Tiger Woods: 40 for 40

Eldrick Woods has won 14 major championships, earned more than $1 billion and become a global celebrity. As the greatest golfer of his era turns 40 on Wednesday, we present 40 nuggets of knowledge about him.

12/29/2015 | BY THOMAS NEUMANN


The world was introduced to Tiger when he famously appeared on "The Mike Douglas Show" on Oct. 6, 1978, to show off his golf skills.

He was 2 years old.

On the program, legendary entertainer Bob Hope challenged Tiger to a putting contest. Woods missed three shots before moving the ball next to the cup and tapping it in, eliciting howls from Hope, Douglas and actor Jimmy Stewart. Tiger then told Douglas the green was uneven and had a large break in it.

It wasn't his television debut, however. Months earlier, Woods was featured on a Los Angeles news broadcast with sportscaster Jim Hill, who ended the segment by saying, "This young man is going to be to golf what Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert are to tennis."

At age 5, Tiger was profiled on the ABC show "That's Incredible!" by former NFL quarterback Fran Tarkenton. Tiger punctuated the segment with a bold prediction, saying, "When I'm gonna be 20, I'm gonna beat Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson."

Woods also appeared in the November 1981 issue of Golf Digest, in which he was described as "5 years old, about as tall as a ball washer and weighs 44 pounds."


It's no secret that Earl Woods was instrumental in his son's success, undoubtedly inspiring and equipping his son to become one of the most successful figures in sports history. Although Earl stopped just short of proclaiming Tiger as a messiah to Sports Illustrated in 1996, Tiger has always said his father didn't insist he play golf.

Somewhat lost amid the audacious predictions and a famous posthumous Nike commercial is the fact that Earl was a remarkable man in his own right.

Earl was the first African-American baseball player in the then-Big Seven Conference as a catcher at Kansas State. After graduation, he served in the Army for two decades, ultimately earning the rank of lieutenant colonel. Earl was a Green Beret who served two tours in Vietnam, and he gave son Eldrick the same nickname as South Vietnamese soldier Vuong Phong, whom he fought alongside years earlier.

Although Earl didn't take up golf until age 42, he developed into a 1-handicap player. From a high chair, young Tiger watched Earl practice his swing in the family garage, and Tiger began swinging on his own before his first birthday.

Tiger's mother, Kultida, also played a significant role in his golf development. She was the one who drove young Tiger to most of his tournaments, walked the courses with him and kept score.


Woods ranks second in PGA Tour history with 79 tournament victories, trailing Sam Snead by three. Tiger has six more tour victories than Jack Nicklaus, 15 more than Ben Hogan and 17 more than Arnold Palmer.

Tiger won seven consecutive PGA Tour events between 2006 and 2007. Only Byron Nelson, who won 11 in a row in 1945, has a longer streak. Woods also had a streak of six consecutive PGA wins in 1999 and 2000 and five straight tour victories in 2007 and 2008. He has won five or more PGA Tour events in a season 10 times.

Woods has won 14 major championships, the most recent being the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Only Nicklaus, with 18, has more. Some observers contend that U.S. Amateur titles should count as majors, as they did decades ago. If that were the case, Tiger would be a bit closer, having won three U.S. Amateurs to Nicklaus' two.


While other teenagers were hanging out at the mall, Tiger was playing in PGA Tour events. He played in the Nissan Los Angeles Open at 16 and birdied the first hole. He competed in seven PGA tournaments before enrolling at Stanford in 1994, although he failed to make any of the cuts. He would make his first PGA Tour cut at the 1995 Masters, more than a year before turning pro.

Here's how Tiger spent the last week of February 1993, a few months before graduating from Western High in Anaheim, California:

• Monday: Played a round with NFL quarterbacks John Elway, Bernie Kosar, Dan Marino, Mark Rypien and Phil Simms at Weston Hills Golf Club near Miami.

• Tuesday: Played a practice round with professionals Brad Faxon, Billy Andrade and Dudley Hart.

• Wednesday: Played in Honda Classic pro-am, paired with John Daly; hit shots off practice tees next to world No. 1 Nick Faldo.

• Thursday-Friday: Played in first two rounds of Honda Classic, shooting 6-over 150.


Woods has been a pitchman for Nike since turning pro in 1996. That initial contract was reportedly worth $40 million over five years, which more than tripled golf's previous landmark endorsement deal between Greg Norman and Reebok. Woods re-signed with Nike in 2001, reportedly for more than $100 million over five years.

The values of his subsequent deals with Nike, in 2006 and 2013, are unclear, although the first of the two was believed to pay more than $20 million annually. When Tiger signed his latest deal with Nike, in 2013, agent Mark Steinberg said he expects Woods to remain connected to the apparel giant for the remainder of his career.

Nike didn't even make clubs or golf balls when it first signed Woods. Now, thanks in large part to Tiger, Nike's golf division racks up more than $700 million in annual sales.

Interestingly, Woods said this to Sports Illustrated in 1996: "I'll do the commercials for Nike and for Titleist, but there won't be much more than that. I have no desire to be the king of endorsement money."

In addition to Nike, the list of companies that have paid Woods handsomely over the years includes Buick, Titleist, Electronic Arts, Gillette, American Express, Accenture and Gatorade. Tiger's current endorsement portfolio includes Upper Deck, Rolex, MusclePharm, Hero MotoCorp and Kowa, a Japanese manufacturing and trading company.


In February 2015, Golf Digest estimated Woods' career earnings, combining prize money, endorsement income and appearance fees, at $1.37 billion. At his earnings peak, Tiger raked in more than $360 million from 2007 through 2009, according to Golf Digest.

Forbes ranked Woods No. 9 among the world's highest-paid athletes at $50.6 million this year, down from No. 6 in 2014, when he made $61.2 million. Previously, Forbes ranked Tiger as the world's highest-paid athlete each year from 2001 through 2011.

Way back when, Tiger earned $2,544 at his first professional tournament, shooting a 7-under 277 and tying for 60th place at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open.

Add it all up, and Forbes estimates Woods' net worth to be approximately $700 million, even after handing over about $100 million in his divorce from Elin Nordegren.


At age 13, Tiger played in the same group as John Daly in the 1989 Insurance Youth Golf Classic at Texarkana, Arkansas. A former University of Arkansas golfer, Daly was a 22-year-old long-driving pro who outweighed Woods by about 100 pounds.

With Woods leading Daly by 2 strokes at the turn, Daly supposedly said, "I can't let a 13-year-old beat me." Daly birdied three of the last four holes to edge Tiger by 1 shot.

Sixteen years later, Woods would memorably defeat Daly at the WGC-American Express Championship in San Francisco when Daly missed a 3-foot putt on the second playoff hole.


A 3-year-old Tiger shot 48 at the Navy Golf Course in his hometown of Cypress, California, doing something Jack Nicklaus didn't accomplish until age 9.

Earl Woods admitted in a 1991 Sports Illustrated interview that Tiger played from the red tees that day and that fairway shots were teed up.

Pretty impressive nonetheless.


Woods is the only golfer in the modern era to hold all four major titles at once, having won the 2000 U.S. Open, 2000 Open Championship, 2000 PGA Championship and 2001 Masters in succession, a feat dubbed the Tiger Slam.

Tiger's best chance of achieving the unprecedented modern Grand Slam, winning all four majors in the same calendar year, was lost in a stiff wind at the 2002 Open Championship. After winning the Masters and U.S. Open that year, Woods was just 2 strokes off the lead before shooting a third-round 81 in stormy conditions at Muirfield, Scotland -- his worst professional round before 2015. He rallied to shoot 65 in the final round but fell 6 strokes off the lead. Ernie Els won in a playoff.

Tiger became the youngest player to complete the career Grand Slam by winning the 2000 Open Championship at St. Andrews, Scotland, at age 24. He and Jack Nicklaus are the only players to win each of the four majors at least three times.


When Tiger chose to attend Stanford, the other schools he had seriously considered were UNLV and Arizona State.

He had previously named USC, UCLA, Arizona, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, North Carolina and Hawaii as other schools that had recruited him.

Tiger was interested in majoring in accounting, something Stanford doesn't offer at the undergraduate level. Said Woods: "The dean, the athletic director and the business director said, 'We'll work with you. We'll create you a major.' I said, 'OK.'"

When Woods won the 1996 individual NCAA title as a sophomore, Stanford placed fourth in the team standings. Arizona State won the tournament, and UNLV finished second. Stanford had finished second to Oklahoma State in Tiger's freshman season.


In two years of collegiate competition, Tiger won 11 of 26 tournaments. As a freshman, he ranked No. 2 in the nation and tied for fifth at the 1995 NCAA championship. He climbed to No. 1 as a sophomore and won each of his final four tournaments, capped by the 1996 individual national title. Woods' best round was 61, recorded during his 1996 Pac-10 championship victory at Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach, California.


Tiger grew more than 6 inches in two years as a teenager but hardly added any weight. By the time he entered Stanford as an 18-year-old freshman, he was 6-foot-1 but weighed less than 150 pounds. After years of maintaining a rigorous workout regimen, Tiger would bulk up to 185 pounds in his prime.


Tiger won USGA championships in six consecutive years, claiming three U.S. Juniors followed by three U.S. Amateurs. Woods is the only player to win three consecutive U.S. Amateurs. Paul Page, arguably aided by a rain delay at the 1993 U.S. Amateur, was the last player to defeat Tiger in a USGA amateur competition. Tiger would win his next 18 amateur matches, capping his USGA match-play record at 42-3.


Former Woods caddie Steve Williams had a penchant for bullying wayward photographers. He notably dropped a $7,000 camera into a pond when a photographer snapped a picture during Tiger's swing on the final hole of the 2002 Skins Game. He upped the ante at the 2004 U.S. Open by kicking the lens of a newspaper photographer and snatching a camera from a spectator who turned out to be an off-duty police officer.


Woods had one front tooth knocked out and another chipped in a freak accident earlier this year.

While in Italy to watch then-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn compete in a World Cup skiing event in January, Tiger was struck in the face by a media member wielding a video camera. Woods had the tooth fixed upon returning home to Florida and was able to laugh about the incident the next week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.


There is perhaps no better context to Tiger's dominance than his performance in World Golf Championship events.

Tiger has won 18 WGC events in his career. No other player has more than three WGC wins. In fact, the next eight players on the WGC wins list have 17 victories combined.

Woods' WGC win total exceeds the number of PGA Tour victories by Hall of Famers Curtis Strange (17), Mark O'Meara (16) and Fred Couples (15).

Largely because WGC events and major championships count as victories on the European Tour, Tiger ranks third in European Tour history with 40 wins, behind only Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer, despite never having been a European Tour member.


Tiger holds the career record for weeks spent at No. 1 in the world rankings at 683.

To put that in perspective, Woods has owned the top spot 44 percent of the time since the weekly rankings began in 1986. Further, Woods' tenure at No. 1 exceeds the total of the next five players on the list: Greg Norman (331), Nick Faldo (97), Rory McIlroy (95), Seve Ballesteros (61) and Luke Donald (56).

He first reached the No. 1 spot at age 21, which is also a record. Woods and Norman share the record for most stints in the top spot with 11.

Woods held the No. 1 spot for a record 281 consecutive weeks, from June 12, 2005, to Oct. 30, 2010, a streak that spanned five major championships, knee reconstruction surgery and his infamous adultery scandal. He also owned the top spot for 264 consecutive weeks from Aug. 15, 1999, to Sept. 4, 2004.


Fellow PGA Tour pro Mark O'Meara introduced Woods to fly-fishing in 1997. It has provided moments of sanctuary for Woods, who joked many times that one of the reasons he enjoys the hobby is because "fish don't ask for autographs." Over the years, Woods has been licensed for fishing in Alaska, Florida, Oregon and Utah.


Tiger is one of just five golfers to win the NCAA individual championship and the U.S. Amateur in the same year.

Woods won the 1996 NCAA title at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tennessee, and that year's U.S. Amateur at Pumpkin Ridge in North Plains, Oregon. The other players to accomplish the feat are SMU's Bryson DeChambeau (2015), UNLV's Ryan Moore (2004), Arizona State's Phil Mickelson (1990) and Ohio State's Jack Nicklaus (1961).


In Woods' 2001 instructional book, "How I Play Golf," written in conjunction with Golf Digest, Tiger said he hit a single perfect shot in his historic 2000 season -- a year in which he won 12 events, including three majors.

The shot came with a 3-wood on the 14th hole of the Old Course at St. Andrews in the third round of the Open Championship. He would birdie the 581-yard par-5.

In the book, Woods writes: "From a tight lie I had to hit a little draw into a left-to-right wind and carry the ball about 260 yards to a green guarded by a couple of nasty pot bunkers. As with every shot I attempt, I visualized the ball's flight and how it should respond upon landing. Because it was a blind shot, I picked out a crane in the distance as my target. The ball never left that line and the shot turned out exactly as I had planned."

Tiger shot a third-round 67 and a final-round 69 to win the tournament by 8 strokes.


For the most part, Woods has offered precise, calculated quotes over the course of his career. But that doesn't mean he never speaks candidly. Here are three of our favorite Tiger quotes:

• "People don't understand that when I grew up, I was never the most talented. I was never the biggest. I was never the fastest. I certainly was never the strongest. The only thing I had was my work ethic, and that's been what has gotten me this far."

• "Don't force your kids into sports. I never was. To this day, my dad has never asked me to go play golf. I ask him. It's the child's desire to play that matters, not the parent's desire to have the child play. Fun. Keep it fun."

• "Hockey is a sport for white men. Basketball is a sport for black men. Golf is a sport for white men dressed like black pimps."


At the end of 1996, Woods' first professional season, Greg Norman was the PGA Tour's all-time leading money winner at just shy of $10.5 million. By 1999, Tiger had eclipsed that figure. He would go on to exceed that number in a single season six times, including 2007 and 2009, when he topped $20 million in prize money. Tiger has won a record $110 million on the PGA Tour, more than $30 million ahead of Phil Mickelson, who ranks second.


Woods is the only multiple winner of the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year Award, which has been presented since the magazine's inception in 1954.

Tiger first received the honor in 1996, the year he won the NCAA individual title and the U.S. Amateur. After turning pro in late summer, he would place 24th on the PGA Tour money list despite playing in only 11 tournaments.

Woods earned the award again in 2000 after winning three of the four major championships.

More importantly, Woods maintains a commitment to philanthropy, and his foundations have been lauded by charity watchdogs. The primary efforts of his foundations are the Tiger Woods Learning Center, which maintains a main campus in California and several satellite facilities around the country, and the Earl Woods Scholarship Program, which is geared to assist first-generation scholars.


Tiger opened a restaurant, The Woods Jupiter, near his Florida home in August 2015.

An upscale sports bar, it is nearly 6,000 square feet in size, and the wait staff wears Nike attire. So far, it has received excellent reviews, averaging four stars on Yelp. Listing fish tacos on the menu under sandwiches instead of seafood hasn't hurt its reputation.


Stephen Ames learned this lesson the hard way, paying a humiliating price after calling out Woods before the 2006 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Carlsbad, California.

Ames expressed optimism heading into the event, despite barely squeaking into the field of 64 and earning a match against Woods, the No. 1 seed. "Anything can happen, especially where he's hitting the ball," Ames said, making light of Tiger's inconsistent drives leading up to the event.

What ensued was a beatdown for the ages, a rout voted by an ESPN panel among the worst blowouts in sports history. Woods won his duel in the minimum 10 holes, routing a befuddled Ames 9 and 8 after winning the first nine holes and halving the 10th. Afterward, Tiger admitted the comment gave him a bit of extra motivation.


Woods has competed in 33 Ryder Cup matches, compiling a 13-17-3 record. The 17 career defeats are the most by an American competitor. He has played in seven Ryder Cups, but the U.S. team is just 1-6 against Europe in those events. The lone victory came in a memorable 1999 comeback that included Woods' victory over Andrew Coltart in singles.


Woods has used a Titleist Scotty Cameron Newport 2 putter for the majority of his pro career, but those with an eye for detail are aware that Tiger continued to use a Ping grip for many years after turning pro. Even when Tiger began using a Nike Method 001 putter, although not exclusively, he stuck with the Ping grip.


Woods has won 53 of the 57 PGA Tour events in which he led or was tied for the lead after three rounds. He has held the outright lead after 54 holes on 44 occasions on the PGA Tour and won 42 times. Including worldwide events, Tiger has won 57 of 67 tournaments when leading or tied for the lead after three rounds, and three of the losses were in playoffs.


A spectator was once arrested after throwing a hot dog at Tiger.

The man yelled Woods' name and heaved a wiener toward him at the Open in San Martin, California, in October 2011. Said Woods, "When I looked up, the hot dog was already in the air. The bun was kind of disintegrating." Woods wound up missing the ensuing 18-foot birdie putt.

Oh, but the story gets weirder.

The 31-year-old offender, who was arrested for disturbing the peace, told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that his misbehavior was inspired by the movie "Drive," which starred Ryan Gosling as a getaway driver. "As soon as the movie ended, I thought to myself, 'I have to do something courageous and epic. I have to throw a hot dog on the green in front of Tiger.'"


Tiger has shot 61 four times at PGA Tour events, most recently at the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone in Akron, Ohio. He also did it at the 2005 Buick Open at Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc, Michigan; the 2000 WGC-Bridgestone; and the 1999 Byron Nelson Classic at the TPC Four Seasons in Irving, Texas.

By comparison, Phil Mickelson shot 61 or better twice before turning 40. Neither Jack Nicklaus nor Arnold Palmer ever shot better than 62 in a tour event.


Woods has shot in the 80s just three times in PGA Tour events, all during his injury-riddled 2015 season. He shot a 13-over 85 at the Memorial, an 11-over 82 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and a 10-over 80 at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, Washington.

The only other time Tiger shot in the 80s as a professional was a 10-over 81 in a rainy, windy third round of the 2002 Open Championship at Muirfield in Gullane, Scotland. He was pursuing the Grand Slam at the time, and the round essentially knocked him out of contention.

By comparison, Jack Nicklaus shot in the 80s six times in PGA Tour events before turning 40. Phil Mickelson did it seven times, and Arnold Palmer did it 10 times.


Tiger once shot 59 in a practice round.

Woods said he won "a boatload" of cash from neighbor and playing partner Mark O'Meara while blistering the course at Isleworth in Windermere, Florida, in 1997. Tiger and O'Meara played their home course again the next day, which provided an even better story, as Tiger tells it. "We played nine holes, and I was 5-under through nine holes," Woods said. "Then I parred 10 and made a hole-in-one at 11. [O'Meara] just drove his cart home. ... He didn't say a word to me.''


There's little, if anything, that hasn't been written about the sex scandal that led to Woods' divorce from Elin Nordegren, tarnished his reputation and cost him multiple endorsements. Still, no objective look at his life and career can ignore the sordid episode that came to light on Thanksgiving weekend in 2009.

Nordegren discovered Woods' infidelities before the release of a National Enquirer story detailing his relationship with nightclub promoter Rachel Uchitel. Days later, Woods was injured in a one-vehicle crash near his home, allegedly under the influence of prescription drugs in the aftermath of a physical confrontation by Nordegren. Police investigated the incident, but no charges were filed. Still, details of Tiger's secret life began making headlines even before he paid a subsequent $164 fine for reckless driving.

Eventually, more than a dozen women were publicly linked to Woods, including porn stars, escorts, a pancake house waitress and a neighbor's daughter. The Enquirer reported that Woods told Nordegren the number was more than 100, and one of the mistresses speculated the actual number might be closer to 500.

Woods attended rehabilitation for sex addiction and lost sponsorships with Accenture, AT&T, Gatorade and Gillette. In February 2010, he apologized in a news conference that was televised live on all major American networks. Later that year, Time magazine ranked Tiger's penance alongside those of Bill Clinton, Mel Gibson, Kanye West and Plato among history's top 10 apologies.

Woods returned to the course at the 2010 Masters, where security guards carried photos of his paramours with instructions to eject any in attendance. During a practice round, a female spectator was questioned by a guard who tactlessly asked, "Ma'am, are you the stripper?"


Woods memorably hung out backstage at a Florida concert by much-maligned Canadian rock band Nickelback after the 2010 Masters, while the media glare of his cheating scandal was still intense.

"Yeah, I went to the concert and had a great time," Woods said. "Nickelback, a couple of the band members are friends of mine, and so I went ... and unfortunately, I got criticized for seeing my friends."

Internet pundits snickered, and media types scoffed.

Fortunately, Woods has recruited luminaries such as Prince, Sting, Stevie Wonder and Van Halen to perform at the Tiger Jam fundraiser over the years, somewhat restoring our faith in his musical taste.


Woods is the only player since 1900 to win a major championship by 10-plus strokes, and he has done it twice.

He memorably raced to a 12-stroke victory at the 1997 Masters, and he blistered the field by 15 strokes in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

Overall, Woods has won four PGA Tour events by 10-plus strokes: The 2003 Bay Hill Invitational and the 2000 WGC-NEC Invitational at Firestone were the others. Arnold Palmer and Phil Mickelson have each accomplished that feat once, and Jack Nicklaus never did it.


Even considering Woods' staggering number of tournament victories, major championships and earnings, many observers believe his most impressive feat was making a record 142 consecutive PGA Tour cuts from 1998 to 2005. He won 36 events during the streak, which ended at the Byron Nelson Classic in May 2005.

The streak could have been even longer if not for a scheduling quirk. His previous missed cut came at the 1998 Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, when he withdrew instead of returning seven months later to complete the weather-delayed tournament. Before that, his only missed cut as a professional came at the 1997 Canadian Open.

The previous mark of consecutive cuts made was 113 by Byron Nelson from 1941 to 1948. Jack Nicklaus is the only other player to top the century mark, having made 105 cuts in a row from 1970 to 1976. To add further perspective, consider that the longest active streak is 30 by Henrik Stenson.


In 2000, Woods posted the lowest season-long scoring average in PGA Tour history at 68.17, bettering the 68.33 compiled by Byron Nelson in 1945. Tiger's adjusted scoring average of 67.79 in 2000, which he equaled in 2007, is also a PGA Tour record. Woods shot par or better in a PGA Tour-record 52 consecutive rounds from April 2000 to January 2001.


There are three courses on which Tiger has won eight PGA Tour events each: Torrey Pines in San Diego; Firestone South in Akron, Ohio; and Bay Hill in Orlando, Florida. He won the Farmers Insurance Open seven times and the U.S. Open once at Torrey. Each of his Firestone wins came in the WGC-Bridgestone (formerly NEC) Invitational. Each of his Bay Hill victories came in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.


Tiger has three career aces on the PGA Tour.

• 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open: 14th hole, Brown Deer Park GC

• 1997 Phoenix Open: 16th hole, TPC Scottsdale

• 1998 International: Seventh hole, Castle Pines GC, Castle Rock, Colorado

Even among professionals, holes-in-one are somewhat random and hardly emblematic of overall success. Still, it's interesting to see where Tiger stacks up against other notable players. In PGA Tour events, Hal Sutton is the career leader with 10 aces. Phil Mickelson has five. Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer had three and two, respectively.

Interestingly, Tiger's first hole-in-one at a PGA event came in the final round of his professional debut.


Tiger, born Dec. 30, 1975, shares a birthday with two other legendary sports figures: 11-time NBA All-Star LeBron James (1984) and Baseball Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (1935). Other athletes born on Dec. 30 include skateboarder Ryan Sheckler (1989), NHL defenseman Rob Scuderi (1978), boxer Laila Ali (1977), MLB reliever Grant Balfour (1977), former NFL quarterback Kerry Collins (1972) and disgraced Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson (1961).

Bob Harig and Kevin Maguire of and Zachary Jones of ESPN Stats & Info contributed to this article.

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