Tiger Woods Biography

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Birth Name: Tiger Woods
Born: 12/30/1975
Birth Place: Cypress, California, USA

He was born Eldrick Tont Woods on Dec. 30, 1975 in Cypress, CA, the son of retired U.S. Army officer Earl Woods and his wife Kultida, a Thai citizen of Thai and Chinese ancestry whom Earl had met in 1966 during a tour of duty in Southeast Asia. Earl soon nicknamed Eldrick "Tiger" after a friend in the South Vietnamese army. Earl had divorced his first wife in 1968 - by whom he had two children - and married Kultida the next year, not long after rotating back to Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn. It was there the elder Woods, a college athlete who had broken the Big Eight color-barrier as a baseball player for Kansas State University, first took up golf and became an avid amateur. Tiger, he later recounted, began emulating his father's golf swing at just six months old. The family relocated to Southern California in 1974 after Earl retired, having achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel, and went to work as a defense industry consultant. By 1978, with Tiger showing eerie prodigy talents at the game, Earl secured an appearance on the daytime talk show "The Mike Douglas Show" (syndicated, 1961-1982) where his son matched his putting skills with famous golf aficionado Bob Hope. Tiger's skills developed at such a remarkable pace that Golf Digest ran a story on him in 1981, the same year he demonstrated his talents on the ABC primetime magazine show "That's Incredible" (1980-84).

Starting at age eight, with his father meticulously guiding and benchmarking his game, Tiger won his first Optimist International Junior Championship in the 9-10 age group, the youngest available, and went on to five more titles at the tournament over the next seven years, being named Golf Digest's "Junior Amateur Player of the Year" in 1991 and its "Amateur Player of the Year" in 1992. That year he won the U.S. Junior National Championship, defended it successfully in 1992 and 1993 and, also in 1992, played in his first PGA Tour tournament, the Los Angeles Open. Entering the play-in round of his first PGA Tour major tournament, the 1995 Masters Tournament, he was the only amateur to make it into the field. Graduating Western High School in Anaheim, CA in 1995, Woods accepted a scholarship to play at Stanford University. His first year teeing off for Stanford saw him voted Pac-10 Player of the Year and NCAA First Team All-American, and in June 1996 he won the NCAA individual golf championship. Not surprisingly, after his sophomore year at Stanford, Woods turned pro. It proved a lucrative decision even before he won his first event. He signed a long-term $40 million endorsement deal with Nike and one with golf ball-maker Titleist for $20 million.

His first professional wins would come at the Las Vegas International and the Disney/Oldsmobile Classic, a portentous enough start for Sports Illustrated to name him its Sportsman of the Year. But not without lack of controversy. For a sport dominated historically by Caucasians, some in the media - even the older generation golfers themselves - let fly racially-questionable comments. In 1997, just 21 years old, an unaffected Woods won his first major tournament title at The Masters in Augusta, GA, the youngest player ever to do so. Woods dazzled TV golf audiences in shooting 270 for 72 holes, 18 under the course's par, and besting the closest score by 12 strokes. Racking up $2,066,833 in tournament earnings for the year, he was voted PGA Player of the Year and was ranked the No. 1 player in the world, laurels that would become fairly common for Woods. In 1998, EA Sports released what would be an annual, increasingly sophisticated video game, Tiger Woods PGA Tour. By 1999, he was the top PGA earner, bringing in $6.6 million in tournament winnings, and took his second major title at the PGA Championship out of a total of eight tournament wins, plus a dramatic win in the international team competition, The Ryder Cup. He set another record in 2000 by winning six PGA Tour events straight. That year, he took his first British Open, and with another Masters win in spring 2001, he became simultaneous standing titleholder of all four Grand Slam tournaments, the first in his profession to do so.

SI again named him Sportsman of the Year in 2000, making him the first athlete to twice be given the laurel. Nike, which had made Woods-centric golf products an entire operating division within the company, reupped his contract that year for an unprecedented $100 million over the next five years, joining an endorsee list that now included Buick and American Express, making Woods a nearly omnipresent face on TV airwaves. In 2001, Swedish golfer Jesper Parnevik introduced him to his nanny Elin Nordegren, a one-time model, also Swedish-born, and she and Woods began a relationship. In 2003, he hit a slump in which he would go more than a year without winning a big tourney and notably lost his No. 1 ranking to Vijay Singh in 2004. Woods married Nordegren that year in a lavish ceremony on a golf course in Barbados, with Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates and Michael Jordan on the exclusive guest-list. He snapped out of it in 2005, taking his fourth Masters title and his second British Open. Woods' 2006 would come with pitfalls: Earl Woods died in the spring after a battle with cancer; and, as Woods competed in that year's Ryder Cup at an Irish club, Irish magazine The Dubliner published what it claimed were nude pictures of Nordegren. The pictures were fairly obvious composite fakes, and she would go on to win a $182,000-plus libel settlement.

In 2007, Woods won his fourth PGA Championship tournament, his 13th major title. In 2008, he picked up his fourth win at the U.S. Open, but only days after the win, he announced he would need an operation on his left knee's anterior cruciate ligament. Idle for eight months, he returned to the PGA Tour in February 2009. He upped his tournament win total to 93 but was unable to take a major tournament title. Things were about to take a drastic turn that would make injuries and title losses look minor. On Nov. 27, 2009, news outlets nationwide flashed that Woods had been in a car accident directly outside his home in the Orlando, FL suburb of Windermere in the early hours of that morning. Police arrived on the scene to find Woods on the ground near his SUV with his wife administering first aid, and he was treated for cuts and bruises at a nearby hospital and released. Investigators determined he had struck a fire hydrant, then a tree, while driving away from the house and cited Woods for careless driving. But, as the story unwound over the next few days, and as he persistently dodged questions as to why he was leaving his house in such an apparent rush so late at night, coupled with why Nordegren had taken to smashing the SUV's rear window with a golf club in order to excise Woods from the vehicle. Tabloids sensed something in the milk was not clean. Woods' squeaky-clean image, maintained meticulously via his phalanx of marketing partners, dissipated as it was revealed that the crash had been the result of a row between Woods and Nordegren, who now had two sons, over an extramarital affair.

It turned out to be more than one - much more, with mistresses and strippers coming out of the woodwork to tell all seemingly week after week to the delight of tabloid editors. Woods offered an amorphous mea culpa on his website two weeks after the incident. The first weeks of 2010 saw a fusillade of rumors as to Woods' whereabouts, not a few suggesting he had sequestered himself at a rehab center for sex addiction as per Nordegren's demand. Woods' corporate partners Gillette, Accenture, Tag Heuer and Gatorade terminated his contracts and, by one report, Nike, unwilling to simply discard its mammoth investments from the gravy train, kept Woods aboard but invoked his contract's morals clause to halve its annual payout to $10 million. In March 2010, Woods held a press conference in which he related some of his soul-searching in the intervening months and stated his intentions to better himself and rededicate himself to his family. He would return to his trade the next month at The Masters, but played poorly. The marriage proved unsalvageable and the two divorced in August 2010, Woods reportedly committing to a settlement in the vicinity of $100 million. He nevertheless went on to $20 million in tournament earnings that year. Woods staged a final-round comeback at Augusta, but it was not enough to win the 2011 Masters. At one point during that tournament, he suffered injuries to knee ligaments and the Achilles tendon and, after playing poorly in his next outing, vowed to sit out the summer's British Open and other events until the leg completely healed. Much like President Clinton's reputation in the wake of Monica-Gate, the once squeaky clean Woods' rep seemed just as permanently tainted as his game.

By Matthew Grimm