Tiger Woods life and biography

Tiger Woods picture, image, poster

Tiger Woods biography

Date of birth : 1975-12-30
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Cypress, California
Nationality : American
Category : Sports
Last modified : 2010-03-29
Credited as : Worldwide golf superstar, won The Masters, PGA Tour

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You the Man! For a decade and a half, this exhortation rang in the ears of Tiger Woods as he marched down the world’s fairways toward his date with destiny. How ironic that it was the other dates on Tiger’s itinerary that may have permanently altered that destiny; now You the Man! has an entirely different connotation. Of course, no one would give the indiscretions of an ordinary athlete a second thought. It is Tiger’s extraordinary gifts that have made him front-page news since he was a teenager. Some say he is the best golfer ever. Others say his cultural impact dwarfs any legacy he leaves on the links. The fact is that both can be—and probably are—true.

GROWING UP

Eldrick Tont Woods was born on December 30, 1975, in Cypress, California. His mother Kultida invented his name. The first letter stood for Earl, his father’s name, and the last letter was for Kultida. In that way, the boy would always be “surrounded” by his parents.

Earl wasn’t crazy about the name. Growing up black in America wasn’t easy, and a name like Eldrick held little promise to make it easier. Almost from the start, Earl called him Tiger, after a friend he made while serving in Vietnam.

Tiger’s dad father grew up in Depression-era Kansas. Earl’s mother was a college graduate, but she had to take work as a housekeeper to make ends meet. She encouraged her kids to pursue higher education, too. When Earl completed high school, he could have signed a contract to play pro baseball. Instead he accepted an athletic scholarship to Kansas State, where he would integrate the Big Seven as the school’s star catcher.

After college, Earl became a teacher. He continued to teach after being drafted, lecturing on military history while in the Army during the 1950s. Earl married and had three children—a family he would later leave in the 1960s. An adventure-seeker, Earl decided to volunteer for the Green Berets during the Vietnam War. As he entered his 40s, he hit the “reset” button on life.

Earl saw lots of action behind enemy lines. He survived two tours of duty and achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel. Among the men he fought with in Vietnam was Vuong Dang Phong, a colonel in the South Vietnamese military. Vuong’s nickname in his unit was “Tiger.”

Earl met Kultida at an Army installation in Bangkok. She was working as a secretary. She was nearly 20 years his junior. They were married, and Earl retired from the Army in 1972. He took a job with a defense contractor in California. Earl and Kultida purchased their first home in Cypress in 1975. As a mixed-race couple in an essentially all-white enclave, they were not embraced by the neighbors. Occasionally, bored teens would pelt their house with pebbles.

Earl hadn’t been a good father to his first three kids. He made amends by spending plenty of time with Tiger. As an infant, Tiger would often watch his dad practice his golf swing—golf had become something of an obsession for Earl since leaving the military. One day Earl sawed off the handle on an old putter and handed it to Tiger. He was amazed to see his toddler son mimic his swing to near perfection. Soon Tiger was holing putts at the nearby Navy Golf Course, where Earl played. Before his third birthday, Tiger began honing his swing at the NGC driving range.

One day, Tiger played the back nine at NGC with his dad and shot a 48. A local news crew heard about this and did a feature on him. Producers for “The Mike Douglas Show” saw the piece and invited the young phenom on the show. He putted in the presence of Hollywood legends Bob Hope and Jimmy Stewart. The You Tube clip has been viewed more than a million times.

The publicity from this appearance rankled some of the members at NGC. The club pro invoked a rule that prohibited players under the age of 10 from using the course. Earl moved Tiger to a par-3 course in Long Beach, where he met his first coach, a pro named Rudy Duran. By age six, Tiger was able to reach the greens from the tees. He even made a couple of holes-in-one. Tiger won his first important competition in 1982, the World 10-and-Under Championship, outshooting boys three and four years older.

Both parents contributed to Tiger’s development as a golfer. Earl used a variety of tricks to toughen his son mentally. Kultida addressed his inner game, teaching him the fundamentals of Buddhism. The result was a child who had nerves of steel, intense focus and great calm in a crisis. It didn’t hurt that Kultida had plenty of killer instinct herself. She once told Tiger to go for the throat just like a real tiger and never let an opponent up.

In 1986, after suffering a mild heart attack, Earl turned over the coaching reins to John Anselmo, a local pro. With Anselmo’s help, Tiger literally became unbeatable. In 1987, he entered more than two dozen local youth tournaments and won them all. Also joining Team Tiger was Earl’s friend, Jay Brunza, a sports psychologist. Brunza helped Tiger deal with the mounting pressures he faced, and sometimes even caddied for him during events.

As he approached adolescence, Tiger began setting goals. He became obsessed with Jack Nicklaus. Tiger had posters of the al-time great on the walls of his room, along with his career stats and milestones.

Tiger’s first step on the path to tracking the Golden Bear was to enter the 1991 USGA Junior Championship. Two years earlier, a teenager named David Duval won the title. He and Tiger would one day become rivals on the PGA Tour. At the 1991 event, Tiger played brilliantly and sank several pressure putts—including the tournament-winner on the first hole of sudden death. He was only 15-years-old.

Although Tiger’s career was on the fast track, the Woods household was feeling the squeeze of Earl’s retirement in the early 1990s. Kultida had gone back to work as a bookkeeper, but her salary plus Earl’s pension was hardly enough to underwrite their son’s career. Mark McCormack of IMG offered a solution. Although the sports, media and entertainment giant couldn’t sign Tiger because of his amateur status, they could sign Earl to “scout” other up-and-coming golfers at the junior tournaments his son played. Of course, this also gave IMG the inside track to become Tiger’s agent once he turned pro.

A chunk of Tiger’s IMG money went to hire a first-rate coach. Earl and Kultida settled on Butch Harmon, the son of a Masters winner and a noted PGA swing doctor. Tiger was starting to grow, and his mechanics would need to change constantly. It would be a challenge to keep winning tournaments and at the same time not screw up his swing permanently. One thing Harmon did almost immediately was put his young pupil on a weightlifting and fitness routine.

ON THE RISE

Tiger repeated as USGA Junior champ in 1992, winning the tournament on the final hole. This earned him an invitation to compete in the Los Angeles Open, a PGA event. As the first round approached, the golf world was abuzz with talk of a 10th grader playing in a pro tournament. Tiger was chased by reporters and assigned extra security. Many wondered how he would react to this pressure. He answered by cutting the first fairway in half with a 280-yard tee shot. Moments later, he holed a birdie putt. As Tiger walked to the second tee, he looked up at the leader board and saw his name on top. By the end of the first round, he had more than 3,000 fans tagging along with him.

Tiger was in the midst of a big growth spurt at this time. By the 1993 USGA Juniors, he stood 6–1 and weighed just under 150 pounds. Sprains, strains and chronic backaches were the rule rather than the exception, and Harmon really earned his money keeping Tiger’s swing straight. The odds seemed against a third straight win, especially after Tiger contracted mononucleosis.

But the talented teen showed he could still shoot birdies and grind out pars as he advanced toward the finals. There he met Ryan Armour, a 16-year-old whose hot and cold streaks had already made him a junior golf legend. Armour blew out to a huge lead in their match, but Tiger stayed within striking distance. With just two holes to play, Armour was 2-up.

Tiger birdied 17 to cut the lead in half, but he knocked his second shot on the par-5 18th into a fairway trap. Tiger recovered with a beautiful shot to within a dozen feet of the cup and rolled in the putt for a magnificent birdie. Armour missed a birdie putt and settled for par. On the first hole of sudden death, a rattled Armour bogeyed as Tiger calmly made par for the win.

At 17, Tiger was perhaps the most sought-after golfer in the history of college sports. He had made it known that he would put his pro career on hold for a chance to go to school, and after sorting through all the offers, he chose Stanford University. Tiger began his freshman year in 1994 and won his first college tournament soon after.

In the summer of 1994, Tiger entered the U.S. Amateur Championship. He had played it before and did well enough against the nation’s top adult golfers. However, this time he truly felt he could win it—especially after capturing the Western Amateur the week before. Tiger’s dream was nearly derailed early in the competition, when he played Buddy Alexander, the golf coach at the University of Florida. Alexander was 3-up with five holes to play. Tiger shifted into high gear and blew past his veteran opponent for the win.

Tiger advanced to the finals, where he faced Trip Kuehne. A member of one of America’s most accomplished golfing families, Kuehne built a big lead in their match. But Tiger but made up the difference with a flurry of birdies. On 17—the course’s famous island green—he hit a spectacular approach and a clutch putt. One hole later, Tiger was the national amateur champion.

The victory qualified Tiger for the 1995 Masters, the mother of all American golf tournaments. Upon his arrival at Augusta the following spring, he was greeted by almost all of the top pros. They wanted to meet Tiger before he started beating them. Tiger shot three rounds of 72 and averaged over 300 yards per drive. His third-round 77, however, doomed him, and he finished a distant 41st. After the Master, Tiger began working with Harmon on his skills on the fairway and around the green. Meanwhile, he returned to the U.S. Amateur later in the year and this time won without much drama.

Back at Stanford, Tiger focused even more on weight training. The work paid off, as he was now able to reach par-5s in two shots and also sharpened his medium-range game. In 1996, Tiger became the NCAA Men’s champion. He also played a magnificent round at the British Open, picking apart the course at Royal Lytham & St. Annes with a 66.

The crowning achievement that summer was Tiger’s third U.S. Amateur title. He faced Steve Scott in the finals and found himself 5-down after 20 holes. Tiger pulled even on the 35th and next-to-last hole of regulation, sinking a 35-foot putt. The two golfers went to a sudden-death playoff, which Tiger won when Scott bogeyed the second hole. After this victory, Tiger told the world that he had decided to turn pro.

Tiger’s first official PGA tournament was the Greater Milwaukee Open. The eyes of the sports world were upon him, and he did not disappoint. Tiger shot an opening-round 67 and made a hole-in-one on the final day. He didn’t win but finished 7-under.

Tiger came close to victory in subsequent events, finally breaking through at the 1996 Las Vegas Open. He made up a four-stroke deficit on the final day to force a playoff with Davis Love III, and then beat him on their first hole. Tiger won again a couple of weeks later at the Walt Disney World/Oldsmobile Classic. It was his second victory in seven tournaments as a pro and his fifth straight Top 5 finish—something no rookie had ever done before.

Sports fans who never paid attention to golf were suddenly obsessed with Tiger. This didn‘t slip the attemtion of the PGA, which was getting excited about the crowds following their newest young star. The tour was now welcoming thousands of new fans who had never paid their way into a PGA event, including many minorities and lots of young people. Before Tiger, golf galleries had been generally older and, well, whiter. The sport was changing for the better. This dynamic, as much as anything, contributed to Tiger being named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated.

Tiger continued his magnificent run as the 1997 season began. He beat Tom Lehman in sudden death to win the Mercedes Championship. He scored a hole-in-one at the Phoenix Open, and he nearly won at Pebble Beach. From there, he took the Honda Classic in Thailand by 10 strokes.

At this point, some said Tiger might be good enough to challenge the field at the Masters. This talk died down in the month prior, when he seemed to slump. Little did anyone suspect that Tiger was actually tinkering with some of the suggestions Harmon had made so he would be ready for Augusta.

When the Masters began, it looked as if the experimenting had messed with Tiger’s game. He hit some atrocious shots and scored a 40 on his first nine holes. Tiger shortened his backswing for the rest of the round and something clicked. He birdied 10 and 12, carded a three on the par-5 15th, and had one more birdie to finish the opening round with a 70. He was only three shots off the lead. The next day he eased into first place with a magical 66.

Third-round leaders have suffered some memorable collapses at Augusta, but not Tiger. He shot a 65 and stretched his lead to nine strokes. Millions of people who had never watched an entire round of golf on television tuned in that Saturday to see what all the fuss was about. They were left wondering what was wrong with everyone else—that’s how easy Tiger made it look.

The TV audience exploded on Sunday, as the world witnessed the coronation of Tiger Woods. He obliterated the record books, finishing with a 270—the lowest score in tournament history—and a 12-stroke win, the largest-ever margin of victory. At 21, he was the youngest golfer ever to wear the fabled green jacket.

On the way to the clubhouse, Tiger spotted Lee Elder, a black golfing pioneer. He hugged Elder and thanked him for making this incredible day possible. At the champion’s dinner that evening, the cooks, busboys and waiters of Augusta flooded into the dining room to join the pros in cheering the new Masters champion.

Tiger still had a thing or two to learn about the pro game. That summer, he hit the wall. The rigors of the PGA tour and the crush of sudden celebrity left him drained at the major events. On many Sundays—the day he had owned as an amateur—he had nothing left in the tank. To make matters worse, after injuring his ankle in a paintball game after the British Open, every step on the course was accompanied by a twinge of pain.

It was at this point that his fellow touring pros began to notice something interesting about Tiger. While their goal was to play consistently and finish in the money, Tiger believed that if he didn’t win a tournament, he had lost it. Realizing that he probably wouldn’t win any more events in 1997, he used the end of the year—and much of 1998—to address the flaws in his game under the most rigorous of conditions. Even so, he still finished atop the PGA money list, with prize money in excess of $2 million.

One of the first things Tiger did was tone down his swing. It was fun to club 330-yard drives, but that same powerful stroke often got him into trouble when more delicate shots were called for. In the process, Tiger developed new flaws, which also had to be corrected, with help from Harmon. Although Tiger finished well in most tournaments during 1998, he won only one. Some whispered that perhaps he was not ready for greatness.

Tiger unleashed his new game on the PGA Tour in 1999. When he needed to overpower a hole, he could still do it. But when he needed to play a course with his head, he was now capable of doing that too. His touch and placement was fantastic, his putting sublime.

Early in the year, at the Buick Invitational, Tiger shot Saturday and Sunday rounds of 62 and 65 to win a tournament at which he never really found his rhythm. He won with his mind, not his body—a harbinger of things to come. At the PGA Championship, he held off a surging Sergio Garcia in the final round with a clutch putt on 17 to win his second major. Later in the year, he put together a streak of eight victories in 11 events, including a win partnered with Mark O’Meara at the World Cup of Golf. He finished the season with eight tournament titles—including four straight to close out the season—and a record $6.6 million in prize money. Tiger then won his first two tournaments of 2000.

During this streak, he learned something important about himself and his peers. A couple of wins came with patented Tiger final flourishes. But during the tournaments in which he made consistent, scoring shots, the other players seemed to beat themselves. They were so intimidated by the prospect of having to make up a couple of strokes on Tiger that they began attempting risky shots that ultimately took them out of the running entirely. Few golfers in history have had this effect on the field. It was a real eye-opener for Tiger.

MAKING HIS MARK

This fact became clear to even the most casual fan at the 2000 U.S. Open, which was played at always treacherous Pebble Beach. While his opponents were spraying balls all over the place, Tiger played one near-flawless hole after another. When he holed out at 18 on the final day, he had once again destroyed the record book. Tiger won by 15 strokes, the largest ever in a major tournament—a record set in 1862 by Old Tom Morris at the British Open. He shot a 12-under par, making him the first player ever to finish the U.S. Open at double-digits under par.

That summer, Tiger dismantled the Old Course at St. Andrews to win the British Open. A record crowd of 230,000—included a gloriously tattooed female streaker—celebrated golf’s most awesome phenomenon, as Tiger finished a record-shattering 19-under par. At this point, at the ripe old age of 24, he held the record for most strokes under par at the Masters, U.S. Open, and British Open.

A month later, Tiger won his third major in a row, the PGA Championship. It had been 47 years since a golfer had won three majors in the same year and 63 years since the PGA had a back-to-back winner. Tiger finished the tournament with yet another record for all-time low score, but this time another golfer, Bob May, matched him stroke for stroke. Tiger defeated May in a three-hole playoff.

In his next start, Tiger won the Canadian Open, completing the Triple Crown of Golf (U.S., British & Canadian Opens) for the first time since Lee Trevino in 1971. In all, Tiger entered 20 events in 2000 and won nine. He finished among the Top 3 five other times. Tiger’s tournament winnings for 200 topped $9 million—obliterating the record he set the year before. Among the countless awards and honors he received for his performance in 2000 was his second Sportsman of the Year from SI.

In 2001, as the Masters neared, Tiger had a chance to be the first players in golf’s modern era to hold all four major titles simultaneously. In Augusta, Tiger shot a second-round 66 to earn a share of second place, and then fired a 68 to pull a stroke ahead of Phil Mickelson for the tournament lead. David Duval made a spirited run at Tiger, catching him with a birdie on 15, but he gave it back when he bogeyed 16. Playing in a group ahead of Tiger, Duval almost caught him again on 18 but missed a birdie putt. Needing only par when he reached 18 to win the Masters, Tiger birdied the hole for good measure to win by two strokes.

Tiger finished the year with a tour-leading five victories, but he did not figure in any of the other majors that season. For the third straight year, however, he was the PGA’s top money-winner, with $6.8 million.

The 2002 season saw Tiger capture two more majors. At the Masters, he repeated as champion. A third-round 66 earned him a share of the lead with Retief Goosen, and on Sunday he outshot the South African by three strokes to win his third green jacket. At the U.S. Open, Tiger navigated through the difficult Bethpage Black to finish at 3-under, the only golfer to break par for the tournament. He was in command virtually the entire four days, finishing three strokes ahead of Mickelson. Tiger won three other tournaments in 2002 and finished atop the money-winners list once again, with just under $7 million.

The law of gravity finally took hold of Tiger in his late 20s. He remained the world’s top-ranked golfer until late in the 2004 season, but he failed to win another major. There were several theories on his slight decline. His remade swing put undue stress on his left knee, which had required a surgical repair. Also, he and Harmon no longer saw eye to eye, and he was bumped off Team Tiger. Hank Haney became the new swing doctor.

And then there was Elin Nordegren, whom Tiger had met in 2001 and married toward the end of 2003. They were introduced by PGA veteran Jesper Parnevik. Elin had served as his au pair. Was married life incompatible with championship golf?

The answer came early in 2005, when Tiger won what was fast becoming his favorite tournament, the Buick Invitational. In April, he took aim at a fourth Masters, recovering from a sloppy first round with a second-round 66. Chris DiMarco led the first two rounds, but Tiger closed the gap and caught DiMarco when he birdied his first four holes of the third round.

DiMarco stumbled but regained his composure to battle Tiger down to the wire on the final day. On 16, Tiger was off the green, and DiMarco had a makeable birdie putt. Tiger chipped and watched the ball roll 20 feet to the right, come to a stop at the lip of the cup, and then after an agonizing moment, drop in. DiMarco missed his putt, and it looked like Tiger had the Masters under control. But Tiger bogeyed 17, and DiMarco made a clutch putt to force a playoff. Tiger won on the first hole with a birdie.

Three months later, Tiger took aim at a second major on the Old Course at the British Open—the site of his remarkable victory five years earlier. He was nearly as good this time, besting Colin Montgomerie by five strokes with a 14-under 274. Tiger won six tournaments in all in 2005 and returned to the top of the rankings by the end of the year.

Tiger carried the momentum into 2006, winning the first two events he entered. He challenged for the Masters that April but could not catch Mickelson on the final day. Less than a month later, Earl Woods passed away from prostate cancer. Tiger was devastated. he went on hiatus for two months, and then missed the cut at the U.S. Open when he returned to the tour.

He was back in form for the British Open, where he came within a shot of matching his record-setting 19-under from six years earlier. DiMarco and Ernie Els made things interesting for a while, but by Sunday, Tiger pulled away to win by two strokes. He had dedicated his play at Royal Liverpool to the memory of his dad. After holing out on 18, he hugged his caddie Steve Williams and sobbed uncontrolably.

One month later, Tiger captured his 12th major at the PGA Championship. He earned a share of the lead after three rounds when he matched the Medinah course record of 65. Tiger was a perfect 11–0 in majors when leading or tied for first headed into the final round. He made it an even dozen on this Sunday with a glittering 68 to win the tournament by five strokes and match the record 18-under that he shot on the same course in 1999.

Tiger completed the season with a flourish, capturing the final six tournaments he entered to finish with a total of eight victories. He made it seven straight with a season-opening win at the Buick Invitational. He was the odds-on favorite to win the 2007 Masters but came up two strokes short to surprise winner Zach Johnson, who authored a Tiger-like finish by carding birdies on three of the final six holes.

Tiger also finished second at the U.S. Open. Although disappointed to fall short of another major, he had plenty to celebrate. One day after the final round, Elin gave birth to their first child, a daughter they named Sam.

Tiger crossed the Atlantic that summer hoping to make it a record-setting three straight victories in the British Open. But a second-round 75 left him too far back, and he finished five strokes off the pace.

Tiger did get his major, at the PGA Championship. It was an unlikely victory, if there is such a thing for Tiger, for he had enjoyed scant success at the Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa. He vaulted into the lead by matching the course record with a second-round 63. He could have set the record, but his final putt of the day rimmed 180 degrees around the cup and would not fall. Woody Austin gave him a scare in the final round, but Tiger was basically in control the entire way, winning by two strokes.

Once again, Tiger finished the season with a flourish, taking four of his last five events. He topped $10 million in prize money for the second time in his career.

Eli finished the season with 294 completions on 557 attempts for 3,762 yards. His 24 TD tosses placed him near the top of the list in the NFC. Unfortunately, so did his 17 interceptions. The Giants scored a whopping 422 points—despite the fact that Eli's QB rating was one of the worst in the league. He seemed to tire down the stretch, and fans grew tired of his exasperated "Why me?" expression when things did not go his way.

Tiger’s first title of 2008, at the Buick Invitational, tied him with Arnold Palmer on the all-time list with 62. He made it 63 at the Dubai Desert Classic when he obliterated a four-stroke final-round deficit with six birdies on the back nine to win. Tiger looked unbeatable heading into the Masters, but his putter failed him in crucial moments and he could not get past winner Trevor Immelman. A week later, he decided to have his increasingly painful left knee scoped for the third time. It took two months before he could walk four rounds again.

Tiger made his return at the 2008 U.S. Open, played at Torrey Pines, one of his favorite courses. He got off to a rocky start, logging a double-bogey on his very first hole. The rest of the opening round went much better, but he still finished at 1-over. Day Two was a wild ride that saw Tiger score five birdies, an eagle and four bogeys. The net result was a 68, which left him one shot off the lead. The third round began for Tiger with another double-bogey on the first hole. He more than compensated for this on the back nine with one remarkable shot after another. Tiger’s left knee was killing him, but he sucked it up and nailed a pair of eagles and a chip-in birdie from the rough on 17. When the smoke cleared, he was ahead by a stroke heading into the final round.

Tiger had never lost a major heading into the final round with a lead. But this was different. His sore left leg would almost certainly be a factor as the day wore on. Concern increased after the first hole, which he double-bogeyed for the third time in four days. He bogeyed #2 to go two shots down with 16 holes to go. Tiger made up some ground at the turn with birdies on 9 and 10, but then he bogeyed 13—the hole on which he had scored an eagle 24 hours earlier.

Ahead of Tiger was Rocco Mediate, who was having a stellar afternoon. He shot a 71 and was in the clubhouse with a one-stroke lead. It might have been two strokes were it not for an agonizingly close miss on 17 and some balky wedge work on the par-5 18th. Now Tiger peered out over the final fairway needing a birdie to force a playoff. His playing partner, Lee Westwood, was in the same boat. Both landed their drives in bunkers. Now the pressure was on.

Tiger’s second shot found the rough. He reached the green with his third stroke, leaving himself a tricky 12-footer for a birdie. The crowd watched as his putt broke toward the hole, lipped the cup, and dropped in. The gallery exploded in cheers as Tiger celebrated with Williams. All Mediate could do was shake his head. He knew the next day’s 18-hole playoff would be a war.

The two golfers swapped the lead several times during the Monday playoff, with Tiger gaining an early advantage and Mediate catching—and passing—him on the back nine. Just as the day before, Tiger played 18 behind by a stroke. And again, he came through with a birdie. A sudden-death playoff followed. On the first hole, Tiger calmly made his par while Mediate missed his putt to equalize. Tiger had bagged his 14th major.

Two days after the tournament, Tiger announced that his season was over, revealing that during rehab he had suffered a double stress fracture of his left tibia. His limp was noticeable throughout the U.S. Open. He needed ACL surgery and, most of all, rest. Even missing the second half of the season, Tiger still finished second on the money list, with $5.75 million. That fall, he let the world know that he and Elin were expecting their second child. The following February they welcomed a boy, Charlie, into the world.

During Tiger’s absence, the golf world learned just how much it relied on his star power. For many tournament broadcasts, the ratings were cut in half. The PGA was thrilled to have him back in 2009. It took a couple of warm-up events for Tiger to be Tiger again, but once he did it was full steam ahead. His first victory came at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tournament he had won five times, including the year before. Tiger started the final round five strokes back, only to roar through the final 18 holes and edge Sean O’Hair by a shot with a birdie putt on the final hole. He won again in riveting fashion at The Memorial, making birdie on the final two holes to win after starting the day four shots behind the leaders.

The news wasn’t all good. Tiger failed to mount a fourth-round charge at the Masters, finishing four strokes back. And he actually missed the cut at the British Open—just the second time this had happened to him in a major. A few weeks after that, he played a dreadful opening round at the Buick Open and was in danger of missing the cut. Over the next three days, he rose from 95th place to win the tournament by three strokes. He captured his 70th career PGA title a week later.

At the PGA Championship, all seemed well heading into the final round, as Tiger led the field by two strokes. He had never lost a major in this position. But alas, there is a first time for everything, and Tiger shot a 75. That left the door open for Yang Yong-eun, who beat him by three strokes. It left many in the golf world dismayed. Not only had Tiger failed to hold a final-day lead; he would end the season without victory in a major for the first time since 2004. This would seem less mysterious after a series of bizarre events unfolded later in the year.

Tiger finished the season with a flourish, leading America to victory in the President’s Cup in October. He won all five of his matches, including the clincher over Yang for a small measure of revenge. Despite a few setbacks, Tiger had a great year. He topped $10 million in prize money for the third time and regained the tour’s #1 ranking.

That was the good news. The bad news for Tiger began during Thanksgiving. Police were called to his house in the early morning hours of November 27th. The facts were hazy but the damage was undeniable—Tiger had crashed his Escalade into a tree and fire hydrant while backing out of his driveway. He had cuts to his face, which were assumed to be related to the accident. According to his version, Elin had rescued him by smashing in the window of his car with a golf club. The story didn’t quite add up, but Tiger refused to make an official statement to law enforcement and was later whisked away by his handlers.

What followed was an unraveling of Tiger’s private life, which included affairs of various lengths with multiple women. Two weeks later, Tiger went public, admitting his indiscretions and apologizing to his family and fans. He also said he would be taking a hiatus from golf. The fallout was immediate. People everywhere turned on Tiger. He became the butt of countless jokes.

Over the next few months, Tiger’s troubles became a worldwide obsession. This did not sit well with his corporate sponsors, who dropped him one by one. Tiger’s value as a pitchman was that he was selling perfection (or at least the unrelenting quest for perfection). Once he proved less than perfect off the golf course, the illusion was shattered.

The PGA was also contemplating life without Tiger, albeit from an entirely different standpoint. Golf needed Tiger back. The sport had seen its ratings plummet during his eight-month recovery after the 2008 U.S. Open. Some wondered if he would ever return. Others posited that, should Tiger return, the galleries would prove more distracting than supportive. It is one thing to play championship golf when fans are yelling, “You the man!” It is something entirely different when fans scream out the names of your alleged lovers.

In February of 2010, realizing that his withdrawal from public life had done more to fuel the tabloids than tame them, Tiger went public again at a carefully controlled press conference. He offered another apology and revealed that he had been seeking treatment for his “addiction” to sex. He took no questions from reporters and said only that he planned to return to competitive golf at some point in the future.

Immediately, golf pundits began debating the moment and circumstances of Tiger’s return. Many believed that he would choose the 2010 Masters, a venue where unruly fans are regularly ejected and press credentials are only issued to serious golf writers. The distractions would certainly be minimized, but honestly, what could Tiger expect to accomplish on the course without so much as a warm-up event?

Of course, there were others who insisted that Tiger would not return to the tour under anything less than ideal conditions. He can afford to be choosy in this regard. If he never picks up another club, he can live happily ever after—at least, financially. Estimates of his wealth range from $700 million to over $1 billion. Should a reconciliation with Elin fail, the amount with which she would walk away from the marriage would hardly put a dent in his fortune.

As far as Tiger’s golfing legacy in concerned, he would fall short of matching Jack Nicklaus’s 18 majors. Aside from that, however, few would argue the fact that he established himself as history’s greatest golfer. Regarding Tiger’s cultural impact, his influence on the world outside his sport is literally incalculable. Indeed, those who maintain that Barack Obama would not be president were it not for ground broken by Tiger Woods have a very interesting point.

In March of 2010, Tiger ended the mystery by confirming that he would return to golf at the Masters in April. The announcement addressed one of the many questions surrounding his past, present and future. The rest will no doubt be answered on the fairways and in the tabloids in the years to come.

TIGER THE PLAYER

Tiger has altered his style and approach as he has grown and matured. Initially, he used his wasp-like waist and sinewy physique to generate incredible torque. This regularly produced drives of 300 to 325 yards. When in doubt, Tiger simply outmuscled a course. His driving accuracy and consistency off the tee were never really his strong points, and that is true to this day.

In refining his swing in the years that followed, Tiger lost a little length, but more than made up for this with fine iron play. His short game is exquisite. Tiger has always been great playing out of traps and other tricky situations, and he has made more clutch putts than anyone can remember.

Although Tiger has the ability to pull off outrageous shots, he is not a risk-taker. He prefers to play cautiously and let his skill force others to take chances. More than one top golfer has disintegrated trying to make up ground on Tiger on a Sunday afternoon.

What made Tiger stand head and shoulders above his peers, particularly in his 20s, was his devotion to improvement. He out-trained, out-lifted and out-practiced other golfers to the point where they realized that the bar might soon rise too high for them to grasp. This was reflected in the improved fitness of veteran pros, and particularly in the wave of chiseled newcomers that have entered the sport in recent years.

EXTRA

* By age three, Tiger could consistently hit the ball out of sand traps.
* As a child at the driving range, Tiger often pointed out the swing flaws of adult golfers.
* Tiger credits his fine hand and finger control to years of playing video games as a kid. The games also helped him overcome fear of failure.
* When Tiger began working with Butch Harmon, he could not afford many one-on-one sessions. Instead, he received tips from his coach via phone, fax, and videotape.
* Between the ages of 16 and 17, Tiger grew so quickly that he had to change club lengths twice.
* After less than three months of college golf, Tiger ascended to the #1 NCAA ranking.
* Prior to his first appearance at the Masters, in 1995, Tiger received a telegram of congratulations from Charlie Sifford. Sifford, an African-American golfing legend, was never invited to play the course.
* After the second round of the 1995 Masters, Tiger gave a clinic to some black children from the area. When they asked if an African-American would ever win the Masters he not only said, "Yes." He guaranteed it.
* After Tiger skipped the 1996 dinner at which he was to receive the award for top college golfer, he personally wrote 200 letters of apology to the guests.
* Before Tiger won the Masters in 1997, the worst first-round front nine a champion had ever shot was a 38. Tiger shot a 40 and recovered to win.
* Tiger has played on America’s Ryder Cup team since 1997. If there is one hole in his golfing resume, it is his performance in this competition. Time and again, he has failed to deliver the dramatic victories he does on the pro tour.
* Tiger credits his friend and neighbor Mark O’Meara with teaching him how to manage a round when he was a young pro. O’Meara beat Tiger by a stroke at the 1998 British Open.
* Eli speaks with Peyton once a week.
* Tiger broke the PGA scoring record in 1999, and then broke his own mark in 2000.
* Tiger’s six straight wins in 1999–2000 tied Ben Hogan for the second-longest streak in history.
* At a 2000 tournament in Thailand, Tiger was offered Thai citizenship. He politely turned the offer down.
* Tiger’s 272 at the 2000 U.S. Open tied Jack Nicklaus for the lowest score ever at this event.
* At the age of 24, Tiger completed a career Grand Slam, winning the Masters (1997), PGA (1999), U.S. Open (2000) and British Open (2000). Only Gary Player, Gene Sarazen, Nicklaus and Hogan had done this before him.
* In 2001, Tiger wrote a book entitled How I Play Golf. It sold more than 1.5 million copies.
* In 2006, Tiger became the youngest golfer to reach 50 victories. He was 30 years and seven months.
* Tiger had only three bogeys during the 2006 PGA Championship, tying a record for major tournaments.
* Tiger sank an amazing 90-foot putt in the first round of the 2007 British Open.
* In 2007, Tiger became only the second golfer after Sam Snead to win five or more events in eight different seasons. He made it nine seasons in 2009 to own the record by himself.
* Tiger was named Athlete of the Decade by the Associated Press for the first 10 years of the 21st century.
* In 2006, Tiger launched Tiger Woods Design, which builds golf courses. As of 2010, the company was developing projects in Mexico, Dubai and North Carolina.
* In 2010, Tiger donated $3 million to Haitian earthquake relief.
* Tiger’s older half-brother from his dad’s previous marriage—Earl Jr.—has a daughter, Cheyenne, who has won more than two dozen amateur golf tournaments and currently plays for the Wake Forest golf team.
* Tiger owns a 150-foot yacht called Privacy.

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