When the boy was six, he asked his parents for the subliminal
tape. In the parents' plan to raise the greatest golfer who ever
lived, the boy's mind had to be trained. The tape was all rippling
brooks and airy flutes on top and chest-thumpers underneath:
MY DECISIONS ARE STRONG!
I DO IT ALL WITH MY HEART!
From the beginning, the boy understood what the tape was for, and
he liked it. A regular Freud of the first grade. He would pop in
the tape while swinging in front of the mirror or putting on the
carpet or watching videos of old Masters tournaments. In fact, he
played the tape so often that it would have driven any other
parents quite nuts. Any other parents.
He took the messages that came with the tape and tacked them to
the wooden bookshelf in his tiny room. All the people from That's
Incredible and Eye on L.A. and The Mike Douglas Show who tracked
in and out to meet the Great Black Hope, they all missed the
messages. But there they were, right under their very ears.
I FOCUS AND GIVE IT MY ALL!
When the boy was seven, his parents installed the psychological
armor. If he had a full wedge shot, the father would stand 15 feet
in front of him and say, ``I'm a tree.'' And the kid would have to
hit over him. The father would jingle his change before the boy's
bunker shots. Pump the brake on the cart on the boy's mid-irons.
Rip the Velcro on his glove over a three-footer.
What his dad tried to do, whenever possible, was cheat, distract,
harass and annoy him. You spend 20 years in the military, train
with the Green Berets, do two tours of Nam and one of Thailand,
you learn a few things about psychological warfare.
It was not good enough that by age two the boy could look at a
grown man's swing and understand it (``Look, Daddy,'' he would
say, ``that man has a reverse pivot!''); that by three he was
beating 10-year-olds; that by five he was signing autographs
(because he couldn't write script, he printed his name in block
letters); that by six he'd already had two holes in one. No, the
father knew his son would need a mind as one-piece as his swing.
Let's see, the father would . . . drop a golf bag during the
boy's backswing . . . roll a ball across the boy's line just
before he putted . . . remind him not to snap-hook it there into
the houses . . . jar him as he putted through . . . mark the
father's own ball a foot closer to the hole than it was . . .
make a 6 and write 5 . . . kick his own ball out of the rough,
but only when his son was looking.
``I mean, yeah,'' says the boy now, ``I'd get angry sometimes. But
I knew it was for the betterment of me. That's what learning is
all about, right?''
He was the father's one-boy battalion. Before tournaments the
father would tell him to make sure his gear was in ``tip-top
shape, lie and loft.'' The father made sure the boy ``understood
the mission'' (win). He would hold ``debriefings'' after the
tournament (talk about how it went). What the father wanted for
his son was the one thing he had had in battle, the thing that had
kept Charlie from putting him in a bag: a ``dark side,'' as he
calls it, ``a coldness.'' It was coldness that had allowed him to
storm a VC-held village and step over dead men without swallowing
hard. It had helped him to charge on against tracer fire without
blinking when his every nerve screamed, ``Get down!''
And so the boy learned coldness too. Eventually, nothing the
father did could make him flinch. The boy who once heard
subliminal messages under rippling brooks now couldn't hear a
thing. Once at a tournament a marshal's walkie-talkie went off at
volume 10 out of 10 during the boy's backswing. The boy admitted
later that he never heard it.
``I wanted to make sure,'' says the father, ``he'd never run into
anybody who was tougher mentally than he was.''
So far, the boy's USGA match-play record is 30-3.
MY WILL MOVES MOUNTAINS!
By second grade the boy had a nationally known name -- Tiger Woods
-- and he had already played in, and won, his first international
tournament, against kids from all over the world. His father took
him to the 1st tee, where all the other nervous little boys and
hyperventilating dads had gone. And he said, ``Son, I want you to
know I love you no matter how you do. Enjoy yourself.'' And then
Tiger stepped up and hit a perfect drive. And after the round was
over, the father asked him what he was thinking about as he stood
over that first shot.
And Tiger said, simply, ``Where I wanted my ball to go, Daddy.''
Not: Don't miss it, don't skull it, don't fail. Only: Where I
wanted my ball to go.
``That's when I knew,'' says Earl Woods, the father. ``That's when
I knew how good he was going to be.''
Since then, Tiger Woods has gone on to become exactly what his
parents planned, the greatest golfer -- at this stage of his life
-- ever to live. The little legend in the Coke-bottle glasses was
so good that when he was 11 he went undefeated in Southern
California junior golf events, some 30 tournaments in all, most
with fields of more than 100 players. He was so overwhelming that
golf deities bent knees to shake his hand. By his teens he had
played with Sam Snead, been presented a tournament trophy by Lee
Trevino, teed it up with Greg Norman, Jack Nicklaus and John Daly.
He is the youngest person ever to have played in a PGA Tour event
(at 16 years and two months, in the 1992 L.A. Open); the youngest
ever and the first black to win the U.S. Amateur (last year, when
he was 18, four years younger than Bobby Jones when he won his
first Amateur, a year younger than Nicklaus when he won his); the
first male ever to win three U.S. Juniors; the first male to win
the Junior and the Amateur.
For a child to become a legend, his deeds must be legendary. Tiger
Woods's were. His biggest victories all seemed snatched at the
last second from other kids' trophy cases. Sure, he was the first
boy to win three USGA Juniors, but look how he won them: in
Orlando, on the 19th hole; in Milton, Mass., on the 18th; in
Portland, on the 19th, after being two down with two to play and
making two birdies -- one on an unthinkable fairway bunker shot.
Before his greatest victory of all, in last year's U.S. Amateur on
the Stadium course of the TPC at Sawgrass, his father whispered
into his ear, ``Let the legend grow.'' It practically doubled.
Down six holes in the final match, Tiger roared murderously back,
making two birdies in the last three holes -- including a 139-yard
wedge to the island-green 17th that stayed out of the water by
three feet -- to win 2 up. It's believed to be only the greatest
comeback in the tournament's 99-year history.
``See, this is the first black intuitive golfer ever raised in the
United States,'' says Earl Woods. ``Before, black kids grew up
with basketball or football or baseball from the time they could
walk. The game became part of them from the beginning. But they
always learned golf too late. Not Tiger. Tiger knew how to swing a
golf club before he could walk.''
I BELIEVE IN ME!
From the beginning the idea was synergy: Produce a thing greater
than the sum of its parts. But how? He and she were so opposite.
He was 37. She was 23. He was a quarter American Indian, a quarter
Chinese and half black. She was half Thai, a quarter Chinese and a
quarter white. He was from Manhattan, Kans. She was from Bangkok.
He was a paid killer. She was a peaceful civilian. He was a
Protestant. She was a Buddhist. He had raised himself. She came
from a wealthy family. Both of his parents had died by the time he
was 13. She still lived with hers.
Raise a wonder child? They could barely hook up for a first date.
He was on assignment in Thailand, and she was working as a
secretary in a U.S. Army office. He said eight, thinking p.m. She
heard eight, thinking a.m. ``Thai girls not go out at night,'' she
says proudly. When she didn't show up, he figured she had stiffed
him. When he didn't show up, she went and found him.
``We had a date,'' she sniffed. She was accompanied by a friend.
(``Thai girls not go out unchaperoned,'' she says proudly.)
``Yeah,'' he said, his boots up on the desk. ``Last night.''
``We still have date,'' she said.
She insisted he take her to the temple of the Reclining Buddha,
for it was a holy day in Bangkok. ``What could I do?'' growls Earl
with a grin today. ``I took her to the damn church.''
They moved to Brooklyn, where they were married in 1969, and then
to Cypress, Calif., where in 1975 she bore him a son, the First
Son, in Asia the most important child, the one responsible for the
family as soon as he's able. It was also her last child, since she
suffered complications during the delivery. Together, the two of
them, Earl and Tida, the two opposites, his yang to her yin, put
all their love in one babbling, smiling, golf-swinging basket.
Maybe it's true: The hybrid rose is stronger than the two strains.
They tended it as if it were the last rose in the garden. In his
18 years under their roof, Tiger never once had a baby-sitter. ``I
let my husband go,'' Tida says. ``I stay with Tiger. Tiger more
important than a party.''
Not only did the First Son know the joy of being an only child
(like Leonardo da Vinci, Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert De Niro),
but he also had the elevating love of two parents whose whole
lives were dedicated only to him: a father who retired from the
Army and took a 9-to-5 as a contract manager with McDonnell
Douglas so his little boy would not have to grow himself up, and a
mother who knew she would never have another baby.
In their love for him they were equally devout, but they stuck to
their roles. Earl was the best friend. Tida was the parent. Earl
was the road buddy. Tida was waiting at home. Earl wouldn't spank
the boy. Tida would. Earl let him make his mistakes. Tida punished
Earl would take him away all the time to play golf, but Tida never
minded. ``At least he not get hurt in golf,'' she says.
The parents bombarded the son with ways to live right. Earl:
``Care and share.'' Tida: ``No homework, no practice.'' Earl:
``Expect the best. Prepare for the worst.'' Tida: ``Tiger, you
pray to Buddha yet?''
Earl can hardly get through a speech about his son without
breaking down and crying. ``If you treat your child with
admiration, respect and love,'' he will say, ``a miracle will
occur and, and -- '' and then he just dissolves into tears, and
Tiger has to jump up and say, ``That's my dad. I love him.'' Guess
after 20 years, you just plain run out of coldness. But Tida, she
never cries. That's not part of her role. ``I see my husband cry,
and I think, Tida, god, why you not show some emotion? But in my
culture we don't show that. It not proper. You lose face.'' But
when Tiger called home one night last fall to say a mugger had
stuck a knife to his throat at Stanford and taken his watch and
his 24-karat gold Buddha necklace, it was Earl who was back
snoring after a bit, and Tida who didn't sleep the rest of the
night. When Tiger came home, she rushed him over to the temple to
be blessed by the monks. ``For good luck,'' she says.
I STICK TO IT, EASILY, NATURALLY!
So far today, Tiger Woods has won the Masters, come from behind to
win the U.S. Open (twice), played in his first British Open and
turned in a term paper for his course in Critical Media. And it's
barely 4 p.m.
``Here's Woods, 13th tee box, Augusta National, Sunday,'' he
says, waggling a driver on the Stanford driving range on a
blustery day in early March. ``A 19-year-old who just happens to
be black winning the Masters. Would that be a story?'' Woods
whipsaws his 6 1", 148-pound body into a crusher, but the ball
has a distinct odor of smother-hook on it, which means it would
be in the creek or lost in the trees. ``Now here's Woods asking
his caddie for another ball.''
This is his third straight hour out here in the freezing drizzle
and wind of Palo Alto. He is wearing a pair of nylon jogging
pants, an NBA T-shirt and his Stanford hat. Misery? What misery?
To the Mozart of golf, every shot is more fun than the last, just
as it was when his father taught him to love practice as a boy.
O.K., let's see who can hit it closer to that flag off one foot.
O.K., now, closing your eyes. O.K., now, using a seven-iron. Now a
two- iron. Odds are that Tiger Woods will never burn out from
golf. This is not the Todd Marinovich of golf. The 100-watt bulbs
that come on in his chocolate eyes when the textbooks finally get
put away and the tee balls come out show you that. There is no
tenseness in his face or body. There is only the kind of liquid,
happy motion that comes from someone who knows that nobody can
cough and make his swing curdle and that there's nobody he'll
disappoint if the ball goes in the lake. He is free of all that,
so everything about golf to him is a joy. If anything, golf will
burn out from him.
``All right, Shinnecock, U.S. Open, Tiger Woods one shot ahead of
Mr. Strange, two holes to play. Mr. Strange making an amazing
comeback here today! Woods needs two perfect drives here.'' He
takes two more range balls out of the huge plastic milk crate he's
draining and tees them up. Then he unleashes his simple and
elegant swing on two breathtaking drives, both of them splitting
the distance between two red-and-white poles that sit 20 yards
apart, 250 yards out on the scruffy range. The balls finally roll
themselves to exhaustion under an old fence 310 yards away. ``That
may do it!''
This year, one of the greatest venue years in golf history, Woods
will play majors at Augusta National (the Masters), Shinnecock
Hills, in Southampton, N.Y. (U.S. Open) and St. Andrews, Scotland
(British Open). But oddsmakers have him 100 to 1 to win any one of
them. Woods ponders that for a moment and then says, ``They're
``More like 500,000 to 1.''
I WILL MY OWN DESTINY!
Even the name was part of the plan. Eldrick (Tiger) Woods. The
``Eldrick'' was made up out of the blue by Tida, because it joined
the first letters of her husband's first name, Earl, and hers,
Kultida. You understand? No matter what, we will always be there
at your side.
The ``Tiger'' was given to him by his father in honor of his
father's Vietnam combat partner, Nguyen Phong of the South
Vietnamese army. Earl nicknamed Phong ``Tiger'' for his unblinking
bravery. It was Tiger who took him on an insane mission through
the streets of a VC-held village and got him the Vietnamese silver
star for it. It was Tiger, his best friend, who pulled him off a
rice-paddy dike seconds after sniper fire tore over him. Around
1967 or '68 they lost contact, but Earl is convinced that Tiger is
still alive somewhere in the world. And so he nicknamed his own
son Tiger in hopes that someday Nguyen Phong would pick up a
newspaper and read about Earl's famous son, the greatest golfer
who ever lived, and understand.
IT HELPS ME UNCONSCIOUSLY!
When the boy was 13, they added the sports psychologist, Navy
Capt. Jay Brunza, a family friend. He worked with Tiger the first
time on a Saturday night -- just some mind tricks, a little trance
work -- and then let Tiger join Brunza's little 12-man, low-bet
choose-up. Tiger played two groups in front of Brunza, and halfway
through the front nine an angry friend of Brunza's suddenly came
trundling back in a cart. ``What kind of monster have you
created?'' the man huffed. ``He's birdied five of the first seven
The First Son is so clear-minded and open to all possibilities in
golf that Brunza was able to hypnotize him in less than a minute.
Once he did it right in front of Earl without Earl's even knowing.
``Tiger, hold your arm out straight,'' Brunza said. Tiger did.
``Now, Earl, try to bend it.'' Earl pulled, pushed and even hung
off that arm, and it wouldn't bend. Brunza got so good at
hypnotizing Tiger, he could do it over the phone. Now, they are
both so good at it, they don't have to do it at all.
Tiger can go to such deep levels of concentration that he doesn't
even remember making shots. He can tell you what club he hit, he
just can't remember actually hitting the ball. During last year's
thrilling Amateur win, with Brunza caddying, Tiger sank a 14-foot
putt on the 17th to take the lead for good, and he punctuated it
with the year's best take-that arm-pumping strut, startling in its
defiance. And yet Tiger can't remember doing it.
But the minds that most fascinate Brunza may be Earl's and Tida's.
People sidle up to Brunza and whisper things like, ``These two
have got to have `Little League Parents from Hell' written all
over them, right?'' But that's the thing: The Woodses break every
stage-parent rule ever written. When dads drag their
seven-year-olds up to Wayne Gretzky and say, ``Wayne, will you
tell him he's got to practice,'' Gretzky always says, ``Nobody
ever told me to practice.'' The same is true for Tiger Woods. Not
once did Earl or Tida insist that he get in his golf practice. The
trick was getting him home. Tiger's swing coach says that when
Tiger and his dad come for sessions, Earl takes a chair and sits
nearby, never saying a thing. ``He not have to be Jack Nicklaus,''
Tida says of Tiger. ``There too much pressure on the kid
already.'' Says Earl: ``If he should fail at this, we'll be his
parachute. He'll land softly.''
Ask the psychologist what would happen if Tiger suddenly said,
``Mom. Pop. I'm selling my clubs. I'm taking up stamp
``Well,'' Brunza says, ``I think they'd say, `Great, Tiger. We're
behind you 100 percent' and kiss him on the forehead.''
I SMILE AT OBSTACLES!
When the Great Black Hope goes to the Augusta National Golf Club
in two weeks as the most-anticipated young black player to ever
walk through its clubhouse doors, there will be only one weird
He isn't black.
Well, he is a quarter black. But mostly he is Thai, and partly he
is Chinese, and Tida wants you to know it. ``All the media try to
put black in him,'' she says, rising off the couch. ``Why don't
they ask who half of Tiger is from? In United States, one little
part black is all black. Nobody want to listen to me. I been
trying to explain to people, but they don't understand. To say he
is 100 percent black is to deny his heritage. To deny his
grandmother and grandfather. To deny me!''
Earl could argue that in this country, one-quarter black is more
than enough for any racist. Earl should know. As the first black
baseball player in the history of the Big Eight Conference, back
in the early 1950s (when it was the Big Seven), he was forced to
stay in all-black hotels apart from his white Kansas State
teammates. He remembers all the times he heard other players on
mostly white high school teams call him nigger. And he remembers
the time when he was in a Little League tournament and the kid
playing third base came up and said, accusingly, ``Your skin is
black.'' Earl said to the kid, ``Lemme see your arm.'' And when
the two of them turned the undersides of their forearms to the
sky, Earl's was lighter than the flabbergasted boy's. Nobody
But crusading is not part of the plan. The plan is for Tiger to
knock down flags, not carry them. So Earl tells his son one rule:
``When you're in America, be black. When you're in the Orient, be
Come to think of it, Tiger might know a little about
discrimination himself. Even as Tida carried him inside her, the
little house in Cypress was pelted by limes and BB-gun fire from
the Unwelcome Wagon, somebody who wasn't thrilled about the
arrival of the first ``black'' family in the neighborhood. On his
first day of kindergarten Tiger was tied to a tree and taunted by
older white kids. At 16 he received a death threat before playing
in the L.A. Open at Riviera. Last fall at Shoal Creek, a
Birmingham club that once kept blacks from joining, he was
picketed by a group of African-Americans for playing in a college
tournament there. Apparently he wasn't black enough.
``I don't want to be the best black golfer ever,'' he has said a
hundred times. ``I want to be the best golfer ever.'' But when he
can fill in only one bubble under ``Ethnicity'' on forms? ``I
always fill in `Asian,' '' he says.
He will be the fourth black American to play in the Masters -- in
61 years -- but the first with a real chance to take home a green
blazer someday. Lee Elder was 40 years old when he became the
first black to play the Masters, in 1975. Calvin Peete played
eight times, but his game was too short. Jim Thorpe (six times)
never quite felt comfortable. None ever finished in the top 10.
But here, here is a kid of the '90s, too young to hate a club like
Augusta National, a kid who considers himself of no real color, a
kid with a future that is almost as huge as his dreams.
``My goal will be the same as always,'' Tiger says. ``To learn
something, enjoy myself and win.'' Still, he is ready for the
questions when they come. ``I know that I wouldn't be playing at
Augusta if it weren't for what people like Charlie Sifford and Lee
Elder did before me. They are pioneers. They are the Jackie
Robinsons of golf.''
Someday, Augusta and Woods may fit nicely. If there's one weakness
in his game, it's that he and his driver argue some, but Augusta
forgives the long and wild driver, because it has virtually no
rough. Still, there's not much reason to believe Woods will do
well there his first time. For one, he will be hounded by the
press as the best story of the first two days. Second, his left
knee is still tender from winter surgery to remove two benign
tumors. Third, Augusta's greens are tricky and not easily figured
out by college freshmen, even Stanford students carrying a 3.0. No
amateur at Augusta has come home better than 15th since 1962. ``On
the other hand,'' says Butch Harmon, Tiger's golf teacher, ``he's
got such a great touch, and he's got those young nerves. Maybe he
won't have the fear of the greens that the veterans have.''
What's ironic is that Tiger Woods could have played Augusta dozens
of times by now and understood some of its secrets, but pride
wouldn't let him. He had invitations from many members through the
years but declined them because, as he would explain, ``I only
want to go when I've earned it.'' You hang around Tida long
enough, you learn something about face.
Oddly, now that he has earned it, he has chosen an older black man
to be his caddie, a man who is completely unfamiliar with the golf
course. ``I'm not too big on the idea,'' says Harmon. ``I think
Tiger should take a local guy.'' But this caddie comes from
special circumstances. As a boy, not only could he never imagine
being able to step on the grounds of a privileged white playground
like Augusta National, but he wasn't even allowed to play on the
only golf course in his scrawny hometown. No coloreds. He didn't
take up the game until he was 42, a delay that he deeply regrets.
Can you imagine what it will mean to that man to walk down
Augusta's 1st fairway?
With his son by his side?
MY STRENGTH IS GREAT!
At 16, when the boy had surpassed his father's knowledge, the
father brought in the PGA Tour swing coach from Houston. Talk
about pressure. Harmon, caretaker of Greg Norman's game, suddenly
had Thomas Edison walk into his electronics school. The kid Tom
Watson calls ``the most important young golfer in the last 50
years'' was Harmon's now, to either improve or entirely screw up.
Now Harmon can't get rid of the kid. ``He wants to work with me 24
hours a day,'' the teacher says. ``I can't get him off the
Team Tiger says there's no way he'll leave school early and turn
pro, unless, in his father's words, he ``completely dominates''
college golf his first three years. Then he may turn pro and play
events in the summers and during Christmas and spring breaks while
he finishes school. Uh, Professor Smithson? Can I get a makeup
exam? I've got to play in this darn Skins Game. Of course, if you
know Tida, you will bet on him turning pro only in time for the
1998 U.S. Open.
That doesn't mean Earl and Tiger can't start getting ready. Harmon
has shortened up Woods's backswing -- a la Norman -- and tightened
up a few moving parts. And Tiger may hit the Tour as the most fit
rookie in history. At 148 pounds, his bench-press rep is 215
pounds. On most days he works out a minimum of one hour on the
weights, with another half an hour of aerobics and half an hour of
stretching. Already, his bunker-rake body is starting to cut in.
His biceps are outsized for his body, and his body fat is 5.5%.
Stanford's former weight-room supervisor told golf coach Wally
Goodwin that ``pound for pound, Tiger's one of the strongest
athletes on campus.''
Golf balls could have told him that. On demand, Woods will
lengthen his backswing a little, release his wrists and drill a
drive 320. At the Amateur he hit a 230-yard four-iron. If you
request it, he'll blade a sand wedge 180 or sky a five-iron off a
blimp. He has won two of the seven tournaments he has played in
for the defending national champ Cardinal, and with his freshman
season only two-thirds over he's the No. 1-ranked male collegiate
player in the country. And because Woods has understood the golf
swing since the age of two, he is less likely to go into deep,
``He handles pressure like a 30-year-old,'' says Harmon, the son
of 1948 Masters champion Claude Harmon. ``And his creativity is
amazing. Some of the shots I've seen him hit remind me of Norman
and Arnold Palmer.''
And the biggie: He is probably not going to choke. He may screw
up, but he won't choke, and choking is the No. 1 reason that Tour
players go into real estate. Where I wanted my ball to go, Daddy.
Tiger Woods still hasn't learned how to fear failure. ``If I fail
at golf?'' he says one day, laughing. ``Hmmmm. I don't know what
I'd do. That's why I'm here, right?''
I AM FIRM IN MY RESOLVE!
At 18, he traded millions for a dorm room and no sleep.
Most any night you catch Tiger Woods and his roommate at Stanford,
you'll notice Woods is not calling his agent, not getting a
massage and not checking his investments. Usually, he is doing
what his roomie is doing -- cramming for a test and trying like
hell to keep his hands off the TV remote, which, if it weren't for
The Simpsons, he would have given up for the year. ``No time,'' he
Par is five hours of sleep a night, and Woods is suffering the
freshman blues. But what's funny is that even more than fellow
Stanford student Fred Savage, Tiger Woods can slam shut every book
on his shelf, skip every test, egg the dean's house at noon and
still be set for life. This is because corporate golf wants to get
its bar graphs on Woods very badly. He is as fresh and handsome as
a soap ad. He has a Steinway smile that would make an orthodontist
go broke. He seems to win every time he puts on his spikes. And,
the best part, he is longer than Tolstoy. Stanford took calls from
companies that wanted to start a line of Tiger Woods golf clothes
and a line of Tiger Woods golf clubs (``Get your set of Tiger
Woods today!''). The standard estimate of his value in the
endorsement world is in the tens of millions of dollars, and
that's just the beginning.
Many is the day when Tiger admits he'll be sitting in geophysics
or art history class and thinking about what life would be if it
weren't for all this damn character inside him. ``Sometimes I'll
be sitting there thinking, Dang, right now I'd be in Miami,
getting ready for Doral, maybe playing a practice round with Greg
``Money can't buy us,'' Tida says proudly. What she and Earl want
for Tiger is an education, the kind her parents got for her, the
kind for which Earl holed up by himself in shabby hotels all
across the Big Eight. ``What he need money for?'' she says. ``If
you turn him pro, you take his youth away from him.''
And when he is done daydreaming of courtesy cars and corporate
cash, Tiger Woods climbs back up on his resolve. ``Money won't
make me happy,'' he says. ``If I turned pro, I'd be giving up
something I wanted to accomplish. And if I did turn pro, that
would only put more pressure on me to play well, because I would
have nothing to fall back on. I would rather spend four years here
at Stanford and improve myself.''
You say this guy is how old?
I FULFILL MY RESOLUTIONS POWERFULLY!
All they really wanted to give him was roots and wings. At 18,
they let him go.
By March, Earl and Tida had not gone to visit Tiger at Stanford,
not once, not for a tournament, not for anything.
Dozens and dozens of people have begged Earl and Tida to call
their son and set up interviews, autograph sessions, favors,
audiences and deals, but they have not interceded once. ``It is
time for him to have his own life now,'' says Tida.
Some days, though, it gets a little lonely. Tida will wander down
the hall in the cozy little house in Cypress, into Tiger's cozy
little bedroom, and see the words from the subliminal tape still
tacked up on the bookshelf. Tida made up a resume of Tiger's golf
accomplishments -- listed by age -- and has a stack of copies
sitting on the tiny computer table for visitors. Nearly every wall
and nearly every table is crammed with Tiger tracks: Tiger's
awards, Tiger's photos, Tiger's trophies, hundreds and hundreds of
them, swallowing the space from floor to ceiling, from window to
door. But how will the great whole, the beautiful rose, do in a
very big world without his two devoted gardeners?
Today some of the worst rainstorms of the past decade are pelting
the Bay Area. There are floods and mud slides and even a few
deaths. Earl and Tida are a little worried, especially because
when they give the First Son a call, just to see if he's O.K.,
there's no answer.
No wonder. Tiger isn't somewhere safe. He is out here, alone, on
the 10th hole of the closed Stanford golf course, in the middle of
a horizontal wave of rain, his car the only one in the lot, and he
is ripping two-irons into the teeth of an Auntie Em wind, getting
ready for what he might face at St. Andrews. No coach ordered him
here. No parent. No schedule. Hey, you don't get lucky and get
this kind of horrible weather every day. Expect the best, prepare
for the worst. And as the rain narrows his eyes and the gale
wobbles his stance, you can't help noticing that he is smiling, a
lifetime of subliminal messages happily at work.