Eldrick Tont "Tiger" Woods is an American professional golfer whose achievements to date rank him among the most successful golfers of all time. Formerly the World No. 1, he is the highest-paid professional athlete in the world, having earned an estimated US$90.5 million from winnings and endorsements in 2010.
Woods was born in Cypress, California, to Earl (1932–2006) and Kultida (Tida) Woods (born 1944). He is the only child of their marriage. Woods' first name, Eldrick, was coined by his mother because it began with "E" (for Earl) and ended with "K" (for Kultida). His middle name Tont is a traditional Thai name. He was nicknamed Tiger in honor of his father's friend Col. Vuong Dang Phong, who had also been known as Tiger.
Woods became a professional golfer in August 1996, and immediately signed deals with Nike, Inc. and Titleist that ranked as the most lucrative endorsement contracts in golf history at that time. Woods was named Sports Illustrated's 1996 Sportsman of the Year and PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. In April 1997, he won his first major, the Masters, becoming the tournament's youngest-ever winner. Two months later, he set the record for the fastest-ever ascent to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings. After a lackluster 1998, Woods finished the 1999 season with eight wins, including the PGA Championship, a feat not achieved since 1974.
In 2000, Woods achieved six consecutive wins, the longest winning streak since Ben Hogan did it in 1948. One of these was the 2000 U.S. Open, where he broke or tied nine tournament records in what Sports Illustrated called "the greatest performance in golf history," in which Woods won the tournament by a 15-stroke margin and earned a check for $800,000. At age 24, he became the youngest golfer to achieve the CareerGrand Slam. At the end of 2000, Woods had won nine of the twenty PGA Tour events he entered and had broken the record for lowest scoring average in tour history. He was named the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, the only athlete to be honored twice, and was ranked by Golf Digest magazine as the twelfth-best golfer of all time.
In 2006, Woods began dominantly, winning his first two PGA tournaments but failing to capture his fifth Masters championship in April. Following the death of his father in May, Woods took a nine-week hiatus from the tour and appeared rusty upon his return at the U.S. Open, missing the cut at Winged Foot. However, he quickly returned to form and ended the year by winning six consecutive tour events. At the season's close, with 54 wins and 12 majors wins, Woods had broken the tour records for both total wins and total majors wins over eleven seasons.
Woods continued to excel in 2007 and the first part of 2008. In April 2008, he underwent knee surgery and missed the next two months on the tour. Woods returned for the 2008 U.S. Open, where he struggled the first day but ultimately claimed a dramatic victory over Rocco Mediate, after which Mediate said, "This guy does things that are just not normal by any stretch of the imagination," and Kenny Perry added, "He beat everybody on one leg." Two days later, Woods announced that he would miss the remainder of the season due to further knee surgery, and that his knee was more severely damaged than previously revealed, prompting even greater praise for his U.S. Open performance. Woods called it "my greatest ever championship." In Woods' absence, TV ratings for the remainder of the season suffered a huge decline from 2007.
Upon Woods' much-anticipated return in 2009, he performed well, including a spectacular performance at the 2009 Presidents Cup, but failed to win a major, the first year since 2004 that he had not done so. After his marital infidelities came to light at the end of 2009 and received massive media coverage, Woods announced in December that he would be taking an indefinite break from competitive golf. In February 2010, he delivered a televised apology for his behavior. During this period, several companies ended their endorsement deals with Woods.
Woods began his 2012 season with two tournaments (the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am) where he started off well, but struggled on the final rounds. Following the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, where he was knocked out in the second round by missing a 5-foot putt, Woods revised his putting technique and tied for second at the Honda Classic, with the lowest final round score in his PGA Tour career. After a short time off due to another leg injury, Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his first win on the PGA Tour since the BMW Championship in September 2009. Following several dismal performances, Woods notched his 73rd PGA Tour win at the Memorial Tournament in June, tying Jack Nicklaus in second place for most PGA Tour victories; a month later, Woods surpassed Nicklaus with a win at the AT&T National, to trail only Sam Snead, who had 82 PGA wins.
2013 would bring a return of Woods' dominating play. He won the Farmers Insurance Open in January 2013 by four shots for his 75th PGA Tour win. It was the seventh time he had won the event. In March, he won the WGC-Cadillac Championship, also for the seventh time, giving him his 17th WGC title and first since 2009. Two weeks later, he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational, winning the event for a record-tying 8th time. The win moved him back to the top of the world rankings. To commemorate that achievement, Nike was quick to launch an ad with the tagline "winning takes care of everything".
On April 13, 2013, Woods was up for disqualification from the 2013 Masters Tournament over claims he took an illegal drop after his third shot on the par-5 15th hole bounced off of the pin and into the water. After further review, Woods was assessed a two-stroke penalty for the drop and not disqualified. He finished T4 in the event. Woods won The Players Championship in May 2013, his second career win at the event, notching his fourth win of the 2013 season. It was the quickest he had ever gotten to four wins in any season in his professional career.
After a slow start to 2014, Woods injured himself during the Honda Classic and was unable to finish, withdrawing after 13 holes of the final round citing back pain. He subsequently competed in the WGC-Cadillac Championship but was visibly in pain during much of the last round. He was forced to skip the Arnold Palmer Invitational at the end of March 2014 and, on April 1, announced that he would miss the Masters Tournament for the first time since 1994 after undergoing a microdiscectomy.
On February 5, 2015, Woods withdrew from the Farmers Insurance Open after another back injury. Woods stated on his website that it was unrelated to his previous surgery and was taking a break from golf until his back healed. He returned for the 2015 Masters Tournament, finishing in a tie for 17th. In the final round, Woods injured his wrist after his club hit a tree root. He later stated that a bone popped out of his wrist, but he adjusted it back into place and finished the round.
Woods was raised a Buddhist by his Thai mother and apparently it was a powerful force in his childhood. During his rise to fame, Woods spoke about his faith openly, saying:
"I like Buddhism because it’s a whole way of being and living. It’s based on discipline and respect and personal responsibility."
Tiger is notoriously non-political. In fact, his silence on politics has become somewhat of an annoyance to some journalists and fans who would like to hear his views.
Woods’ parents saw his fame, his multi-racial heritage, and his influence as a possible segue to political and/or cultural progress. His father, Earl, once said:
"Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity. … He is the Chosen One. He’ll have the power to impact nations. Not people. Nations."
However, it is speculated that Tiger didn’t want to alienate any fans or–more importantly–sponsors with any possibly controversial views, so he took the vow of silence.
That is until Obama. Now Tiger didn’t explicitly endorse Obama, but he did speak at the president’s inauguration ceremony, saying that Obama’s victory was “absolutely incredible” and that the president “represents America.” For the time being, that’s all we’re getting out of Tiger.
"Days when you just don't have it, you don't mail it in, you don't pack it in, you give it everything you've got. You grind it out, I don't care what kind of game you have, you somehow try and find a way to get it done ... That's part of my attitude and belief, that you should always have the switch on. You can't turn it on and off."
"Well I think one of the things as far as golf, one of the things my dad kept instilling in me was the joy of the game. He made it fun for me. A lot of the times I see a lot of the kids, they don't enjoy being out there and that's a shame, you're supposed to enjoy the game."
"I think, one thing that I've really come to appreciate about my parents as I've got older is you know, how wise they really were. As a kid when I was growing up, as any kid, you think you know every thing and I was no different to that. I had different opinions on a lot of different things then them but the way they raised me, in hindsight, they were right."
"I don't think you're ever there. You never arrive, but if you do, you might as well quit because you're already there. Can't get any better. And as players, if you ever have that moment -- you should never have that moment. You're always trying to get better."
Aside from the occasional fist pump that likes golf traditionalists, Tiger Woods has virtually no personality in public. Stick a microphone in front of him and you’re bound to hear the same five lines about his swing recycled over and over again. Even the press conference he called after all of 2009's controversy was pretty much emotion-free.
"He was so human and cared so much about other people and the world around him. This may surprise some people, but Tiger was a great boyfriend.
I have so many fond memories of our time together. At that age Tiger had an amazing metabolism so we spent a lot of time eating. Our favorite restaurant was a Chinese joint in Mountain View; the guys there must have been golf fans because they always gave us free desserts, which was a big deal to us."”