CHIBA (Japan) • Tiger Woods was six years old the first time he crossed paths with Sam Snead, who played a two-hole exhibition in Southern California with the boy and said afterwards: "If the kid doesn't burn out, he'll be the greatest golfer the world has ever seen."
Thirty-seven years later, Woods again found himself in Snead's company.
At the inaugural Zozo Championship in Chiba, Japan, Woods chased down Snead, completing a wire-to-wire win yesterday for his 82nd tour victory to pull even with Snead, the PGA Tour's career titles leader. Snead was 52 years old when he recorded his final tour victory in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1965 - nine years older than Woods' current age.
This was Woods' 359th start, which means he has won roughly one-quarter of his tour events.
The site of the American's latest milestone was itself a nod to his eminence. Narashino Country Club was the first Japanese course to host a PGA Tour event as the United States-based circuit continues to spread into far-flung territories seeded by Woods' renown.
His worldwide reach was borne out in the huge crowds - at times 20 fans or more deep - that turned out to catch a glimpse of him. His global influence was also evident in the form of his main challenger, Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, whose golf journey was inspired by Woods.
After the former world No. 1 won his first Masters in 1997, Matsuyama, five at the time, said he repeatedly replayed the video of Woods' 12-stroke victory.
The Japanese started the final round in second spot and that was where he finished after a three-under 67. To save time, the players were not re-paired before the start of their fourth round on Sunday so he was denied the opportunity to go head-to-head with Woods in the final grouping.
"Incredibly happy for @TigerWoods - and for game of golf. For a number of years, all we wanted was to see Tiger healthy again, but for his quality of life. But it's very obvious that the surgery and the hard work Tiger put in resulted in quality of golf!"
JACK NICKLAUS, 18-time Major winner.
"He's my golfing idol and sporting idol. He's the best that's ever lived. It doesn't surprise me whatever he does."
SHANE LOWRY, Ireland's British Open champion.
"It's just one of those 'wow' moments. When you see something happen in sport that you didn't think was possible, it's just a really historic and special moment for our sport.
JAY MONAHAN, PGA Tour commissioner.
"Congratulations @TigerWoods on #82. You are, my friend, the GOAT. Cardinal pride!"
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, former US secretary of state who is an avid golfer. She was the provost at Stanford University when Tiger Woods enrolled in 1994 and he was on the Cardinal's golf team.
"The ball-striking exhibition I've seen the last two days is a joke, so I don't see him stopping any time soon. 82's pretty special. I think there's a lot more in store."
GARY WOODLAND, US Open champion.
"He's not consistently dominating like he once was but he has this incredible talent and gift of getting the golf ball in the hole. His form is going to come and go but that gift is not going away."
ADAM SCOTT, 2013 Masters champion and former world No. 1.
He ended up three strokes behind Woods, who birdied the last hole to close with a 67 and 19-under 261 for the tournament.
"This is big," said Woods, who had to play seven holes yesterday in the weather-affected event. "Hideki made it tight, a lot closer than people probably thought."
On winning his 82nd, Woods said: "Just crazy. It's a lot. I've been able to be consistent most of my career."
The win was a key milestone for the 43-year-old, who has won three times since returning to competition nearly two years ago following a 2017 spinal fusion that fixed searing pain in his back and leg, resurrecting a career that appeared destined to end prematurely.
He had not played competitively in two months because of surgery in August to repair minor cartilage damage in his left knee.
Snead, who died aged 89 in 2002, was right to sound a note of caution about the unseen forces that could trip him up but burnout has never been Woods' problem. A broken-down body has kept him from becoming, by all measures, the greatest golfer the world has ever seen.
After he won the Masters at Augusta National in April, the expectation was that the result would catapult him to great heights. Instead, he made only six starts last season after the Masters and his best finish after Augusta was a tie for ninth.
How does someone improve on a calendar year that includes a Masters' Green Jacket and the Presidential Medal of Freedom? Leave it to Woods to figure out a way.
His win yesterday sets him up for at least one more magical moment: a playing berth on the United States' Presidents Cup team he will captain in Melbourne in December. Only one other American skipper, Hale Irwin in 1994, had that dual role.
"I think certainly as a player I got the captain's attention," joked Woods, who is also aiming to represent his country in the Tokyo Olympics next year.
He has to stay healthy and play more consistent golf than he did after the Masters to have a chance. Even if his play in Chiba turns out to be nothing more than a resplendent rainbow after a big storm, it was magnificent to behold.
Life and career of Tiger Woods
August: Turns professional after an outstanding amateur career and is named PGA Rookie of the Year. October: First PGA Tour title.
April: Wins the first of his 15 Majors, the Masters, by 12 strokes to become the youngest Green Jacket winner at the age of 21. June: Becomes world No. 1 for the first time.
August: Wins PGA Championship.
June: Wins US Open at Pebble Beach by a record 15 strokes. July: Fifth man to complete Grand Slam - at the Open Championship at St Andrews.
April: Wins second Masters to hold all four Majors simultaneously.
June: Wins his second US Open at Bethpage Black.
September: Loses top ranking to Vijay Singh after a record 264 weeks.
July: Lifts the Claret Jug at St Andrews for his second Open and 10th Major. Joins Jack Nicklaus as only players to win all four Majors twice.
May: Father and mentor Earl dies aged 74.
June: Wins US Open - his 14th Major - two months after knee surgery. Ends his season and more repairs made to left knee.
November: A car accident outside his Florida home unearths infidelities that wreck his marriage. Takes a break.
April: Returns for the Masters and finishes joint-fourth.
March: World No. 1 again, after victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational but loses it to Australian Adam Scott in May the next year.
February: Withdraws injured from an event at Torrey Pines and announces another extended break from competition. September: Has back surgery to remove spinal disc fragments pressing on a nerve.
February: Returns from 16-month layoff but back spasms force him to pull out of Dubai Desert Classic. April: Unable to play in Masters and announces more surgery to alleviate back and leg pain. May: Arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in Florida.
January: Returns to the PGA Tour - tied-23rd at Torrey Pines. April: Tied-32nd at the Masters, his first Major since the 2015 PGA Championship. September: Returns to winner's circle at the Tour Championship, his first victory since the Bridgestone Invitational in August 2013.
April: Wins his fifth Masters title 14 years after his fourth to end an 11-year wait for a 15th Major at the age of 43. October: Wins inaugural Zozo Championship in Japan on return from minor knee surgery to equal the mark of 82 Tour wins set by Sam Snead 54 years ago.