Tiger Woods

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What makes golf the phenomenal sport it is today? Is it the game itself? Some say golf started in fifteenth century Scotland by men hitting a pebble with a wooden stick. Currently, graphite drivers routinely send the ball soaring 300 yards. Perhaps it was the golfers who made the game great. Arnold Palmer brought golf to the masses in the 1950’s and Jack Nicklaus has set records that have yet to be broken. However, today sports commentators, pro golfers, and weekend duffers, generally agree the game of golf has been changed forever with the arrival of Tiger Woods.

Eldrick “Tiger” Woods was born on the 30th of December 1975, the only child to biracial parents Earl, a retired lieutenant in the army, and Kultida a stay-at-home mother. Earl Woods was always the most influential person in Tiger’s life. At 10 months Tiger would sit in the garage watching his father repeatedly hit golf balls into a net for hours. It wasn’t long before Earl took Tiger out of the highchair and let him play with a small putter. “He picked up a putter, put a ball down, waggled, and hit the ball into the net. First time.” After that, Earl Woods would take his toddler son out on the practice green at the local military course, and eventually on the “eccentric-looking 18 hole course.” By four years of age, Tiger was hitting the ball perfectly; 70-yard shots that had a bit of a draw on them with a 2-½ wood. He could pop the ball up, hit it low, or hit it just with a normal trajectory, all with a 7-iron! “At four, he was like a shrunken 5-handicapper”, commented his coach Rudy Duran. Tiger had the gift for golf, he couldn’t tell you how he changed his swing at such a young age, all he could tell you was it was feel, pure and simple feel.

The mental game of golf is the hardest part to control. Trying to regroup and come back with a good shot, after a bad shot often leads to continued poor shots for many players. It is also difficult for the average golfer to not get ahead of himself when he is playing well, but instead making sure to focus on one shot at a time. The reason for this is there is so much time between shots that the average golfer has time to think too much about the outcome of the shot rather than the mechanics of the current shot. Tiger’s ability to focus on one shot at a time has always been one of his greatest strengths.

Earl and Kultida exposed Tiger to the media early in life, teaching him how to answer questions and manage the press. Earl also made Tiger listen to encouraging audiotapes to boost his self-confidence, and to make him believe he could achieve anything. “To get the boy used to distractions, Earl would drop the golf bag when Tiger was about to swing.” This helped Tiger to shut out everything but the fundamentals of his swing and focus on skills his coach had taught him. At eight, nine, twelve, and thirteen years old Tiger qualified for and then won the Optimist International Junior World Tournament. Tiger Woods had a two handicap at age eleven, and was a scratch player (zero handicap) by age thirteen.

When Tiger was seventeen years old, he accepted a scholarship to play golf at Stanford University the following year. By nineteen years of age Tiger had won five amateur championships and three collegiate tournaments. This was also the year Tiger began playing on the pro tour as an amateur. “He tied for 41st in the Masters Tournament, Tiger’s first professional major championship, with scores of 72-72-77-72-293; he was the only amateur to make the cut.” Finally in 1997, at twenty-one years of age, Tiger turned pro after being the only person in history to win the U.S Amateur Championship three consecutive years, and the only black person to ever win this Championship. After this spectacular win, Tiger decided he was ready to play professional golf. He dropped out of school after two years of college to join the pro tour.

In April 1997, Tiger went to Augusta to play in the...
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