THAIS THAT BIND TIGER WOODS HAD TO JUGGLE A SLEW OF DEMANDS IN THE HOMELAND OF HIS MOTHER

February 17, 1997

The education of Tiger Woods continued last week with an
intrafamilial, cross-cultural and bottom-line lesson in
superstardom. Although the $300,000 Asian Honda Classic in
Bangkok on the minor league Omega tour was hardly big game for
Tiger, the extra tasks of trying to please a proud mother riding
herd in her homeland, an adoring country that had adopted him as
its greatest sports celebrity, and a corporate sponsor that had
paid him an appearance fee far exceeding the purse made for the
most distraction-filled tournament of his brief pro career.

But this is Tiger Woods we're talking about, and despite the
off-course frustrations, he did what it took to satisfy
everyone, even himself. In attending to his abiding goal of
winning, Woods shot rounds of 70-64-66-68 over a
challenging-to-everyone-else, 7,016-yard Thai Country Club
course for a 20-under-par 268, 10 strokes better than the
next-best score. While the field was made up primarily of guys
like second-place finisher Mo Joong Kyung of South Korea and
Suthep Meesawad of Thailand, who tied for 61st, it also
contained Steve Elkington, Frank Nobilo and Curtis Strange, a
threesome that Woods defeated by 13, 14 and 14 strokes,
respectively.

By any standard Woods performed superbly before galleries that
numbered close to 5,000 on the weekend, the largest ever seen in
Thailand, where, although he is only half Thai, he is accepted
as a full brother. Woods even treated the fans to arguably the
most awesome shot of a career already bristling with improbable
feats when he drove the 389-yard 10th hole during the third
round. The victory, worth $48,000, was Woods's fourth in 12
starts in individual medal-play events as a pro. "Winning,
period, is great, but to win here in Thailand is something
special," he said. "It was a hard week with a lot going on, a
lot of different forces on me, so I'm proud I overcame that, too."

From the time he set foot in Bangkok around midnight on Feb. 5,
Woods was under pressure to meet his contractual obligations to
attend tournament functions, and his more complicated ones to
his 53-year-old mother, Kultida. "Tiger is here basically for
his mother," said Alistair Johnson of International Management
Group, which represents Woods. "Yes, the appearance fee was big
[reportedly $480,000], but Tiger doesn't take deals just for
money. The fact that this is his mother's country tipped the
balance."

Kultida grew up 70 miles north of Bangkok, close to the famous
bridge on the River Kwai, and many of her relatives gathered to
watch her famous son play last week. Although she keeps a low
profile in the U.S., deferring to her husband, Earl, whom she
met 26 years ago while he was a lieutenant colonel stationed in
Bangkok (Earl remained in California preparing for heart bypass
surgery), in Thailand, Kultida was given the star treatment.
Easy to recognize by the tiger-skin pattern on her visor, she
was constantly photographed and asked for her autograph, and she
gave interviews in Thai to local stations and in English to ABC
News.

Tiger tried to be as accommodating, but playing abroad for large
appearance fees for the second time since turning pro (his first
such venture was November's Australian Open, in which he tied
for fifth) left him convinced that the drain on his energy and
enthusiasm is counterproductive to his aim of becoming the best
golfer in the world. "Playing overseas involves some trade-offs
Tiger probably doesn't need to make," says Strange, who was also
paid a six-figure fee to play in Bangkok. "When you accept the
kind of money from a sponsor that Tiger got, for that week they
own you."

This week the Australian Masters in Melbourne, which is shelling
out more than $300,000, owns Woods, but in the future he is
likely to limit such trips to once a year. "I guess it all
worked out," Woods said, sounding older and wiser after a
chaotic week, "but these are situations I don't want to get
into. All week I had no time to myself, no time to relax and
have fun. I need to keep golf fun. I guess I had to learn the
hard way."

Actually Woods's week was supposed to be easy. When he agreed to
make the trip late last year, playing in the Asian Honda Classic
appeared to be a good way to visit relatives and see landmarks
like the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha, which he
remembered from his first journey to Thailand, when he was nine.
From the perspective of his primary sponsor, Nike, and IMG,
Thailand would represent Woods's first foray into the gold mine
that is the Asian golf market as well as a chance to collect a
whopping appearance fee.

There was no doubt that Woods would be warmly received in a
country that promotes itself as the Land of Smiles. Since
winning the U.S. Amateur in August and making a spectacular
debut on the PGA Tour, Woods has become the most celebrated
sports figure of Thai descent. Although there are only 200
courses in Thailand and about one million golfers among its 60
million people, the country's burgeoning middle class is taking
up the game in droves. Woods's victory is expected to be an
important catalyst to further growth.

On the other hand, Woods's image on the front page of Bangkok
newspapers and his appearances on all the country's news shows
rankled some who resented seeing an American who can't even
speak the language receive so much attention. Maj. Gen. Charouck
Arirachakaran, secretary general of the Olympic Committee of
Thailand, told the Thai newspaper The Nation that Woods's
arrival "failed to excite me." He contended that boxer Somluck
Kamsing (the only Thai to win an Olympic gold medal) is "pure
Thai and more important." But Deputy Foreign Minister Pitak
Intrawithayanunt said that Woods's popularity was positive
because "we want to show that playing sports, rather than
turning into drug addicts, is good for Thai youth."

Certainly the cries of "Tiger, Tiger, Tiger" from the galleries
that followed Woods in Bangkok indicated that his appeal was
genuine. "Tiger has some American characteristics, but his
behavior is more Thai," says his cousin Vachira Poonswat, a
38-year-old who builds swimming pools and lives in Bangkok. "He
is shy, and the people see his smile, his smiling eyes and the
peace he carries with him, and he is like them. Yes, he is
darker, but there is no color in Thailand. We judge each person
by his behavior." That attitude is the reason Woods feels at
home in Thailand. "I don't get the hard looks here that I
sometimes get in the States," he says. "The Thai people are
kind, and I feel more accepted."

Unfortunately Woods was left with little time to do more than
play golf, attend functions and sleep, which is also getting to
be his pattern at Tour events, where he's mobbed whenever he's
out in public. In private his movements have become increasingly
slow, as if he's saving his energy. "I know he's 21 and he's
going to be absolutely great, but I'm not sure I would trade
places with Tiger Woods," says Mark O'Meara, who is Woods's
neighbor in Orlando and beat him the week before at Pebble Beach.

Woods came to Bangkok worn out by the effort of his 63-64 finish
in the AT&T, the extra attention he drew by having Kevin Costner
as his amateur partner and a stomach ailment that turned mean in
midair. From the time the Thai Airways 747 left Los Angeles on
Monday morning to the time it touched down at Don Muang Airport,
20 hours later and deep in the Bangkok night, Woods ate next to
nothing. But when the cabin doors opened, officials and
television crews piled into the first-class cabin and began
filming a startled Woods. The scene was carried live on four of
Bangkok's five TV stations. When one reporter stuck a microphone
in Woods's face and asked if there was anything he wanted to say
to the Thai people, a disoriented Woods answered, "I'll sign
everything outside."

The first person on the plane to greet Woods was his mother, who
had been in Thailand since Jan. 21. After the two embraced,
Tiger immediately questioned Kultida about what she had said on
Seetoom Square, a popular TV talk show in Thailand. Before
leaving the U.S., Woods had read that Kultida had told viewers
that she would demand that he marry a Thai woman. "He said,
'Mom, did you say that? It's all over the world,'" said Kultida.
"I never said that. The dadgum media got it wrong. All I said
was that it would be nice if he did." Two days later Tiger told
journalists, "I will marry whomever I fall in love with."

In the airport more than 1,000 people were waiting for Woods,
many of them armed with bright garlands to hang on their hero.
An hour later, when Woods finally got to his 25th-floor suite at
the plush Shangri-La Hotel on the banks of the Chao Phraya
River, he was hungry but unable to hold down food. Before going
to bed for five hours of sleep, he learned that the luggage
carrying all of his clothing was lost, which sent both Nike and
IMG representatives into severe swoosh withdrawal. "It's turning
out to be a great trip," Woods said sarcastically. Even though
his luggage showed up the next day, his stomach problems, jet
lag and the effects of 90[degrees] tropical heat caused him to
drop out of the pro-am after 13 holes and skip that night's
dinner. He was flown by helicopter the 30 miles from the course
to the hotel to rest and recover for the tournament proper.

After completing the first round, in which he shot an erratic
70, and conducting a junior clinic, Woods turned down his
mother's request to attend a traditional Thai dinner and an
elaborate folk performance organized in his honor by the
government and Thai Airways. Two hours later Woods was relaxing
in the hotel lounge with Strange and Nobilo when Kultida came
down to make one last plea. Although annoyed, Tiger couldn't
refuse. "Tida did a number on him," said Strange. "He came back
and said, 'Guys, I guess I'm not going to dinner with you.'"
Instead, Woods and his traveling companions, childhood friend
Mike Gout and former Stanford teammate Jerry Change, piled into
a Mercedes and, with a police escort through Bangkok's
traffic-snarled streets, drove to the Siam City Hotel for the
folk program. Once he arrived, Woods brightened. He particularly
enjoyed a kick-boxing exhibition that brought back memories of
how he and Gout used to put on the gloves in the garage as
youngsters. "Just like home, huh, Mikey," said Woods.

Kultida was fulfilled. "It's important that the boy sees his
heritage," she said. "It wouldn't have been right for him not to
go. I know he did it for me. The boy is a good boy. He got mad
because he has no time, but in the end he did the right thing."
Kultida was even prouder after the tournament, when Woods was
given honorary citizenship by Thai prime minister Chavalit
Yongchaiyudh on the floor of Bangkok's ornate Government House.

As Woods sped off for Australia, he was flirting with burnout.
His next tournament in the U.S. is supposed to be this month's
Nissan Open at Riviera, in Los Angeles, where in 1992 as a
16-year-old he played in his first Tour event. But if Woods is
feeling any ill effects from his continent hopping, he might
skip L.A. and wait until the Doral-Ryder Open in March to play
again. That would cast the trip to Bangkok in a negative light,
although Johnson, who has managed globe-trotting golfers for
three decades, believes Woods will cope.

"This trip turned out well for Tiger," he says. "He's tired,
yes, but he learned some things and he made a lot of friends.
Plus he won the tournament."

As long as that keeps happening, in Thailand or anywhere else,
Woods will be a content superstar.

TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY ROBERT BECK After a tiring flight and tumultuous reception, Woods was the center of attention, greeting dignitaries, trying his hand at folk dancing and starring in the Honda Classic. [Tiger Woods and others on airplane; reporters and photographers surrounding Tiger Woods] COLOR PHOTO: COURTESY OF SIAM CITY HOTEL [See caption above--Tiger Woods bowing to woman] COLOR PHOTO: AP PHOTO/THE NATION [See caption above--dancer and Tiger Woods] TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY ROBERT BECK [See caption above--man at microphone near cut-out poster of Tiger Woods; Tiger Woods and others at Honda Classic golf tour] SIX COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY ROBERT BECK Once the tournament began, Kultida kept the local press happy, which allowed an exhausted Tiger, who commuted to the course in a helicopter, time to conduct a clinic, fire four subpar rounds and help Elkington get a grip on his game. [Kultida Woods and reporters; Tiger Woods yawining; Tiger Woods in helicopter; Tiger Woods coaching woman at golf clinic; Tiger Woods golfing; Tiger Woods and Steve Elkington]
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)