Tiger Woods – The Greatest Golfer Ever
Golf is an interesting sport where a player uses different clubs to hit a small ball into a hole. Although golf is easy to learn, it is almost impossible to master. Golf would be changed forever in the late 1990s when a new figured appeared on the golfing scene. His name was Tiger Woods. He would win an immense amount of tournaments and set a plethora of records by shattering the old ones and reshaping golf history. Today, many consider Tiger Woods to be one of the best golfers ever to play the game.
During the 1960s and early 1970s, Earl Woods, Tiger Wood’s father, was serving in Vietnam as a Green Beret officer (Roberts 11). While on his tour of duty, he faced near-death multiple times and was saved at least once by a South Vietnamese Colonel, Vuong Dang Phong, whom Earl nicknamed “Tiger” (Roberts 12). Earl Woods retired from the army in 1974 after marrying Kulitida Punswad of Thailand (Roberts 13-14). On December 30, 1975, their son Eldrick Woods was born, in Cypress, California (Raatma 8). The E in Eldrick stands for Earl, and the K stands for Kultida. His parents gave him this special name so that he would have the support of his family with him always. Earl nicknamed his son “Tiger” in memory of Colonel Phong (Raatma 8).
While Earl Woods was still serving his final year in the army, a fellow Green Beret officer introduced him to the game of golf, and he fell in love with it (Roberts 14). When Tiger was born, Earl would take him into the garage and sit him down while he practiced. Tiger watched his father practice shots every day and enjoyed watching so much that as soon as Tiger could stand on his feet, Earl bought him a miniature set of golf clubs (Roberts 15). “When he was about two, Tiger even memorized his father’s office phone number and would call to ask if they could play golf after work. Father and son were soon regulars on the course” (Roberts 16). Earl Woods even created a special way of scoring Tiger’s play to keep him interested (Roberts 17). At age three, Tiger won his first pitch, putt, and drive competition, beating other kids who were seven to eight years older than him (Edwards 100). Tiger’s amazing play bothered the officials of the Woods family’s home course, the Navy Golf Course, so they started to not allow Tiger to play, saying that he was too young (Roberts 20). Other people were fascinated by Tiger’s amazing abilities at such a young age. Tiger was even invited to hit a drive and putt on The Michael Douglas Talk Show. Since Tiger could no longer play at the Navy Golf Course, Earl Woods found a new course, Heartwell Golf Park, and brought Tiger there to play (Roberts 23). The club pro, Rudy Duran, and Earl helped Tiger to improve at this new course.
When Tiger Woods grew a little bigger, his father got him a normal size set of clubs to play with (Roberts 30). Woods used these new clubs to beat his father in golf on November 28, 1987. This was an important stepping stone in his life, which allowed him to explore golf more freely, out from under the arms of his parents, and most importantly, his father. Woods’s first major triumph came in 1989, when he won the Optimist International Golf Junior Championship (Edwards 26). Woods continued to win tournaments because of his father’s teachings of ignoring distractions and focusing on a goal (Edwards 20). In 1991, Tiger Woods became the youngest player to ever win the United States Junior Amateur Championship (Raatma 41). Woods did not stop there, winning that event again in 1992, and yet again in 1993 (Roberts 36-37). While continuing to improve his skills as a golfer, Tiger Woods started working with Claude “Butch” Harmon, a highly respected golf swing coach, in 1993 (Roberts 37). Harmon helped Woods to groove himself a powerful and reliable swing that he would eventually use to win his first United States Amateur Championship in 1993, once again setting a record, as the youngest golf to ever win the event (Roberts 33).
In 1994, Tiger Woods enrolled in Stanford University on a full golf scholarship (Edwards 104). While in school that year, he won the United States Amateur Championship for the second time and received an invitation to try-out for the Masters Tournament held in Augusta, Georgia (Roberts 46). At this prestigious event, Woods did not live up to his expectations, shooting five over par (293 total), over the course of the four days of play.
Another milestone in Tiger Woods’s career came in 1996, when he won the NCCA Championship and then announced that he would be turning professional (Raatma 44). After turning pro, Woods signed an endorsement deal with Nike for clothing, worth 47.5 million dollars over five years (Roberts 53) (Roberts 55). Woods also signed an endorsement with Titleist for equipment, worth twenty million dollars over five years (Roberts 56). Even with all of the media attention, Woods remained steadfast and confident. His first win as a professional golfer came at the Las Vegas Invitational that year, earning him some well-deserved respect from his fellow golfers (Raatma 31). When asked about what he taught his son, Earl Woods said, “The first thing I taught Tiger, aside from love of the game of golf, was the love of practice. That prevails in him today – the sheer joy of practicing, of having fun while practicing. I taught him that there are no shortcuts. Nobody owes you anything. The game doesn’t owe you anything. You get out of it what you put into it” (Raatma 27). Overall, Tiger won two events in 1996 and had seven top tens, making him almost one million dollars richer (Tiger Woods Stats 1). Tiger Woods’s performance in 1996 caused the well known magazine Sports Illustrated to give him the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year Award (Roberts 97).
Starting fresh in 1997, Tiger Woods set out to fulfill his dreams. Woods started by creating the Tiger Woods Foundation, as a way to reach people through golf (Raatma 34). He had four tour victories and eleven top ten finishes out of 24 events. Of the four victories, Tiger Woods won his first Masters Tournament on April 13, 1997, with a score of eighteen under par, and with a twelve stroke lead. When Woods’s last putt dropped into the cup, he did his famous fist pump of victory, before hugging his dad who had helped him get there (Roberts 62). The fist pump soon became a regular action that people saw, or expected to see each time Tiger Woods played a great shot or won an event. His wonderful performance set the stroke-lead record, and the low score record, and earned him his first Masters Green Jacket (Raatma 41). By the end of 1997, Woods was the number one golfer on the money list for winning, which set a new record because he was the youngest person to hold the number one spot (Roberts 97). He also was selected as the Male Athlete of the Year by Associated Press, and the PGA Player of the Year by the Professional Golfers Association.
The year 1998 came and went with Tiger Woods winning only three events and no major tournaments (Majors) (Tiger Woods Stats 3). Tiger had previously won so many events in the past, that when he did not win, the media suggested that he was in a slump (Roberts 75). This was not true because no one is perfect and it is impossible to play well in every tournament. Even though Tiger Woods was not at the top of his game, television ratings were still high because Tiger Woods is an enjoyable person to watch.
From the year 1999 through 2004, Tiger Woods was on fire winning almost every possible event. Over the course of those six years, Woods won a whopping 42 events which included 9 majors (Tiger Woods Stats 1-9). There is one event called the Bay Hill Invitational that Tiger Woods won four years in a row (1999-2003) (Tiger Woods Stats 5-8). In another event that Tiger won, the Mercedes Championship, he hit the golf ball 498 yards (over four football fields) (Tiger Woods Stats 7). The Majors that he won in those six years gave him two Grand Slams. A Grand Slam is when a player wins the United States Open, the British Open, the PGA Championship, and the Masters Tournament (Roberts 97). His play throughout the course of those years was simply amazing, and caused people to wonder how he could be so good. When asked about Tiger Woods’s swing, Butch Harmon said that Tiger had a powerful swing because of two reasons: a quick takeaway and large shoulder turn, and great balance (Roberts 67).
Recently, in 2005, at only 29 years old, Tiger Woods won his third Masters Tournament and completed his second Grand Slam (Bonk 1). That set another record because now Tiger Woods and the great Jack Nicklaus are the only two golfers ever to win all four Grand Slam events twice. Interestingly enough, Woods is the only golfer to win a Grand Slam consecutively (Raatma 41).
In addition to all of the amazing golf that the great Tiger Woods played, he also developed his own video game, through EA Sports, based on the PGA Tour in 1998 (Saltzman 2). The video game was extremely realistic portraying Tiger Woods and other real PGA Tour golfers as they looked. Tiger has had a new PGA Tour Video game every year since 1998 and each one is more realistic and exciting. When asked about the video game, he said, “I’ve seen the evolution of my swing from the first time I did the game [in 1998] until now” (Saltzman 1).
Tiger Woods PGA Tour golf games are crazily realistic and my partner in crime, Jake Anderson over at http://www.hvacalbany.com, was the one who got me hooked on it. The game is just impressive, from the look of the swing to the individual blades of grass moving in the wind. You need a serious graphics card to be able to handle the game and run it at its full potential, but when you do, it’s unreal how awesome it can be. I am absolutely terrible at real golf, but in this game, practice has turned me into a beast. I still can’t seem to beat Jake though. He sponsors a number of golf events around Albany and the Capital Region though, so he plays golf much more than I do.
What do you think? It Tiger Woods the greatest golfer of all time? And have you played his game? I think you know where I stand on this one. Let me know.