Woods, Tiger 1975–
Tiger Woods 1975–
Tiger Woods is a great athlete, and well on the road to becoming a hero. Before the age of 20, he’ d already attracted thousands of worshippers. For example, Sports Illustrated, the American bible of sports coverage rarely reserves ten pages to profile a college kid. But the magazine fairly gushed with reverence over the young golfer in March of 1995, exclaiming, “Only 19, amateur sensation Tiger Woods has the golf world shaking its head in awe.” Likewise, Newsweek heralded Woods’s prodigious talent, declaring in bold print: “He can hit like [Greg] Norman, putt like [Jack] Nicklaus, and think like a Stanford freshman. He’s already the best 19-year-old American golfer ever.” On August 28, 1996, Woods turned pro, according to The Source, “because there were no challenges left for him at the amateur level….”
Writers had ample reason to employ so many superlatives. At the age of 15, Woods had become not only the first black man to win the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, but also its youngest victor. He was also the first male to win three U.S. Junior titles--1991, 1992, 1993--and had enjoyed a few casual rounds with professional golfers Sam Snead, Greg Norman, Jack Nicklaus, and John Daly. Woods’s amateur title also qualified him for a trio of prestigious professional events—the Masters, the U.S. Open, and the British Open. Perhaps more importantly, the Stanford freshman captured the latter championship by staging the greatest comeback in a game in the 99-year history of the tournament. It was a dazzling performance that suggested Woods was a champion of the highest order.
Tom Watson, a tried and true legend himself, called Woods “the most important young golfer in the last 50 years.” Another golfing great, Bryon Nelson, told Newsweek that compared to the youthful games of Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, and Tom Watson, Woods stood alone. “I’ve seen ’em all,” he said, adding, “This fellow has no weakness.” Coach Butch Harmon, who tutored Greg Norman and later Woods, declared, “He handles pressure like a 30-year-old. And his creativity is amazing. Some of the shots I’ve seen him hit remind me of Norman and Arnold Palmer.”
Despite the outpouring of professional praise, Woods
At a Glance …
Born Eldrick Woods, December 30, 1975, in Cy press, CA; son of Earl D. (a U.S. Army officer) and Kultida “Tida” (a U.S. Army secretary) Woods. Education: Began attending Stanford University, 1994.
Appeared on television’s Mike Douglas Show with Bob Hope, 1978; hit first hole in one, 1981; broke score of 70 (18 holes), 1987; U.S. Golf Association, National Junior Amateur Champion, 1991-94; Insurance Youth Golf Classic Champion, 1992; youngest player to compete in PGA tournament, the 1992 Los Angeles Open (16 years and two months); Jerry Pate Intercollegiate Golf Tournament, 1994; U.S. Amateur Golf Championship, 1994; youngest player to compete in the Masters, 1995; turned professional, August 28, 1996; exempted from the 1997 Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Tour Qualifying Tournament, October, 1996.
Awards: American Jr. Golf Association, Player of the Year, 1991-92; Rolex, First Team All American, 1991-92; Golfweek/Titleist, Jr. Golfer of the Year, 1991; named Sportsman of the Year, Sports Illustrated, 1996.
Addresses: Home —Florida. Agent –Hughes Norton.
did not abandon his college studies to join the pro tour following his historic win. The New York Times stated that Woods played golf with the “steadfast persistence of a man many years his senior,” and the same could be said of his life off the greens. Woods was committed to his studies at Stanford, determined to maintain a 3.0 grade point average and become the top collegiate golfer in the country. Never mind that millions in endorsements and prize money was essentially his for the asking. Woods, and his parents, weren’t yet ready to cash in on his talent. “Money can’t buy us,” Tiger’s mother, Tida, a native of Thailand, told Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated. “What [does] he need money for? If you turn him pro, you take his youth away from him.”
According to Woods, his youth was a normal one. “I did the same things every kid did,” he told Newsweek. “I studied and went to the mall. I was addicted to TV wrestling, rap music, and The Simpsons. I got into trouble and got out of it. I loved my parents and obeyed what they told me. The only difference is I can sometimes hit a little ball into a hole in less strokes than some other people.” But that was hardly the only difference. Typical childhoods, after all, are not launched on the golf course: Woods was introduced to the game at nine months. By the age of three, he’d already scored 50 for nine holes and outputted Bob Hope on the Mike Douglas Show. Still, if observers needed further proof that Woods was a child prodigy, they got it when he hit a hole-in-one at the age of six and broke 80 by the age of eight.
His extraordinary success, in part, stemmed from early psychological training, including a series of subliminal tapes that Woods began listening to at the age of six. The messages intended to shape an unshakable confidence with declarations like: “I focus and give it my all!,” “My will moves mountain!,” “I believe in me!,” and “I will my own destiny!” As Reilly of Sports Illustrated reported, “From the beginning, the boy understood what the tape was for, and he liked it. He would pop in the tape while swinging in front of the mirror or putting on the carpet or watching videos of old Masters tournaments. In fact, he played the tape so often that it would have driven any other parents quite nuts.” Hardly the stuff of a normal childhood.
Earl and Tida Woods were not ordinary parents. Earl, a former Green Beret and U.S. Army officer, discovered golf at the age of 42, after he had served his time in Vietnam and Thailand and met and married Tida, a woman 14 years his junior. A gifted athlete, Earl had competed in collegiate baseball; a catcher, he was the first black player at Kansas State. When Tiger came along, Earl was determined that his son start golf early. Taking him to the Navy Golf Course--just five minutes from their home--Earl put a putter into Tiger’s hands before he could walk and taught him the fundamentals of the game before he could barely talk. By the age of two, Tiger could offer rather advanced criticism of other people’s swings. By second grade, Woods won his first international tournament. 10-year-old Tiger began taking formal lessons with golf pro legend John Anselmo and would continue to do so until he was 17. At 11, he had played some 30 junior tournaments in Southern California, winning every title.
Woods’s adeptness was not limited to golf. During his teen years he participated in many sports. Newsweek acknowledged that Woods was “a natural switch-hitter [in baseball], loved playing shooting guard [in basketball], was a wide receiver [in football], and a 400-meter runner [in track].” But golf always seemed to be his main love, so much so that his parents often had to remind or encourage him to do other things. The pleasure he derived from doing so well on the course was always apparent. Even as a pro, Sports Illustrated ’s Gary Van Sickle noted, “He smiles on the course and looks as if he’s having fun. He emotes, whether it’s punching the air with an uppercut … or straight-arming a putt into the hole.” And the tougher the challenge, the more Woods enjoys himself. As Van Sickle remarked, “Woods … is a dangerous golfer. Difficult situations bring out the best in him.”
If one single secret to Tiger’s early success exists, it was mental toughness. Earl Woods tried to ensure that his son’s swing would not unravel during the pressure of competition. When Tiger practiced, Earl made it his mission to drive his son to distraction by jingling change, dropping golf bags, tearing open the Velcro his glove, anything to unnerve the young golfer. As Reilly reported, “What his dad tried to do, whenever possible, was cheat, distract, harass, and annoy him. You spend 20 years in the military, train with the Green Berets, do two tours of [Viet]Nam and one of Thailand, you learn a few things about psychological warfare.” The concentration that the elder Woods had to maintain during combat was passed on to his son for the purpose of winning a golf game rather than a war. “The boy learned coldness, too. Eventually, nothing the father did could make him flinch. The boy who once heard subliminal messages under rippling brooks now couldn’t hear a thing,” Reilly concluded.
Indeed, it was Tiger’s ability to focus, his almost otherworldly capacity for concentration and poise, that made all the difference during the 1994 Amateur Championship. When Woods found himself six holes down after 13 holes of the 36-hole final, he began his improbable comeback. Heading into the final nine, he had closed the gap but still held a precarious three-hole deficit. He continued to find his birdies--golf scores of one stroke less than standard on a hole--pulling even with the leader, Trip Kuehne of Oklahoma State, by the 17th hole.
It was then that Woods created some magic, hitting a “fearless tee shot,” in the words of some spectators, on a par-3. The ball landed on the green, just four paces from the water’s edge. “You don’t see to many pros hit it right of that pin,” Kuehne later recalled for the New York Times. “It was a great gamble that paid off.” Woods dropped a 14-foot putt and played steadily on the 18th to become the youngest winner of America’s oldest golf championship, as well as the event’s first black champion. “When Tiger won his first U.S. Junior [in 1991],” his father told Sports Illustrated, “I said to him, ’ Son, you have done something no black person in the United States has ever done, and you will forever be a part of history.’ But this is ungodly in its ramifications.”
It is possible that Tiger Woods and his family did not fully anticipate the implications of his success. For one, African Americans promptly heralded Woods as the next “Great Black Hope.” Woods, in turn, sought to distance himself from the people who wanted to pigeonhole him. He did not want to assume the role of a crusader. Again and again he pointed out to the press that he was not only African American but also part Thai, part Chinese, and part Indian. On applications requesting ethnic identity, he described himself as Asian.
Tida, in particular, voiced her dismay at the racial stereotyping. “All the media try to put black in him,” she told Sports Illustrated. “Why don’ t they ask who half of Tiger is from? In the United States, one little part black is all black. Nobody wants to listen to me. I been trying to explain to people, but they don’t understand. To say he is 100 percent black is to deny his heritage. To deny his grandmother and grandfather. To deny me! ” Some writers took offense to the Woods’s racial stance. Jet magazine, for example, subtly voiced this retort: “Woods’s description of his racial identity led one observer to wonder how he could say he is only 25 percent black, when his father is black.” The public exchange was an early sign that Woods’s fame was going to force him to confront issues of race.
Other pitfalls emerged in the wake of Woods’s great feat. As coach Harmon confessed to Reilly of Sports Illustrated, “This young man is one of the best young players to come out of this country in a long, long time. That is the good news. The bad news is that he has to live up to it now.” The question on most everyone’s mind was, would Tiger succeed as a professional? It seemed unlikely that the young star would pass up so many millions to be made off his sport, “especially now,” as Sports Illustrated noted, “that he has been stamped with the undeniable look of a future superstar.” So eager were companies to own a piece of Woods that they called Stanford trying to negotiate deals to start lines of Tiger Woods sporting apparel and Tiger Woods clubs. “Nobody believes,” Newsweek suggested, “Woods will live up to his avowed goal of staying at Stanford for four years, passing up the tour and the hundreds of millions of dollars awaiting him in the endorsement village.”
Still, heading into his sophomore year, Woods remained an amateur. Tida, for one, was determined that her son earn a degree. No amount of money, in her eyes, could replace the value of a good education. Earl was inclined to leave his son’s future open to other possibilities. If Tiger completely dominated college golf during his sophomore and junior years, he told Sports Illustrated, then perhaps his son would joined the tour, juggling tournaments around his Stanford schedule. For all the promise of glamour and gold, the family’s decision to invest in education was a prudent one. As the New York Times pointed out, “Winners of the U.S. Amateur do not necessarily go on to become great golfers—the roll call of amateur champions who had marginal careers is a lengthy one.”
Speculation about the future of Tiger Woods ended, however, in the late summer of 1996, when the 20-year-old, joined the professional ranks. He quickly won two of his first seven Professional Golf Association (PGA) starts, which Newsweek cheekily noted was “the most successful professional golf debut since dimples on the ball.” In a just seven weeks, he went from his debut at the Greater Milwaukee Open, where he finished in 60th place, to coming “within range of his stated goal of making the top 125 on the money list and earning a PGA Tour exemption [meaning he would not have to play in the 1997 PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament],” according to Gary Van Sickle in Sports Illustrated. Van Sickle further asserted that “By winning in [the] Las Vegas [Invitational], in only his fifth start as a pro, Tiger Woods proved beyond a doubt that his time had come.”
Though some felt his initial pro games were shaky--for example, in his third professional event, the Quad City Classic, he blew the lead in the final round--Woods steadily improved. And, as Reilly assessed, Woods was “making history almost daily.” Having found his rhythm, Woods was the picture of confidence, telling Reilly, “I really haven’t [even] played my best golf yet.” Woods was scoring off the field as well having signed $60 million in endorsements with Nike and Titleist. In addition Entertainment Weekly reported that five “Tiger-related” books were in the planning stages, including an autobiography and an instructional guide. Still, PGA Tour veteran and friend Davis Love III cautioned to Van Sickle, “He’s not playing for the money. He’s trying to win. He thinks about winning and nothing else.”
Despite being driven, Love’s comment was not exactly true, however. Like many young adults, Woods anticipates the many rights of passage. The same article mentioned that Woods, “was looking forward to returning to Las Vegas in a year, when he’ll be 21. ’ I’ ll be legal,’ Woods said, smiling. I can actually do some stuff around here.” Though he feels he had a “normal” childhood, Woods has worked harder than most of his peers in order to accomplish all that he has. “You guys don’t understand,” he chastised Reilly. “When I played in those [early] tournaments, I was either in high school or college. I’d get dumped into the toughest places to play, and I usually was trying to study, get papers done and everything else.”
Woods simply did not have time for much of the interests, such as dating, that often occupy people his age. Lack of time has not been the only obstacle: “Women don’t seem that interested because I’m so young. Think about it,” he told Reilly. “Most of the women my age are in college.” Fortunately golf has proven to be a more than adequate distraction, and Woods has proven to be a more than adequate star. Of his son, Earl informed Newsweek, “Every move has been calculated to make him the best person he can be.” And if that did not involve golf, it would be okay, but as it so happens “everything about golf to him is a joy. If anything, golf will burn out from him,” Reilly theorized.
Perhaps most inspiring about Woods accomplishments as such a young man is that has literally, and single-handedly, transformed the image of the game, making it more attractive to a wider spectrum of people while glamorizing it. As Reilly pointed out, “Golf used to be four white guys sitting around a pinochle table talking about their shaft flexes…. Now golf is [supermodel] Cindy Crawford sending Woods a letter.” Indeed, Woods’s presence has attracted a multitude of new fans to the sport of golf--minorities and young people among them. Van Sickle reiterated Jack Nicklaus’s belief that “someone would come along who could hit 30 yards past everyone else, much as he did decades ago, have a great short game, and dominate the sport.” In so many ways, Woods already has.
Entertainment Weekly, November 15, 1996, p. 16.
Jet, August 26, 1991, p. 48; September 12, 1994, p. 51; November 14, 1994, p. 49; April 24, 1995, p. 8.
Newsweek, April 10, 1995, pp. 70-72; December 9, 1996, pp. 52-56.
New York Times, August 28, 1994.
People, September 23, 1991, p. 81.
The Source, November 1996, p. 121.
Sports Illustrated, September 5, 1994, pp. 14-15; March 27, 1995, pp. 62-72; October 4, 1996, pp. 37-38; October 28, 1996, pp. 47-50; December 23, 1996..
USA Weekend, July 24-26, 1992, pp. 4-6.
Additional information for this profile was obtained was a telecast of Prime Time Live, ABC, July 15, 1993.
—Ami Walsh and Lorna Mabunda
Tiger Woods may prove to be the best professional golfer in history. Although he is not yet thirty, he is already well on track to break Jack Nicklaus 's record of eighteen career victories in professional majors. In a sport where victory is often decided by only one or two strokes, Woods has had several double-digit wins. Because of his domination of the game, and perhaps also because he is a young minority in a sport that had previously featured mostly white, middle-aged stars, Woods has achieved a popularity that extends far beyond typical golf fans.
A Golfing Toddler
Woods has been playing golf since he could walk, and studying the game even longer. His father, Earl Woods, a retired Army officer, took up golf only a year before Woods was born, but he quickly fell in love with the sport. Earl set up a miniature driving range in his garage
with some carpet and a net, and while he practiced Woods would sit in his high chair and watch. Earl cut some clubs down to Woods's size for him to play with, and one day, when Woods was nine months old, he climbed out of his chair when Earl took a break and tried to imitate Earl's activity. He did so almost perfectly, and the ball flew expertly into the net. "I was flabbergasted," Earl told biographer John Strege. "I almost fell off my chair."
When Woods was eighteen months old, Earl took him to a real driving range for the first time and started letting him play the occasional hole on Earl's home course, the Navy Courses at Los Alamitos, California. When he was two Woods won his first competition there, playing against boys who were as old as ten. The same year Woods appeared on the Mike Douglas Show. He had an on-air putting contest with Bob Hope and won. When he was three, he shot a forty-eight over nine holes on one of the Navy Courses from the front tees, and then at five he appeared on national television again, on the show That's Incredible!
People across the country marveled when they heard about this tiny golfing protégé, but Woods didn't want to be just a curiosity. He wanted to be a winner. He started working with his first professional coach, an assistant club professional from Long Beach, California named Rudy Duran, when he was four, and throughout his elementary school years Woods dominated junior golf in his age bracket in southern California. Although Woods was patient during this time, honing his skills and slowly preparing himself for the next level, he always had his sights set on higher things. A chart of Nicklaus's records and milestones, going back to when Nicklaus was a child, hung on Woods's wall, and he was determined to surpass them all.
High School Years
When he was fifteen, Woods set out to become the youngest golfer ever to qualify for a PGA Tour event, the 1991 Los Angeles Open. He played excellently in the qualifying event but, with a bogey on the last hole, he had three strokes too many to make it to the Open. However, later that year Woods broke another record when he became the youngest person ever to win the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.
Woods successfully defended his U.S. Junior Amateur championship in 1992, becoming the only person ever to be U.S. junior amateur champion more than once. He then won the event for an unheard of third time in 1993. Earl Woods later attributed his success to his training methods during that time. "Every year he would take the week before his major to mentally and physically fine-tune," Earl told Sports Illustrated reporter Jaime Diaz. "We'd drive to the site and play practice rounds, and after we got home, I'd find him lying on his bed with his eyes closed. He told me he was playing the shots he was going to need in his head."
|1975||Born December 30 in Cypress, CA, to Earl and Kultida Woods|
|1978||Appears on the Mike Douglas Show, where he wins a putting contest with Bob Hope|
|1978||Wins first golf competition, a ten-and-under|
|1980||Begins working with first coach, Rudy Duran|
|1981||Appears on That's Incredible!|
|1982||Plays a two-hole tournament with Sam Snead|
|1987||Undefeated in junior tournament competition|
|1994||Begins attending Stanford University|
|1995||Competes in his first Masters|
|1996||Turns professional and quits Stanford|
|1996||Makes a hole in one during his first professional event|
|1996||Starts Tiger Woods Foundation in December|
|2000||Becomes youngest golfer ever to complete career Grand Slam|
|2000||Appears on the cover of Time magazine|
|2001||Becomes first golfer ever to hold all four major titles at once|
|2002||Undergoes arthroscopic knee surgery December 12|
Woods was invited back to the Los Angeles Open in 1992 on a sponsor's exemption. It was thought at the time that he was still the youngest person to play in a Tour event, but it was later discovered that a fifteen-year-old had played in the Canadian Open in 1957. Woods shot one over par on the first day and four over on the second, missing the cut by six strokes, but he still called the experience "the two best days of my life." Not until the spring of 1994, at the Johnnie Walker Asian Classic in Thailand, would Woods make the cut in a professional event.
On to College
Stanford University started recruiting Woods in 1989, and in the fall of 1994 he enrolled there and joined their golf team. The eighteen-year-old Woods was still the best amateur golfer in the country: that summer he became the youngest winner of the U.S. Amateur Championship in the event's ninety-four year history. Woods hoped that year to become only the third player to win both the U.S. Amateur and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championships in the same year (the others were Phil Mickelson and Nicklaus), but he was suffering from several injuries and performed poorly.
Woods repeated his U.S. Amateur Championship victories in 1995 and 1996. By the summer of 1996, Woods had still failed to win an NCAA championship, but other than that he had achieved all of the goals that he had set for himself as an amateur. He had been playing in professional events, including the U.S. and British Opens and the Masters, for several years. He had not performed up to his expectations in any of them, but the amount of time that he was forced to spend studying in the spring cut into his practicing time and, he thought, left him ill-prepared for those competitions. Although he had promised his parents that he would finish college, in August of 1996 Woods withdrew from Stanford and turned professional.
Woods got sponsor's exemptions to play in seven tournaments in 1996, between the time he turned professional in August and the end of the season. In order to be a member of the PGA tour in 1997, he needed to win enough in those seven tournaments to place him among the top 125 money winners on the tour for the year, or to win at least one event outright. He finished sixtieth in his first competition as a professional, the Greater Milwaukee Open, but from there his performances only improved. The next week he finished eleventh in the Canadian Open. The week after that, he was ahead by one stroke in the Quad City Classic going into Sunday. Golf reporters from across the country abandoned the more prestigious Presidents Cup, which was being held the same weekend, and flew to Illinois to cover what they expected to be a Woods win, but Woods had two bad holes on the last day and fell to fifth. In his next competition, the B.C. Open, he finished third, which placed him 128th on the money list with four more events to go.
Awards and Accomplishments
|1991-93||U.S. Junior Amateur Championship|
|1994-96||U.S. Amateur Championship|
|1996||Las Vegas Invitational|
|1996||Walt Disney World/Oldsmobile Classic|
|1996||Named PGA Tour Rookie of the Year|
|1996||Named Sports Illustrated 's Sportsman of the Year|
|1997||Asian Honda Classic|
|1997||Byron Nelson Classic|
|1997||Motorola Western Open|
|1997||Named Player of the Year by the Golf Writers Association of America|
|1997||Given Sports Star of the Year award|
|1997-2002||Named PGA Tour Player of the Year|
|1997, 1999-2000||Named PGA of America Player of the Year|
|1997, 2000||Mercedes Championship|
|1997, 2000||Named the Associated Press's Male Athlete of the Year|
|1998, 2000||Johnnie Walter Classic|
|1999||Deutsche Bank Open|
|1999||National Car Rental Golf Classic|
|1999||The Tour Championship|
|1999||World Cup of Golf (with Mark O'Meara)|
|1999||Wins Vardon Trophy|
|1999-2000||Named Player of the Year by the Golf Writers Association of America|
|1999, 2002||WGC-American Express Championship|
|2000||AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am|
|2000||Bell Canadian Open|
|2000||EMC World Cup (with David Duval)|
|2000||Named Sports Illustrated 's Sportsman of the Year|
|2000-01||Won Vardon Trophy|
|2000-02||Bay Hill Invitational|
|2000, 2002||U.S. Open|
|2001||Deutsche Bank-SAP Open|
The Nike Golf Ball Juggling Commercial
Woods's skills were clearly demonstrated, even to those who couldn't tell a birdie from a bogey, in a famous Nike commercial from 1999. The original plan for the commercial was for Woods and several other people on a driving range all to be swinging in unison, but the director was having trouble getting everything to come together. The commercial was being filmed at the Orange County National Golf Club in Orange County, California, in the middle of the summer, and it was deathly hot. Woods, trying to lighten the mood, started to juggle a ball on the face of one of his clubs during a break. The director saw this and decided that it would make a better commercial than the original idea.
It only took four takes to shoot the final thirty-second commercial, which featured Woods dancing the ball on his sixty-degree sand wedge forty-nine times. He bounced the ball behind his back, between his legs, and even caught and balanced the ball on the club face's grooves. Then Woods bounced the ball into the air, wound up, and hit it like a baseball, 120 yards out on the driving range. No camera tricks were used, and the footage was not digitally altered. "It's really not as hard as you might think if you grew up playing baseball," Woods told the media after the commercial aired. "Hand-to-eye coordination—same principle."
Woods caused a major controversy the next week when he withdrew from the Buick Open and skipped a dinner that had been planned to honor him there. Woods said that he was exhausted from his rough schedule—even before turning professional, Woods had played in several challenging amateur events that summer. When he realized how many people his decision had inconvenienced, Woods apologized profusely, but many people still criticized his decision. However, when Woods came back from his week off he silenced many of his critics by winning the Las Vegas Open in a playoff against David Love III. Amazingly, Woods won another event that season as well, the Walt Disney World/Oldsmobile Classic. With a third place finish in San Antonio the week between Las Vegas and Walt Disney World, Woods became the first player to finish in the top five in five straight tournaments since 1982.
Establishing a Legacy
Golf fans expected great things out of Woods in the 1997 season, and he did not disappoint them. Woods won four tournaments that year. His most prestigious win, the Masters, was also his strongest: he finished twelve strokes ahead of his closest competitor, setting a new scoring record on the Augusta National course of eighteen under par. However, in 1998 Woods slumped. Despite his successes in the previous two years, Woods knew that there were still aspects of his game that needed improvement. Although he has always been one of the longest drivers in golf, prior to 1998 he had difficulty controlling those long drives. Sometimes he overshot his mark, and even when he didn't he was often left or right of where he wanted to be. Throughout the 1998 season Woods worked on correcting this, as well as on improving his putting consistency. He only won one event on the PGA Tour that season, but in the coming years his hard work would pay off.
Woods's 1999 season was legendary. It might have been remembered as one of the best seasons in golf history, had Woods not surpassed himself in 2000. In 1999 he won seven events on the PGA Tour. In 2000 he won nine, including a victory in the U.S. Open by a record breaking fifteen strokes, and another in the British Open by eight. That year Woods also became the youngest person ever to complete the career Grand Slam, by winning the U.S. and British Opens and the PGA Championship all in one season. Only Ben Hogan had ever won three majors in one year, and only four other people, including Nicklaus and Hogan, had ever completed the Grand Slam. Then, when Woods notched his second Masters win in 2001, he became the only golfer in history ever to hold all four major championship titles at once.
That Masters victory was one of only five wins for Woods in 2001. He was still the best player on the tour, winning two more events than his closest competitor, raking in well over $5 million in winnings, and winning the Vardon Trophy for the lowest stroke average on the tour, but he was not as dominant as he had been in the previous two years. After Woods won the first two majors, the Masters and the U.S. Open, in 2002 many people expected him to win the single-season Grand Slam, but he was foiled by foul weather at the British Open. He shot an eighty-one in thirty mile-per-hour winds and
a pouring rain on Saturday at that event, which put him out of contention.
The Best Golfer, Period
In the complicated world of American race relations, Woods has often been frustrated by others' attempts to pigeonhole him neatly into one racial category, African-American. Woods is in fact more Asian than anything else: his mother is half Thai, one quarter Chinese, and one-quarter white, and his father is half black, one-quarter Chinese, and one-quarter Native American. Woods identifies strongly with his mother's Thai heritage, and is offended that others insist on overlooking it. He is also annoyed that some people believe that, by virtue of his background, he owes anything to any particular ethnic group. Early in Woods's career, when interviewers would ask him questions about whether he saw himself as a role model for young black or minority golfers, he would reply that, no, he saw himself as a role model for all young golfers. For Woods, racial politics are nothing but a sideshow to what he really has to offer the world: his skill as a golfer. As a teenager, when many in the media dubbed him the "Great Black Hope" of the golf world, he often declared, "I don't want to be the best black golfer. I want to be the best golfer, period."
Now that Woods has achieved his goal of being the best golfer in the world, his immense popularity is bringing a diverse crowd of new fans to a sport that was previously perceived as being only for well-off white men. Although Woods does not want social issues to overwhelm his athletic achievements in the public mind, he is happy to see the love of golf extend to more segments of the American public. This is the goal of the Tiger Woods Foundation, to introduce to golf children who might otherwise never have tried the game. As Woods explained at a press conference in 2000, "America is the melting pot of the world. We have all the different ethnic races, religious choices. I just want to make golf look like that. If that's one thing I can have, that's one thing I really want to have happen."
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Rosaforte, Tim, and John Hawkins. "A Star Is Worn." Golf World (November 10, 2000): 28.
Russell, Geoff. "History Maker: How Nike Deal Makes Woods Highest Paid Athlete of All Time." Golf World (September 22, 2000): 2.
Sirak, Ron. "Breaking Away?." Golf World (November 17, 2000): 20.
Smith, Gary. "The Chosen One." Sports Illustrated (December 23, 1996): 28-43.
"Tiger Juggles Ball, Nike Juggles Ad." Holland Sentinel (Holland, MI) (July 7, 1999).
Verdi, Bob. "Winner and Still Champion." Golf World (August 16, 2002): 18.
Kamiya, Gary. "Cablinasian Like Me." Salon.com. http://www.salon.com/april97/tiger970430.html (February 5, 2003).
Official Site: Tiger Woods. http://www.tigerwoods.com (February 5, 2003).
"Tiger Woods." CNNSI.com—GolfPlus. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/golf/pga/bios/2002/bio184.html (February 6, 2003).
"Tiger Woods." PGATour.com. http://www.golfweb.com/players/00/87/93/bio.html (February 5, 2003).
Sketch by Julia Bauder
American athlete Tiger Woods (born 1975) is the youngest man ever, and the first man of color, to win the Masters Tournament of golf.
On April 13, 1997, Tiger Woods made golfing history when he won the prestigious Masters tournament of golf. The win was a record breaker in many ways. Woods, at age twenty-one, was the youngest person ever to win the Masters Tournament. He beat the competition with a record-breaking score of 270 for seventy-two holes. He secured the win with a twelve-stroke lead, the largest victory margin in the history of the tournament. Woods, a man of ethnic complexity, further distinguished himself as the first non-white to win the Masters, and in doing so he helped to dissolve many stereotypical notions and attitudes regarding minorities in the sport of golf.
Tiger Woods was born Eldrick Woods on December 30, 1975, in Cypress, California. He was the only child of Earl and Kultida Woods. His parents identified their son's talent at an unusually early age. They said that he was playing with a putter before he could walk. The boy was gifted not only with exceptional playing abilities, but he also possessed a passion for the sport itself. Woods first came to notoriety on a syndicated talk show when he beat the famed comedian and avid golfer Bob Hope in a putting contest. The young boy was only three at the time, and he was quickly hailed as a prodigy. Not long after that, when he was five years old, Woods was featured on the popular television magazine That's Incredible!
Woods' father has never denied that he devoted his energies to developing his son's talent and to furthering the boy's career as a golfer. During practice sessions, Tiger learned to maintain his composure and to hold his concentration while his father persistently made extremely loud noises and created other distractions. "I was using golf to teach him about life…. About how to handle responsibility and pressure," his father explained to Alex Tresniowski of People.
All the while, Tiger's mother made sure that her son's rare talent and his budding golf career would not interfere with his childhood or his future happiness. His mother was a native of Thailand and very familiar with the mystical precepts of Buddhism, and she passed this philosophy on to her son.
As Woods' special talents became increasingly evident, his parents stressed personality, kindness, and self-esteem. They impressed upon their son that he was not to throw tantrums or be rude or think of himself as any better than the next person. John McCormick and Sharon Begley of Newsweek said of his parents, "[Tiger Woods is] best-known as perhaps the finest young golfer in history. But to his parents, it's more important that Tiger Woods is a fine young man. It took love, rules, respect, confidence and trust to get there."
In many ways Woods grew up as a typical middle-class American boy. He developed a taste for junk food and an affection for playing video games. He also spent a fair share of his time clowning around in front of his father's ever-present video camera. As for playing golf, there is no question that the sport was the focus of his childhood. He spent many hours practicing his swing and playing in youth tournaments. Woods was eight years old when he won his first formal competition. From that point he became virtually unstoppable, amassing trophies and breaking amateur records everywhere. Media accounts of the boy prodigy had reached nearly legendary proportions by 1994, when he entered Stanford University as a freshman on a full golfing scholarship.
During his first year of college, Woods won the U.S. Amateur title and qualified to play in the Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia, in the spring of 1995. Although he played as an amateur-not for prize money-Woods' reputation preceded him. Biographer John Strege wrote about that first Masters tournament in Tiger: A Biography of Tiger Woods, "Golf great Nick Price was there. So were Nick Faldo, John Daly and Fuzzy Zoeller, all of them consigned to relative obscurity on this Monday of Masters week. All eyes were on Woods." By 1996, Woods had won three consecutive U.S. Amateur titles, an unprecedented accomplishment in itself. Woods was only twenty years old, yet there was not much else for him to accomplish as an amateur. He carefully weighed the advantages of finishing college against the prospect of leaving school and entering the sport of professional golf. The temptation to turn professional was enhanced by lucrative offers of endorsement contracts. In August of 1996, Woods decided to quit college in order to play professional golf.
Four months later in December, Woods celebrated his twenty-first birthday. He marked the occasion with a legal name change, from Eldrick to Tiger. Woods had been called Tiger by his father even as a youngster. The nickname stuck, and Woods had always been known to his friends, and to the press, as Tiger. It soon became evident that he was destined for success. Sports Illustrated named him 1996 "Sportsman of the Year," and by January of 1997, he had already won three professional tournaments. He was a media sensation.
In April of 1997, and only eight months into his professional career, Woods played in the prestigious Masters tournament held at Georgia's Augusta National Golf Club. The Masters title is perhaps the most coveted honor in the world of golf. In addition to a hefty prize purse, first-place winners are awarded a green blazer to symbolize their membership among the most elite golfers in the world. Contestants are typically well into their thirties or even their forties by the time they win the Masters Tournament. That year Woods competed against golfing greats, but managed to best the most seasoned competition.
When the tournament was over, Woods had made history as the youngest person ever to win the Masters title. His score was an unprecedented 270 strokes. His victory margin set another record-twelve strokes ahead of the runner-up. This feat was enhanced by the fact that Woods was the first man of color ever to win the title. He accepted all of these honors with grace and humility, and gave tribute to the black golfers who came before him and helped pave the way. He also honored his mother (who is Asian) by reminding the world of his diverse ethnic background; he is African-American, Thai, Chinese, Native American, and Caucasian. He discouraged the press from labeling him exclusively as African American, because it showed complete disregard for his mother's Asian heritage. During an interview for the Oprah Winfrey Show, he reiterated an innovative description that he had coined for himself as a child, "I'm a Cablinasian." He was quoted also by John Feinstein of Newsweek, concerning the issue of race, "I don't consider myself a Great Black Hope. I'm just a golfer who happens to be black and Asian."
Less than three months passed until July 6, 1997, when Woods won the Western Open. Critics attributed his astounding success to uncanny persistence and an extraordinary desire to win. "He thinks, therefore he wins," reported the Detroit News, on the day after the Western Open. Woods seemed unstoppable. Some of the greatest golfers in the world offered sportsmanly tribute to the young hero. His enormous popularity and unprecedented success prompted Frank Deford of Newsweek to write, "It's getting so that the only other famous person on the golf circuit is Tiger's caddie … suddenly you understand: there is no second-best golfer in the world…. It is just Tiger Woods." In less than one year as a professional golfer Woods' career winnings totaled over $1,000,000. In addition to prize money earned, he signed multi-million dollar contracts to endorse a variety of products, from sports equipment to investment funds.
To many observers, Tiger Woods' rise to fame is tied to issues of race and ethnicity as well as to outstanding athletic performance on the golfing course. "Tiger threatened one of the last bastions of white supremacy," wrote Strege in his biography of Woods. Although accusations of racial discrimination had been leveled against the Professional Golf Association (PGA) for many years, little was done. According to Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated, the Augusta National Tournament founder, Clifford Roberts, once remarked, "As long as I'm alive, golfers will be white, and caddies will be black." Policies were slowly changed to ensure that black golfers would be allowed to compete on a par with whites, but the Augusta National Golf Club didn't accept its first African American member until 1990.
Woods, with his easy style, his unpretentious disposition, and his powerful 300-yard drives, successfully commanded the respect and attention of golf's predominantly white culture. "Golf has shied away from [racism] for too long," Woods commented to Time. "Some clubs have brought in tokens, but nothing really has changed. I hope what I'm doing can change that." Robert Beck of Sports Illustrated called the ethnically diverse golfer, "A one-man Rainbow Coalition." By all reports, he rises graciously to every occasion, handling the media as well as his peers, with tact and aplomb. Joe Stroud of the Detroit Free Press commented, "He is a photogenic young man…. He is about as remarkable a combination of power and finesse as I've ever seen."
Woods is credited too with popularizing the sport of golf, not only among blacks and other minorities, but among children of all backgrounds. Jennifer Mills of Cable-TV explained the depth of the Tiger Woods phenomenon, "He is bringing a whole new set of people to the golf course who have never been here before…. Kids of every race are dying to see him. They look up at what he's doing and for the first time feel, 'Hey, maybe I could do that."' His personal sponsorship of programs for children has been reported for years, and at least one corporate sponsor found that in order to secure an endorsement from Tiger Woods the price would include the added cost of a generous donation to the Tiger Woods Foundation for inner city children. A Time review of the twenty-five most influential people of 1997 reported, "Woods doesn't simply take his money and play. He conducts clinics for inner-city kids, and he … will create opportunities for youngsters who would otherwise never get a chance."
Strege, John, Tiger: A Biography of Tiger Woods, Broadway Books, 1997.
Christian Science Monitor, December 5, 1996.
Detroit Free Press, January 13, 1997; April 14, 1997, p. 1D; April 23, 1997, p. 1D; May 2, 1997, p. 10A; May 7, 1997, p. A1; May 20, 1997; June 11, 1997, p. 3C.
Detroit News, July 7, 1997, 1C.
Newsweek, September 9, 1996, pp. 58-61; December 9, 1996, pp. 52-61; April 28, 1997, pp. 58-62; June 2, 1997, p. 62.
People, April 28, 1997, pp. 89-92; June 16, 1997, pp. 96-102.
Sports Illustrated, December 23, 1996, pp. 29-52; April 21, 1997, pp. 30-46.
Time, April 21, 1997, p. 40.
USA Weekend, May 9-11, 1997, p. 2.
"Unofficial Tiger Woods Web Page," www.geocities.com/Colosseum/2396/tiger.html (January 6, 1998).
"Welcome to Tiger Watch," www.tiger-woods-golf.com/ (January 6, 1998).
Born: December 30, 1975
African/Asian American golfer
American golfer Tiger Woods is the youngest man ever, and the first man of color, to win the Masters Tournament of golf.
Childhood in golf
Tiger Woods was born Eldrick Woods on December 30, 1975, in Cypress, California. He is the only child of Earl and Kultida Woods. His parents identified their son's talent at an unusually early age. They said that he was playing with a putter before he could walk. The boy was gifted not only with exceptional playing abilities, but he also possessed a passion for the sport. Woods first gained national attention on a talk show when he beat the famed comedian and avid golfer Bob Hope (1903–) in a putting contest. The young boy was only three at the time, and he was quickly hailed as a prodigy, or a child with remarkable talent. Not long after that, when he was five years old, Woods was featured on the popular television show That's Incredible!
Tiger's father has never denied that he devoted his energies to developing his son's talent and to furthering the boy's career as a golfer. During practice sessions, Tiger learned to maintain his composure and to hold his concentration while his father persistently made extremely loud noises and created other distractions. All the while, Tiger's mother made sure that her son's rare talent and his budding golf career would not interfere with his childhood or his future happiness. His mother was a native of Thailand and passed on to her son the mystical ideals of Buddhism, an eastern religion that seeks to go beyond human suffering and existence.
In many ways Woods grew up as a typical middle-class American boy. He developed a taste for junk food and an affection for playing video games. He also spent a fair share of his time clowning around in front of his father's ever-present video camera. As for playing golf, there is no question that the sport was the focus of his childhood. He spent many hours practicing his swing and playing in youth tournaments. Woods was eight years old when he won his first formal competition. From that point he became virtually unstoppable, winning trophies and breaking amateur records everywhere. Media accounts of the boy prodigy had reached nearly legendary proportions by 1994, when he entered Stanford University as a freshman on a full golf scholarship.
During Woods's first year of college, he won the U.S. Amateur title and qualified to play in the Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia, in the spring of 1995. Although he played as an amateur—not for prize money—Woods's reputation preceded him. By 1996, Woods had won three U.S. Amateur titles, one after another, an amazing accomplishment in itself. Woods was only twenty years old, and in August of 1996, he decided to quit college in order to play professional golf.
Four months later in December, Woods celebrated his twenty-first birthday. He marked the occasion with a legal name change, from Eldrick to Tiger. Woods had been called Tiger by his father even as a youngster. The nickname stuck, and Woods had always been known to his friends, and to the press, as Tiger. It soon became evident that he was destined for success. Sports Illustrated named him 1996 "Sportsman of the Year," and by January of 1997, he had already won three professional tournaments. He was a media sensation.
Tiger the champion
In April of 1997, only eight months into Woods's professional career, he played in the prestigious (important and famous) Masters tournament held at Georgia's Augusta National Golf Club. The Masters title is perhaps the greatest honor in the world of golf. In addition to hefty prize money, first-place winners are awarded a green blazer to symbolize their membership among the top golfers in the world.
When the tournament was over, Woods had made history as the youngest person ever to win the Masters title. His score was an unprecedented 270 strokes. His victory margin set another record—twelve strokes ahead of the runner-up. This feat was enhanced by the fact that Woods was the first man of color ever to win the title. He accepted all of these honors with grace and humility, and gave tribute to the African American golfers who came before him and helped pave the way. He also honored his mother (who is Asian) by reminding the world of his diverse ethnic background; he is African American, Thai, Chinese, Native American, and Caucasian.
Less than three months passed until July 6, 1997, when Woods won the Western Open, another major golf tournament. Critics credited his amazing success to relentless work and an extraordinary desire to win.
Impact of Tiger Woods
Woods is credited too with popularizing the sport of golf, not only among African American people and other minorities, but among children of all backgrounds. His personal sponsorship of programs for children has been reported for years, and at least one corporate sponsor found that in order to secure an endorsement (an official document of agreement) from Tiger Woods the price would include the added cost of a generous donation to the Tiger Woods Foundation for inner city children.
In 1999 Woods achieved the greatest moment in his career when he won the PGA Championship by one shot. He had been in the lead for most of the tournament, but lost his lead on the last day, making his one stroke victory over Sergio Garcia even more memorable for the crowd that had gathered to watch. Woods continued his success in November 1999 when he shot the best total ever in the World Cup, helping to lead the United States to victory in the tournament. He was also named the PGA Tour Player of the Year for the second time on November 30, 1999, earning more that $6.6 million in prize money during the season.
On January 9, 2000, Woods won the Mercedes Championship. It was his fifth consecutive victory and, at the time, golf's longest winning streak in forty-six years. On February 7, 2000, he extended that streak by winning the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He became the first player since Ben Hogan (1912–1997) in 1948 to win six straight tour events. He went on to win the Bay Hill Invitational on March 19, 2000. On June 18, 2000, he won the U.S. Open, his third major championship. The next month, on July 23, he won the British Open, thus winning the Grand Slam. He became the youngest player to win all four major championships and just the fifth ever.
On April 8, 2001, Woods won the sixty-fifth Masters Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club. The win made him the only golfer in history to hold the four major championship titles at the same time. Woods won the sixty-sixth Masters Tournament on April 14, 2002. At the turn of the twenty-first century, Woods was the most dominant figure in all of sports, and his name will surely be decorated throughout the record books before his career is over.
For More Information
Owen, David. The Chosen One: Tiger Woods and the Dilemma of Greatness. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001.
Woods, Tiger. How I Play Golf. New York: Warner Books, 2001.
December 30, 1975
Eldrick "Tiger" Woods is the most acclaimed golfer of African-American ancestry to compete on the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) tour. His enormous success is attributable to his great talent and personal appeal, especially among young people. Woods's greatest achievement thus far is his 1997 victory in the prestigious Masters Tournament by a record margin of 12 strokes. He was the youngest Masters champion in history.
Born and raised in Cypress, California, Woods became interested in golf at a young age. At two he putted against Bob Hope on the Mike Douglas Show. By seventeen he had won three U.S. Junior Amateur Championships (1991–1993). His come-from-behind victory at the 1996 U.S. Amateur Championship capped an impressive amateur career including the NCAA title and three successive U.S. Amateur victories.
Woods turned professional in August 1996, hoping to earn enough money in eight tournaments ($150,000) to qualify for the 1997 PGA Tour. He stunned the golf world by winning the Las Vegas Invitational and the Disney/Oldsmobile Classic, earning $790,594 and finishing twenty-fifth on the money list. He was the PGA Tour's 1996 Rookie of the Year.
Apart from his Masters victory, Woods won another four tournaments in 1997 including the Mercedes Championship, the Asian Honda Classic in Thailand, the GTE Byron Nelson Classic, the Motorola Western Open, and the Masters. He finished 1997 with a record $2,066,833—a PGA Tour record for single season earnings—and was selected 1997 Player of the Year by the PGA Tour, PGA of America, and Golf Writers Association of America. The Associated Press chose Woods as the 1997 Male Athlete of the Year.
Woods's success continued through the rest of the decade and beyond. By the end of the 1990s he had won twenty-four professional tournaments, and his total earnings approached $14 million. In 2000 he won ten tournaments, including the British Open, the U.S. Open, and the
PGA. In 2001 he won the Masters again, and in 2002 he repeated as Masters and U.S. Open champion. In 2003 he began to cool off a little, with five wins that year but no Grand Slam wins. In 2004 he had only one tournament win, but he seemed to be regaining his form in early 2005 with wins in the Buick Invitational and Ford Championship at Doral.
See also Sports
jill lectka (1996)
Updated by publisher 2005