Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods

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Born Eldrick T. Woods on December 30, 1975, in Cypress, Calif., golf phenom Tiger Woods has had a career nothing short of spectacular. His father, Earl Woods, began teaching his son the game when he was just a year old. In fact, Tiger's skills were so good at such a young age that it landed him an appearance on the Mike Douglas Show in 1978. The two-year-old Woods' appearance put him up against legendary comedian Bob Hope in a putting contest. At three, he shot a 48 over nine holes at one of his hometown courses. When Tiger was five he appeared on television's "That's Incredible" and in Golf Digest magazine.

After winning six junior championships between the ages of eight and 15, Tiger went on to become the youngest U.S. Junior Amateur Champion in history, a feat he would repeat the following year, making him also the only player to ever win more than once. He would even go on to win it for a third consecutive time the following year. At 16 he competed in the Nissan Los Angeles Open, his first PGA Tour event. At 18, Woods won the U.S. Amateur Championship, the youngest to accomplish this feat. Next, he enrolled at Stanford University and at 19 successfully defended his Amateur Championship title, the second of three consecutive titles.

In August 1996 Tiger turned pro and immediately was approached by Nike and Titleist to sign endorsement deals worth a total of $60 million. On the golf course he nearly earned his first million through his play in just eight events. Subsequently he was named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine. In 1997, at age 21, Tiger became the youngest winner of The Masters tournament, his first major win, setting a record for the largest margin of victory ever at the event (an astounding 12 strokes). He also led the tour in earnings with a record $2.06 million; and in just his 42nd week as a pro Woods had claimed the number-one spot in the world golf rankings.

1998 would prove to be a bit of a slump for Tiger. While focusing more on improving his swing than winning, due to his changing body, he only won one event and dipped to fourth overall on the money list. This was somewhat a good thing, because at the onset of his career there was criticism and speculation about the possibility that Tiger was so good that he would ultimately be bad for the game.

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His early run of domination led some to believe that the sport would become less competitive as it seemed no one could catch him or compete evenly with him. But in 1999, Tiger bounced back and began a period of sheer dominance over every other golfer. He entered 21 events and won eight (including the final four events of the year), finishing in the top ten 16 times. He shattered the previous mark for yearly earnings with $6.6 million. Tiger began 2000 in true form, winning the first two events to increase his consecutive win streak to six, the longest such streak since 1948 when Ben Hogan accomplished the feat. Next, he went on to win the U.S. Open by the largest margin of strokes in a major at 15; and after four years as a pro he became the all-time tour money winner. He finished the year winning three consecutive majors after a fifth-place finish at The Masters, becoming only the second player in history (after Ben Hogan) to win three in a single season.

Tiger began the 2001 season by winning The Masters to become the reigning champ in all four majors concurrently and the first player to win each major consecutively, though not in the same season. In 2002, he won his third Masters and his second U.S. Open, the sixth and seventh of his 11 career majors. But Tiger's game declined over the next few years, and speculation arose that he was indeed human after all. In 2003 he won five of the 18 tournaments he participated in, but none of those were in any of the majors. In 2004, after a record 264 weeks at the top, Tiger lost the number-one ranking to Fijian Vijay Singh. However, that same year he passed the career earnings mark of $40 million, the first player ever to do so.

Early in 2005, Tiger won the Buick Invitational, putting him on the fast track back to possible golf dominance. Next, he defeated Chris DiMarco on a playoff hole to win The Masters for the fourth time, joining Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer as the only other golfer to win the event four or more times. Tiger also won his second British Open, which put him in the company of Jack Nicklaus as the only two golfers to win each major twice. In April, he regained his number-one ranking from Singh, and the two flip-flopped first and second for a couple months before Tiger began breaking away.

So far, during two periods of his career he has slumped, citing focus on honing his swing each time, after which he successfully rebounded. But interest in the game has remained, and since Tiger began professional play televised golf ratings have steadily raised and currently top baseball and basketball. However, viewership skyrockets when Tiger is playing well or leading. In turn, despite the negative press at the beginning of his career, Tiger has almost single-handedly revolutionized the game, spawning a huge boom of interest in the sport by casual viewers.

Throughout the course of his illustrious career, Tiger has won 10 Majors, 46 PGA Tournaments, and a combined 36 wins between the Asian Tour, PGA European Tour, World Cup of Golf, and several other unofficial events. He's established several charity organizations, including the Tiger Woods Foundation, a charity that benefits children, which he created with his father.
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