Tiger Woods' rise to superstardom was meteoric. At 21-years-old the pro golfer won his first Masters Tournament, defeating the next closest competitor by 12 strokes. As quickly as people anointed him the next Bobby Jones, though, they were even quicker to label him washed up after surgeries and personal problems took over the headlines. Despite many ups and downs, Tiger Woods eventually pulled off the unthinkable, once again at the Masters Tournament. Here's a look back at the incredible life of golf's most celebrated superstar of the 21st century.
A Quick Start to His Career
Tiger Woods grew up in Orange County, California. His father, who was a single-handicap golfer in his own right, was determined that he be given the opportunity to hit the golf course as early as possible. Tiger picked up his first golf club at the age of two, and with free access to the Navy's golf course, his game quickly matured.
Woods was just three-years-old when he appeared on The Mike Douglas Show and competed against the legendary Bob Hope on the putting green. He also shot 48 over 8 holes on the Navy course that year.
His First Tournament Loss Was to John Daly
Earl found himself outplayed by his son for the first time when Tiger turned 11. Woods would break 70 for the first time when he turned 12. He attended his first major junior tournament at the age of 13.
He faced off against John Daly at the end of the Big I in 1989. Daly very nearly lost to Woods. It took four birdies on the final four holes for him to win by a single stroke. When Woods was 15, he became the youngest ever U.S. Junior Amateur Champion.
School, Golf, and College
Tiger Woods was a stutterer and has said that his school days were something of a nightmare. He famously reached out to a boy contemplating suicide to explain his own problems with not fitting in at school. Despite his problems, his high school classmates voted him "most likely to succeed." He was snapped up by Stanford University on a golf scholarship to study an economics major.
At 19-years-old, after winning Stanford's Male Freshman of the Year award, Tiger Woods took part in his first PGA Tour major; the 1995 Masters. Tiger placed 41st and was the only amateur to make the cut.
The Transition To Professional Golfer
At 20-years-old, Tiger Woods became the first golfer in history to win three consecutive U.S. Amateur titles. Before turning pro, he dropped out of Stanford and moved out of California to a state with lower taxes.
Woods began his professional career in style. In August 1996, before he had even swung a club, he had the two largest endorsement contracts in golf signed with Nike and Titleist. He also picked up the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award. Then things really began to pick up.
World Number One
In April of 1997, Tiger Woods won his first major event; the U.S. Masters. He was 21 and the youngest player ever to win. By June, Woods had achieved what many thought would take him much longer - he was the number one ranked golfer in the world. It was the fastest time for any player in history to gain the top spot after turning professional.
In 1999, Woods won eight tournaments and the PGA Championship, a feat that hadn't been achieved for a quarter of a century.
The Greatest Performance in Golf History
As the century turned, the legend of Tiger Woods continued to grown. In 2000, he won six consecutive tournaments, something that hadn't been done since Ben Hogan in 1948. When he won the U.S. Open that year, he broke nine tournament records, with Sports Illustrated calling it "the greatest performance in golf history."
Woods then took the U.S. Open by an incredible 15 stroke margin and picked up a very cool $800,000 victory check. The next year he became the first golfer ever to hold all four major titles at the same time.
His First Career Slump
Tiger Woods dominated golf for another year, but by the end of 2002, his numbers were beginning to sag. The next two years brought no majors titles to Woods' trophy cabinet, and he lost his World Number 1 position to Vijay Singh.
Miraculously, Tiger was back to his winning ways in 2005. He won six PGA Tour events that year and recaptured the Number One slot from Singh before June. As sweet as his refound success was, his personal life would begin to suffer in ways he never expected.
Origins Of His Nickname
Eldrick Tont Woods' parents met in Thailand when Earl, his father, was touring Thailand in 1968. When he met Kutilda, it was love at first sight. She is of Chinese, Thai, and Dutch ancestry in contrast to Earl's African American background.
Tiger says that this mixed blood makes him "Cabilansian" (a combination of Caucasian, Black, American Indian and Asian). His nickname "Tiger" was given to him by a friend of his father, Col. Vuong Dang Phong, who was also called Tiger by his friends.
A Huge Personal Loss
Tiger's golf game was off to a great start in 2006. When tragedy struck. Earl, arguably his biggest supporter, passed away in May. He had been everything to Tiger Woods. His first golf coach, his sports psychologist, his friend, his mentor, and much more.
Tiger took nine weeks off following his father's passing, and he admitted that he came very close to walking away from the game. When he returned, he looked more resilient then ever, and capped off with six consecutive tour wins.
2008: A Minor Bump In The Road
By the time 2008 rolled around, 11 years of professional golf began taking a toll on Tiger Woods. He looked as good as ever until April when, when he was forced to undergo knee surgery.
On his return from the surgery, Woods looked to be having real problems getting into his game. After winning the U.S. Open on the final day, his body gave up on him. Tiger announced that his knee surgery had caused severe complications, and he dropped out of the rest of that year's golf.
Marital Problem Became Public Knowledge
Part of Woods' appeal to sponsors wasn't just his ability to play golf, it was also his clean-cut "all-American" image, which was about to become severely tarnished. In 2004, Tiger Woods married Elin Nordegren. To the outside world looking in, it was the perfect marriage.
In November 2009, The National Enquirer alleged that Woods had been secretly dating nightclub manager Rachel Uchitel. Both Tiger and Rachel strongly denied this claim when it was revealed.
Things Go From Bad to Worse
On November 27, 2009, Tiger Woods left his home and went for a drive in a Cadillac Escalade SUV. He barely made it out of his driveway when his car collided with a fire hydrant, a tree, and some of his neighbor's hedges.
An ambulance was called, and he was treated for facial cuts and was issued a ticket by police for careless driving. Woods issued a statement insisting this was a private matter and withdrew from all tournaments to the end of the year.
A Hard Fall from Grace
One month after his car crash, LA Weekly ran a piece alleging that they had proof of another affair that Tiger Woods was having. He had no choice but to come clean, releasing a statement admitting to "transgressions" in his marriage. He apologized to everyone involved and he asked for privacy.
A few days later, he announced an indefinite break from playing golf. Following the statement, most of Tiger's major sponsors ended their contracts. Only Nike staying loyal to him.
An Expensive Time for Tiger and the Sponsors
Tiger Woods may have lost a ton of money in sponsorship deals. It's estimated that his personal problems cost company shareholders between $5 billion and $12 billion in lost revenues.
Woods entered therapy to clean up his act, and in 2010 announced his return and apologized to everyone again. He also said that he would pick up his clubs for the first time in 2010 at the Masters Tournament. Shortly after the announcement, Woods' divorce from Elin Nordegren was finalized.
Where Elin Nordegren Is Now
Today, Woods' ex-wife Elin Nordegren is dating NFL Player Jordan Cameron.The couple lives together in Florida with their young son Arthur, born October 4, 2019. Cameron also has a 10-year-old son from a previous relationship and Nordegren has her two children that she shares with Woods.
Since her divorce from Woods, Nordegren has also dated billionaire Chris Cline on and off before his tragic death in a helicopter accident in July 2019.
He Was Involved In A Scary Single Vehicle Accident
On February 23, 2021, Tiger Woods was driving around Los Angeles in the early morning when disaster struck. He lost control of his vehicle and it rolled down a hill, come to a stop with extensive damage.
Local firefighters had to use the jaws of life to safely remove Woods from the vehicle. He was then rushed to the hospital to have surgeries on "multiple leg injuries." None of the injuries are considered life-threatening, but the accident put a major halt to Woods' most recent professional comeback attempt.
A Poor Start
Tiger Woods tied for fourth place in the Masters in 2010, but otherwise failed to win a single professional event that year. He did finish the year as world number two, but slumped to world number seven as 2011 got underway.
Tiger attributed his decline to his old knee injury. In July, however he fired Steve Williams, his long-standing friend and caddy. Steve would express deep shock at being treated like this. Steve's replacement, Bryon Belt, didn't achieve the results Tiger expected. By August, Woods had slipped to 58th in the world ranking's table.
He's Worth $800 Million
As of 2021, Tiger Woods has an estimated net worth of $800 million. With his $2 million earned from winning the Masters, he has totaled nearly $120 million in tournament winnings. The rest of his money has come from sponsorships and investments.
With his near billion dollars in the bank, Woods is tied with author James Patterson for number nine on Forbes annual list. If he was worth just $25 million more, he's have found himself tied with rapper and entrepreneur Diddy.
Things Could Only Get Better
Tiger Woods struggled throughout 2012 with his injury, but managed to pick up some tour wins. With wins continuing to pile up, it suddenly looked like Woods might be catch up to the sports winningest golfer; Sam Snead.
The year 2013 was an up and down year for Woods. At the U.S. Masters, Woods took an illegal drop. He was found guilty, but he was not disqualified from the tournament. Things improved when He broke his own record with the fastest four successive victories in PGA events of any golfer in history. This was the second peak of Tiger's career.
Back Problems and Sporting Injuries
With his 2013 career peak, 2014 brought a deep valley. Tiger Woods won no majors and dropped out of the Honda Classic due to back pain. He later found himself in a hospital rather than at the Masters due to the need for a microdiscectomy to treat a herniated disc in his spine.
Woods did return to the greens, but his game was clearly impacted by the back problems. He failed to make the cut for the 2014 PGA Championship after a year without a decent showing.
Tiger Woods' back problems were blamed for his failure to make the cut for both the Open and the U.S. Open tournaments. And even though he qualified for the Masters, he barely tied for 17th. He refused to blame his back, however, and instead admitted he was having hip problems.
He returned to the hospital for another microdiscectomy at the end of 2015. Woods would not play at all in 2016 until December. By March of 2017, he had announced that he would take time off his game as he "did not feel tournament ready."
The Turning Point
In May 2017, Tiger Woods hit an all-time low. He was arrested after being found slumped at the wheel of his car. Other golfers supported Tiger, saying he had a bad reaction to prescription medicine.
After taking more time to himself, Tiger Woods came back in a big way in 2018. He finished in second place at the Valspar Championship in Florida. It was his first top-five finish since 2013. He would finish in second again at the Masters, before finally putting on the green jacket again in 2019.
The Big Comeback
On April 14, 2019, Tiger Woods did something no one thought he would ever do again; win the Masters at Augusta. The big comeback victory netted the formerly down and out Woods over $2 million! The celebration began as soon as he sunk his final putt.
The scene was one 22 years in the making. To cap things off, Woods embraced his son in the same spot at Augusta that his own father hugged him after his first win all those years ago.
He Wears Red Because Of His Mom
The reason Tiger Woods loves the color red is because of his mother. She convinced him to start wearing red shirts early, believing it was his power color. Considering all the success he's had in it, it's hard to argue with that logic!
When Woods won the 2019 Masters and secured his big career comeback, his shirt was red. We can't think of a single tournament he's won wearing a different color. At the end of the day, athletes are incredibly superstitious, so why would Woods even consider wearing another color?
He Was Nicknamed "Urkel" At Stanford
Before dropping out of Stanford, Tiger Woods was quite the bookworm. He was so studious that his classmates began calling him "Urkel," referencing Steve Urkel from Family Matters. We're sure it had nothing to do with his decision to drop out.
As you know, just because Woods left Stanford to pursue golf full-time, he remained glued to his books. The nickname might have left him, but his reputation as one of the smartest people around never has!
He Loves Fast Food
While most athletes treat their bodies like temples, Tiger Woods doesn't. While he's training we're sure he sticks to a clean diet and routine schedule, but when he takes a break, he loves fast food.
For one of his Masters' victory celebrations, Woods reportedly said "no" to more luxurious food in favor of cheeseburgers. He ate nine cheeseburgers! Woods has also admitted in past interviews that his favorite foods are McDonald's and Taco Bell. There's just something about that ground beef!
Video Games Were Good For Him
Don't tell Tiger Woods that video games are bad. He claims that growing up playing them helped him gain control over his hands and fingers. And when you're holding the golf club ready to swing, nothing is more important than control.
That's not the only way Woods claims video games helped him, however. He also says that losing at games and having to start over helped him overcome his fears of failure. He must have played a lot of Mario Golf growing up!
He Is Buddhist
Tiger Woods grew up a Buddhist with his mother and father, and still practices today. There was a point in his life where he deviated from his path, and according to him, it coincided with the fall from grace.
Now that Woods is fully committed to Buddhism again, the results have been stunning. His comeback started in 2018 and was completed in 2019. Now the question is his; how long will he stay on top?
He Is Not A Dual Citizen
With two parents from completely different countries, it would not be surprising to see Tiger Woods be a dual citizen of Thailand and the United States, but he's not. His mother's homeland has even offered him citizenship before.
In Woods' mind, he is an American as true as they come. Give him a cheeseburger and golf club and he's a happy man. Give him pad Thai and a golf club and who knows what might happen!
He Modernized Golf
When Tiger Woods broke onto the professional golf scene, the sport was stuck in the past. The greatest golfers were starting to get old, and new blood was needed. Woods provided that spark, and brought golf back to the masses.
Oddly enough, Woods might be doing the same thing today. While the sport is stuffed with bright young stars, television ratings have declined every year. Woods' big win at the Masters turned the tides, providing the PGA with its best ratings in years!
Nike Named A Building After Him
If you remember from earlier, Nike was the only sponsor to stick with Tiger Woods during his downfall. The Oregon-based company has made millions, maybe even billions of dollars off Woods' name. To thank him, they named a building after him.
Of course, a building at Nike headquarters isn't the only thing Woods' has had named after him. He has his own line of video games as well as his own personal brand of clothing that he wears on the links.
He Invented The First Golf Watch
Well, not exactly, but close. Before Tiger Woods came swinging, there was no such thing as a golf watch. But if runners and divers get watches, shouldn't golfers, too? Thanks to his sponsorship deal with Tag Heuer, Woods was able to give golfers what they wanted.
The special watch is able to absorb upwards of 5,000 Gs of force. A golf swing will never come close to producing that much force, making this watch nearly indestructible.
He Was A Billionaire
While Tiger Woods might not be worth one billion dollars today, he was in 2009. Literally breaking the bank turned Woods into the world's first billion-dollar athlete and made him the second richest African American in the United States.
With all that money comes a lot of unwanted attention, and Woods knows how to get away from it all. Would it shock you if we told you he owns a private yacht? To emphasize that sometimes he needs space to count his bills, Woods even named it "Privacy."
His Foundation Helps Inner-City Youth
A lot of wealthy people have charities, but how many of those people opened those foundations that same years they became household names. Tiger Woods did; his first year as a professional golfer he started the Tiger Woods Foundation.
The goal of the foundation is to promote athletics within inner cities. And can you guess what sport the foundation focuses on? Unsurprisingly, the Tiger Woods Foundation uses golf as a way to show young people less than stellar situations that there is hope.
The Foundation Isn't Just About Sports
As much as Tiger Woods loves golf, he also loves academics. That's why the Tiger Woods Foundation provides college access programs as well as athletic enrichment programs. There are learning facilities located on five campuses in the United States.
Not every young person is the same. Where one loves sports and sees it as their future, another might see a more intellectual path. Tiger understands this, and refuses to limit the scope of his foundation, and, in turn, how many lives it could affect.
He's A Guinness World Record Holder
To date, Tiger Woods has set 17 different Guinness World Records. We're not sure what they're in, but we're assuming they are all golf-related. Incredibly, Woods doesn't even hold the most records for an athlete.
Heck, Tiger Woods doesn't even hold the second most Guinness World Records for an athlete. The top two spots belong to Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, both of whom are world-renowned Olympians. With Phelps retired, though, there's still a chance for Woods to move up on the list!
Tiger Woods Was Considered Too Good At Golf
In his heyday, no one came close to Tiger Woods in competitions. He was a man among boys, and the PGA didn't like that. At the time, they even considered "Tiger-proofing" the sports to keep young golfers interested.
To make courses more competitive, several locations increased their yardage. The most famous yardage increase came at Augusta, although it didn't do much. Even at 43-years-old, Woods was able to play like a pro at the course, with his Masters win coming on the his last stroke.
Thirteen Years At Number One
Tiger Woods has spent a mind-boggling amount of time as the number one ranked golfer in the world. In his 20 plus year career, he has been alone at the top for 683 weeks. To put it into easier terms, that's 13 years.
To go along with that feat, he has been named the PGA Player of the Year a record 11 times and has held the top ranking for the most consecutive weeks in history.
He's Still Playing Catch Up To Jack Nicklaus
Make no mistake, Tiger Woods will go down in history as the greatest golfer to ever play, but that doesn't mean he holds every record. With 15 Major wins under his belt, he still trails Jack Nicklaus by three.
When Nicklaus called it a career, he has won 18 Majors. Woods still has a chance to top that number, but it won't be easy. Then again, if injuries hadn't derailed part of his career, who knows how many Majors Woods would have won by now!
Fifteen strokes is the number that Tiger Woods won the 2000 U.S. Open by. To many, his performance that day is considered the greatest in the history of the sport.
It's also proof why the PGA felt the game needed to be "Tiger-proofed." Fear that young golfers would lose interest were overstated. Studies showed that Woods incredible level of play actually brought more youth to the links and increased the level of solid play from his professional competitors.
Another Origin Of His Name
While we already talked about one reason Eldrick Woods became named Tiger, here we are going to present you with another. While his father was serving in the military, he became close with e Vietnamese Colonel nicknamed Tiger.
When Eldrick was born, Earl felt it was his responsibility to honor his friend, and began calling his son Tiger. It's clear to us that if this is the true story of the name "Tiger" that Woods has honored the name's legacy incredibly well.
Money Has Never Been An Issue
Unlike many professional athletes, Tiger Woods did not grow up poor. He started golfing at age two thanks to his father's service in the Navy. When he was 20, however, the money really started flowing in.
Almost immediately after turning pro, Woods was bombarded with endorsement deals. He accepted major one from Nike and Titleist, which paid him around $60 million. While that amount of money wouldn't sound like a lot to Tiger today, it was life changed in the mid '90s!