Tiger Woods enjoyed an unbelievable golf career and a colourful lifestyle to go with it. Yet, his philosophy of life is simple. For him there is no such thing as a setback. He believes in tomorrow, thinks he would be better than he was today, applying the lessons he learnt.
Born Eldrick Tont Woods to an African-American father and Thai mother, he was a golfing freak even as a child. His father Earl called him Tiger after a friend of his from his Army days.
Earl taught young Tiger the basics of golf and by eight he was seen as a prodigy. Soon became a television star displaying his skills on breakfast shows. Much before that he is believed to have carded a 48 for nine holes!
Yet, he came up the rungs. At 15 he became the youngest to win the US Junior Amateur Championship, following it up with the 1992 and 1993 junior titles.
In the following year he won the first of his three US Amateur titles in a row, the first one in an amazing rally from six strokes behind. In a logical progression, he went to Stanford University and not surprisingly the collegiate title was his in 1996. After his third U.S. Amateur title, Woods quit college and turned professional.
In his first year as a pro he played eight PGA tournaments and his two titles were enough to mark him down as the PGA Tour’s rookie of the Year.
There was no stopping Tiger. At 21, he was right up there winning the US Masters at Augusta in 1997, returning with a record 270, the first African-American and the youngest to achieve the distinction. His score was 12 strokes ahead of the rest of the field.
A year before, the great Jack Niclaus told Tiger after a practice round at Augusta that the course was so suited to his game that he could win more green jackets than he (Jack) and Arnold Palmer put together. Jack had six and Arnold four and that made Tiger wonder whether Jack really meant it or did he know what an astronomical figure the number was. All the same Tiger felt the course was perfect for him when he first played on it.
What made Nicklaus to think that Woods would master the Augusta course’ Tiger’s club speed — as he was able to hit 300 plus yards comfortably. Add to it his chipping and putting. He was mentally tough, too.
Tiger still thinks that his first Masters win is not only career-defining for him but also a watershed in world golf. Personally, he made some wrong decisions and he regretted them. After all, he was just 21 and did not know what he was doing. He refused to appear on popular TV chat shows and even declined an invitation from President Clinton to felicitate him on winning the Masters.
Later that year, he tied the course record playing his first British Open. Woods tied the course record of 64. He went on to win four US PGA titles, three US Open, three Open Championship and three US Masters. His career record added up to 105 tournament victories.
His troubles began first with a knee problem in 2008 and then his personal life took a topsy-turvy route the following year when he was involved in a car accident at his Orlando, Florida, home. That led to close scrutiny of his personal life, forcing him to take a break from golf to spend time with his family. Still he could not save his marriage as his wife Elin Nordegren, a Swedish model, went back home with their two children.
For over two years his golf took a nosedive, he was struggling and his only victory came in 2012 at the Palmer Invitational. He did not win a Major in 2013 and thereafter a persistent back pain kept him off the golf course for long stretches. He missed the entire 2016 season and returned to play just one tournament to go back for another back surgery in 2017.
He spent his absence from golf recollecting his thoughts on his first Masters 20 years on and came up with this new book, “Unprecedented: The Masters and Me”, written in collaboration with golf writer Lorne Rubenstein.
He reflects on his record-breaking Augusta Masters victory, how his father prepared him for bigger battles in life, and his own dedication to attain such great heights.
He was as aggressive in his writing as he was as a golfer, nothing conservative about his approach.
In his own words: “You hate to make a mistake on the last green no matter how many shots you have in hand.”
That sums up Tiger’s world of golf and life.
(Veturi Srivatsa can be reached at email@example.com)
By Veturi Srivatsa