan called Woods with the news. He is not at The Players Championship this week because Woods says his back was not quite ready.
“I am both honored and humbled to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame,” Woods said in a statement. “This past year has been such an incredible journey and the support I’ve received from my family, friends and fans has been overwhelming. This achievement is the ultimate recognition to never give up and keep chasing.”
Woods was a lock before he returned from reconstructive knee surgery after winning the 2008 U.S. Open for his 14th major, and before he returned from a fourth back surgery to win his 15th major last year at the Masters.
No other player has won at rate like the 44-year-old Woods.
The first to win the U.S. Amateur three straight times, Woods already had two victories in seven starts on tour. He set or tied 20 records at the Masters when he won by 12 shots in 1997 at age 21. By the time he turned 30, he already had 46 victories on the PGA Tour and 10 majors.
He remains the only player to hold all four professional majors at the same time.
Off the course, he was a catalyst for unprecedented growth, and he was largely responsible for television network deals that set prize money soaring.
“Tiger has done more for the game of golf than anyone ever thought possible, and his historic feats on the course are only one aspect of his impact,” Monahan said. “His imprint on the game is immeasurable, and his unparalleled legacy is one we look forward to celebrating .”
The Hall of Fame selection process was changed last year to lower the age to 45 during the induction year. It had been 50, and it was 40 when the World Golf Hall of Fame began in 1998 in St. Augustine. Among his peers, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh already are in the Hall of Fame.
A subcommittee of media, Hall of Fame members and golf administrators whittled the ballot to 10 finalists — four male players, four female players and two contributors. The 20-member selection committee — nine from the media. seven administrators and four Hall of Fame members — voted Wednesday, with 75% required for election.
The induction class has a maximum of four members, with others to be announced later. Still to be determined is the date and location for induction.
Other finalists were Johnny Farrell, Padraig Harrington and Tom Weiskopf from the male competitor category; Susie Maxwell Berning, Beverly Hanson, Sandra Palmer and Dottie Pepper from the female competitor category; and Tim Finchem and Marion Hollins from the contributor category.