Athlete. Born Eldrick Tont Woods on December 30, 1975, in Cypress, California, as the only child of an African-American Army officer father and a Thai mother. His father began calling Woods by the nickname “Tiger” in honor of a fellow soldier and friend who had the same moniker.
Woods learned to play golf as a child. His father, Earl, served as his teacher and mentor. Around the age of eight, Woods had become extremely proficient at the game, showing off his skills on such television shows as Good Morning America.
He studied at Stanford University, and won a number of amateur U.S. golf titles before turning professional in 1996. Woods shot to fame after winning the U.S. Masters at Augusta in 1997—with a record score of 270—at the age of 21. Woods was the youngest man to earn the title, and the first African-American to accomplish this feat.
In his first appearance at the British Open later that year, Woods tied the course record of 64. The next few years brought even more successes, including four US PGA titles, three U.S. Open wins, three Open Championship wins, and three U.S. Masters wins.
In 2003, among Woods’ five wins were the Buick Invitational and the Western Open. The next year, Woods won only one official PGA Tour championship. While he may have had some challenges on the course, his personal life was running smoothly. Woods married his longtime girlfriend Elin Nordegren, a Swedish model, in October of 2004.
Returning to dominate the sport, he won six championships in 2005 and was voted the PGA Tour Player of Year for the seventh time in nine years.
Woods experienced a great personal loss in 2006. His father died in May after battling prostate cancer. Woods remarked on his website at the time, “My dad was my best friend and greatest role model, and I will miss him deeply.” Despite his grief, Woods returned to golf and won several events, including the PGA championship and the British Open.
The next season was marked by many wins personally and professionally. His wife gave birth to the couple’s first child, Sam Alexis Woods, on June 18, 2007. After taking some time off to welcome his daughter, he won the World Golf Championship and US PGA Championship in August 2007.
The next month, Woods’ winning ways continued, garnering the top spot at the BMW Championship and The Tour Championship. He was named Player of the Year by the other participants in the PGA Tour and won his eighth Arnold Palmer Award for being the lead money earner on the tour.
Woods won the U.S. Open on June 16, 2008, in a 19-hole playoff, overcoming sporadic pain in his left knee from arthroscopic surgery performed on April 15. Woods shot a par four on the first and only hole of sudden death while American Rocco Mediate, 45, settled for a bogey.
The sudden death duel at Torrey Pines in San Diego followed an 18-hole playoff, which saw the two finish at par. In that playoff, Woods led Mediate by three shots after the first ten holes. Mediate then birdied three of the next five holes and took the lead. But on the final hole, Woods birdied while Mediate shot par, forcing the sudden death playoff.”I think this is probably the best ever,” Woods said. “All things considered, I don’t know how I ended up in this position, to be honest with you.” The victory gave Woods his third U.S. Open championship and 14th major title. He’s now just four behind the all-time record held by Jack Nicklaus.
Two days later, Woods announced he would miss the rest of the season because his left knee requires more reconstructive surgery. He also revealed he suffered a double stress fracture in his left tibia two weeks before the U.S. Open tournament, ignoring doctors’ advice to take six weeks off to let it heal.
Woods and his wife announced September 2, 2008, that they were expecting their second child in late winter. “Elin is feeling great and we are both thrilled,” Woods said on his Web site. “While my injury has been disappointing and frustrating, it has allowed me to spend a lot of time watching Sam grow. I can’t begin to tell you how rewarding it is being a dad and spending time with her and Elin.” The couple welcomed baby boy Charlie Axel Woods on February 8, 2009.
Several weeks later, on February 25, 2009, Woods returned to the green in the Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson, Arizona. Woods played against South African golfer Tim Clark, losing 4 to 2 in his first tournament since his injury. In June of 2009, Woods competed again in the U.S. Open. After putting a four-over-par in the first round, Woods quickly fell out of contention for the win.
Although Woods’ comeback had not been as auspicious as he’d hoped, he remained No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings, and continued to be the leader in top 10 finishes overall. But after losing the PGA title to Yang Yong-eun, Woods finished the year without a single major win—the first time he had done so since 2004.
While his life on the green seemed lackluster, his personal life was in an even more serious tailspin. In late November, reports surfaced about a tryst between Woods and nightclub manager Rachel Uchitel. Both parties denied a relationship, despite photographic evidence that seemed to indicate otherwise.
On November 27, as the story gained traction, media outlets announced that Woods had collided into a fire hydrant outside his home at 2:30 in the morning. Reports said that Woods’ wife had broken the back window of the golfer’s SUV with a golf club in order to get him out of the locked car. The golfer’s injuries were not serious, and he was quickly released.
The accident aroused suspicions with fans and the media, who instantly pushed for a statement from Woods. But the golfer remained silent on the matter, and mysteriously dropped out of his charity golf tournament, the Chevron World Challenge. He then announced that he would not be attending any other tournaments in 2009.
As the silence grew, so did reports of other Woods mistresses. On December 2, 2009, Woods offered an apology to his fans and family, expressing regret for unnamed “transgressions.” But as the mistress count rose to more than a dozen women, with phone evidence to back many claims, Woods was unable to suppress media inquiries into his life. Woods was said to have offered his wife a renegotiation of their prenuptial agreement in order to compel her to stick by him, but reports soon surfaced that Nordgren had purchased a home in Sweden with her sister. Photographers then spotted the former model without her wedding ring.
On December 11, 2009, Woods apologized again to fans—this time, admitting to infidelity. He then announced that he would be taking a hiatus from golf in order to tend to his family. Several days later, he lost his endorsement deal with management company, Accenture, and was suspended from his Gilette endorsement. Other companies, including Nike, Tag Heuer and EA Sports, continue to stand by Woods.
Woods made a return to golf in April of 2010, but the golfer was not quite at the top of his game. His first competition at the 2010 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, ended in a fourth place spot for Woods. On May 9, after not making the cut for the Quail Hollow Championship, Woods withdrew from The Players Championship during the fourth round due to a neck injury. Woods made his return to golf four weeks later at The Memorial Tournament, making his worst finish in the tournament since 2002. At the 2010 U.S. Open, Woods finished the tournament in a tie for fourth place.
Woods’ personal life also seemed to be taking a turn for the worse, as news of a possible divorce settlement hit media outlets. The rumored $750 million settlement allegedly included properties in Sweden, and the family home in California for Nordegren, in exchange for his wife’s permanent silence on Woods’ philandering. Reports also said Nordegren retained full physical custody of their 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son, and Woods agreed not to introduce his children to a new woman unless he married her. If the divorce settlement is finalized, it will be one of the largest settlements in history.