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Tiger Woods
1975 -
 


American athlete Tiger Woods (born 1975) is the youngest man ever, and the first man of colour, 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 colour ever to win the title. He accepted all of these honours with grace and humility, and gave tribute to the black golfers who came before him and helped pave the way. He also honoured 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 labelling 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 levelled 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."
 


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Personal Information

Born Eldrick Woods, on December 30, 1975, in Cypress, CA; son of Earl D. (a U.S. Army officer) and Kultida "Tida" (a U.S. Army secretary) Woods; married Elin Nordegren (a nanny and model), October 5, 2004.
Education: Attended Stanford University, 1994.


Career

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 27, 1996; exempted from the 1997 Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Tour Qualifying Tournament, October, 1996; won Las Vegas Invitational, 1996; won Masters, 1997, 2001, 2002; won Buick Invitational, 1999; won PGA Championship, 1999, 2000; won Memorial Tournament, 1999, 2000, 2001; won British Open, 2000; won U.S. Open, 2000, 2002; won Bay Hill Invitational, 2002, 2003; won American Express Championship, 2002, 2003; won Buick Open, 2002; won Match Play Championship, 2003, 2004; won Western Open, 2003; won Dunlop Phoenix (Japan), WGC Accenture Match, and Target World Challenge, 2004; won WGC American Express Championship, WGC Bridgestone Invitational, British Open, Masters, Ford Championship at Doral, and Buick Invitational, 2005.


Life's Work

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." According to the Cincinnati Post, on August 27, 1996, he sent a message to the tour officials at the Greater Woods that read, "This is to confirm that, as of now, I am professional golfer." Reasoned The Source, Woods turned pro, "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 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, Kultida (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 Kultida 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 enjoyed 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 on 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 Vietnam 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 too 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 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. 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 anticipated the many rites 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."

In 1997 Woods proved again he was capable of doing anything he set out to do. At 21, he became the youngest player and first African American to win the Masters. This important win had many repercussions, both positive and negative. Golfer Ron Townsend, the first African-American member of the Augusta National told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "What [Woods is] doing is great for America and great for golf. He's just an amazing talent, and it's pleasure to watch him play."

But one incident threatened to tarnish Wood's star. At the ceremony, while Woods accepted his green jacket and trophy, one of the other golfers, Fuzzy Zoeller, made a tasteless joke that many thought was racist. Woods brushed it off and Zoeller apologized.

Since winning the Masters, Woods has become Mr. Golf. Swarms of people followed him all over the golf courses watching his every move. Instead of quietly following the sport, many of the "new" crowd behaved as if it were a contact sport, not one of subdued concentration. Every time Woods played, ratings went up and when he won, they were astronomical. "He has changed the way the public looks at golf. Tiger has become one of the most prominent worldwide personalities in current times," former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. His face has been on the box of Wheaties and promptly turned into a collector's item. Woods has been compared to golf great Jack Nicklaus and basketball legend Michael Jordan.

Both Woods' winnings and endorsement deals, with Nike and Buick among others, has made him one of the highest paid athletes. He was ranked number two in Forbes magazine. He has been the subject of many books, including his own, How I Play Golf, published in October of 2001. His father has also been published, his tome aptly titled, Training A Tiger: A Father's Account of How to Raise a Winner in Both Golf and Life. Woods has also been the topic of sports videos and he has his own video games.

In six years, Woods has 29 PGA Tour victories. He has won six majors, including the PGA Championship and U.S. Open. He even did a Grand Slam, by winning four majors consecutively. According to the Cincinnati Post, he played 52 consecutive rounds at par or better. During the 2000 season, Woods played under par at every tournament. He has even shattered or matched many records. He told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, " My goal is to obviously be the best. It's a lofty goal, and if I do, great. If I don't, at least I tried." His father told the Cincinnati Post, "He finally reached maturity last year. Now, he's trying to bring under control the resources that he has."

In 2001 Wood's golf game, according to many, was below average. Many blamed everything from his swing to injury to Woods suffering from burnout. Some have even blamed love. According to Sports Illustrated, rumours floated that he was infatuated with a well-known volleyball star and model. But Woods shrugged it off. He told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "That's golf. It's part of playing sports. You can't play well all of the time. You can't have everything go your way ..."

Though his play may have been off the first half of the year, Woods rallied back and won his second Masters. "This is really special. When I won [the Masters] in '97, I hadn't been pro a full year yet. I was a little young, a little naive. I didn't appreciate what I had done. I have a much better appreciation for major championships now," he was quoted as saying in Jet.

After continuing to serve as golf's public face, win major tournaments in the late 1990s through 2002, and doing well on the tour in general, Woods' dominance eased in 2003 and 2004. Woods won two majors in 2002, the Masters and the U.S. Open, as well as three other events, but also had surgery in December to remove fluid from his knee. After recovering and returning to the PGA Tour, Woods again won five tournaments, including the American Express Championship, in 2003, but no majors. He did not even finish in the top ten at the Masters or U.S. Open. Observers believe Woods was having problems with his game, especially accuracy off the tee, and it suffered in part because of a break with coach Harmon.

Woods struggled on a greater scale in 2004, having problems with his putting and swing for much of the year. After an early victory at the Match Play Championship, he did not do well in most stroke play tournaments for much of the year. Woods continued to not play well at the majors, finishing 22nd at the Masters. Critics were quick to blame his father's poor health and his impending nuptials to Swedish nanny/model Elin Nordegren for Woods' poor golf game. Despite the distractions, Woods finished the year with two victories at Japan's Dunlop Phoenix and the Target World Challenge, and finished second at PGA Tour Championship. He still managed to finish the year ranked second in the world, after Vijay Singh. In keeping with his goal to start a family, he married Nordegren in October 2004.

One reason for Woods' renewal at the end of 2004 was the help of a new coach, Hank Hanley. The pair developed an improved swing that Woods had confidence in. Woods hoped that 2005 would mark his roaring return to dominance of men's professional golf. He began the year by finishing second at the Mercedes Championship.

Woods won six major tournaments that year, notably the British Open and the Masters. He won the points-based PGA Player of the Year Award for the seventh time in nine years. He told Gary Van Sickle in Sports Illustrated that despite his success, he continually looked for ways to improve his game: "The drive is always to get better. You can always get better, no matter what."

To help keep himself grounded, Woods relies on "The Brothers"--basketball players, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and former football player and sportscaster Ahmad Rashad. These three have been mentoring Woods since he met Jordan after winning the 1997 Masters. The four keep in constant contact and have given or asked for advice from one another. Though he raised him to be a formidable force and taught him all the fundamentals of golf and helped him keep his focus, Earl Woods gave control of his golf career to Woods when the elder Woods became seriously ill with cancer in the late 1990s. His father remained in charge of the Tiger Woods Foundation and Tiger Woods Inc. He also occasionally attended tournaments when his health allowed, but often watched his son's victories on TV.

Perhaps most inspiring about Woods' accomplishments as such a young man is that he has literally, and single-handedly, transformed the image of the game, making it more attractive to a wider spectrum of people while glamorizing it. "Tiger Woods is the biggest draw of any athlete on television these days," ABC Sports president Howard Katz exclaimed to the Dallas Morning News. 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. Though golf is and will be an integral part of his life for many years to come, as he has matured, he has come to appreciate his victories and his life outside of golf. He commented to Sports Illustrated, "No doubt about it, I have a wonderful balance in my life. I've learned what's best for me."


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; PGA Player of the Year, 1997 and 1999-2004; Associated Press, Male Athlete of the Year, 1998; Vardon Trophy, 1999-2003; Player of the Year Award, Golf Writers Association, 1999-2003, 2005; ESPY Award, best male golfer, 2003, 2005.


 

 

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