“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.”—Tiger Woods.
In the top ten most famous athletes in the world, if not actually at number one, Tiger Woods has had an unparalleled career, both professionally and in the public eye. The career of Tiger Woods can be seen as a modern-day retelling of Icarus, but he is intent on turning back the clock and bring himself back to prominence. From the highest highs to the lowest lows, here are 40 of the most interesting facts about the life and times of Tiger Woods.
Tiger Woods Facts
Just because you're a professional athlete (with endorsement deals worth tens of millions of dollars, to boot) doesn't mean you can't indulge in some good ol' fashioned homemade equipment.
To whit: the golf club cover that Tiger uses in competition was handmade by his mom, who also stitched the words “Love from Mom” in Thai on it.
Hey, you know what? If it works, it works. Good work, Mrs. Woods.
39. Red Tiger
Tiger was famous for wearing red on the final day of tournaments. Which, incidentally, meant that red was the color Tiger almost inevitably had on when he won (and he did a lot of winning in the early days. Thus, Woods candidly made his signature color synonymous with golfing.
So what gave him the idea? After all, professional golfing is hardly an industry which seems to breed bold fashion choices (unless you're John Daly, that is).
Turns out Tiger's mom was responsible for the crimson tees. As a young lad, she became convinced that red was Tiger’s personal “power color”, and that wearing it would bring him luck. Once again, the proof is in the pudding. Given all of Tiger's succcess, she almost certainly wasn’t wrong.
38. Urkel in College
While at Stanford University, Tiger Woods studied economics. He even eventually acquired a nickname while attending the school: friends decided to call him “Urkel”.
Hmmmmm. That doesn't seem like the sort of nickname that's supposed to be a compliment. Although maybe they just meant he was smart?
37. Fast Food Love
When he won his first Masters tournament in 1999, Tiger went hard at the after-party. Fair enough, right? That's basically the duty of any iconic athlete: you achieve unbelievable success at an unfathomably young age, and then you tear up the clubs and dance floors with the help of your famous friends (and the millions of dollars you've already earned).
Tiger, though, went in a... different direction. His post-Masters celebration involved less champagne-and-caviar, and more buckets-of-cholesterol. He apparently ate nine (!) cheeseburgers at the event.
Turns out, Tiger loves his fast food. He has said that McDonald’s and Taco Bell are his favorite foods. And we're sure that is not at all influenced by any potential endorsement deals being thrown his away. Nope. No way.
36. Help of Video Games
There is no doubt that part of Tiger’s great success is his control over his hands and fingers. He attributed his incredible control to his childhood love for video games. He also claims that playing video games helped him overcome a fear of failure. That’s what I told my mom all along yet I still wasn’t allowed to play MarioKart for more than 30 minutes a day!
35. Privacy on the Waters
If you were one of the biggest celebrities in the world, endured a massive public scandal which made you reevaluate the importance of privacy in your life, and also owned a giant 150-foot yacht, what would you name the boat? Well, Tiger Woods named his Privacy. Subtle.
34. Believe in Buddha
Given his family background, it may not be surprising to learn that Tiger Woods is a Buddhist. Raised in the religion, he claims that his infidelities and fall from grace can be attributed to him deviating from his Buddhist awareness and practices.
Which is kind of sweet, in a round-about way. He's aware of his failings at least, which is better than some who crumble in the spotlight.
33. No, Thank You
Though he is both Thai and a Buddhist, Tiger actually declined his opportunity to gain Thai citizenship after being offered it during a tournament in Thailand.
Sorry, Thailand. That can't have felt good. If it helps, though, Tiger might not have been the most enthusiastic Thai person in any case. His affinity for cheeseburgers doesn't really fit into the traditional diet.
32. Helping Haiti
After the devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, Tiger made sure to help out by donating $3 million to the relief efforts. That's not a small chunk of change! Even coming from someone as wealthy as Woods, 3 million bucks is a serious donation.
31. Good For Everyone
Tiger is considered the player responsible for bringing golf into the modern mainstream and helping bring more money into the sport. Since he arrived on the scene, the attendance and draws grew to staggering rates, and so too did the purse earnings for tournaments and players involved.
30. But Is It Made Out of Wood?
Considering how lucrative Tiger Woods’ brand was as he skyrocketed to success, this one should hardly be a surprise: Nike has named a building in his honor at their headquarters located in Beaverton, Oregon.
As they should! Can you imagine how much dough Nike has taken in on the back of Tiger's fame? The guy almost single-handily put golf on the map in North America. They named an entire line of golfing video games (the Tiger Woods Pro Tour series) after him, for crying out loud. The man should have a statue in the lobby of every Nike office in America.
29. Just in Case
Adding to the list of endorsement was TAG Heuer. However, they weren’t content just with good sales. Instead, they worked directly with Tiger to create the world’s first professional golf watch. What is a professional golf watch, you may be asking? Well, they created an innovative shock absorption design which allowed the watch to soak up to 5,000 Gs of force, which, of course, is way more than a golf swing can actually produce.
28. The Billion Dollar Man
In 2009, according to Forbes Magazine, Tiger became the world’s first billion-dollar athlete. This placed him behind only Oprah Winfrey for the richest person of African-American descent in the United States. Even though he is no longer considered one of the best golfers playing, to this day he is still the highest-paid.
And that is the power of charisma, influence, and a whole lot of talent.
27. The Writer
From 1997 to 2011 Tiger Woods wrote a column for Golf Digest magazine in which he gave golf instruction.
Which has to be valuable stuff, right? It's enough to make you wonder: is there some lucky soul out there who read every single one, and then went on to be a great golfer in their own right? How often do get expert advice from a legend in their field. I mean it's like getting tips on how to dance from Shakira herself.
26. Inner-City Jobs
The year that Tiger Woods turned professional, he also opened up the Tiger Woods Foundation. The foundation focused on promoting golf in the inner-cities and is still in operation today, employing over 50 people.
25. Helping Out
In the multi-million dollar foundation, there is also the Tiger Woods learning center, which operates five different campuses throughout the United States. These campuses provide college-access programs to youth and provide learning facilities to level the playing field, both in golf and in education.
24. In Good Company
Tiger Woods holds 17 Guinness World Records. This puts him in third place all-time, right after Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt.
Which, by the way, is pretty illustrious company. It also sounds like the set-up to some dusty old dad joke. "Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, and Tiger Woods walk into a bar..."
I'm still workshopping a punchline, though.
How good was Tiger Woods in his prime? There was a debate in the golf world about “Tiger-proofing” professional golf because some of the traditionalists thought that because of his domination, players would lose the drive to compete for first place and some golf courses would become obsolete. This led to some courses increasing their yardage, including the famed Augusta National.
22. The Tiger Effect
Even though some thought that Tiger Woods may kill the competition, research out of the University of California demonstrated that players actually rose to the occasion when playing against Tiger and performed better.
21. Last Name Ever, First Name Greatest
Tiger Woods is considered the best golfer of all-time. In terms of rankings, he held the number one ranking for a record total of 683 weeks throughout his career. He also held this top spot for the most consecutive weeks and his 11 PGA Player of the Year awards is a record.
20. There’s Still Time
Though Tiger is considered by many to be the best overall golfer of all-time, he is still second in the most prestigious record golf has, which is the career major tournament wins. As of this article, he still sits at 14, which is a long way away from Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major victories.
19. Father Knows Best
Earl Woods knew all about the accomplishment of Jack Nicklaus, and he made it a mission for his son to one day break all the records held by Nicklaus.
18. Move Over
Again, Tiger is also second in most PGA tour victories, with 79 so far, still trailing the 82 wins of Sam Snead. The clock is running.
17. Child Prodigy
The career of Tiger Woods started off with a bang. He is the youngest player to win the career Grand Slam, which is winning the four top major tournaments. This feat has been achieved three times by him.
16. Like Butter
In what has been dubbed as the “greatest performance in golf history,” Tiger won the 2000 U.S. Open by an absolutely ridiculous 15 strokes. It's the kind of performance which is so incredible, it almost beggars belief.
15. Melting Pot
Tiger Woods’ parents met in southeast Asia. While on tour as a military officer in 1968, Earl Woods met Kultida Punsawad, known as “Tida.” Kultida was from Thailand and has a mixture of Thai, Chinese, and Dutch blood. Earl was an African-American who had some European and Native American roots as well.
14. Cabla-What Now?
Due to his hybrid heritage, Tiger Woods has come up with a unique nickname for his ethnicity: “Cablinasian.” He came up with this word by combining Caucasian, Black, American Indian, and Asian.
13. E Loves K
Tiger Woods’ real name is actually Eldrick Tont Woods. While Tont is traditionally a Thai name, Eldrick was created by his mother Kultida because it began with an “E” and ended with a “K,” which symbolized her and Earl.
12. Tiger is Tougher
Tiger was the nickname given to a young Eldrick Woods in order to pay respect to a close friend of Earl Woods. While serving in the military, Woods became close friends with the Vietnamese Col. Vuong Dang Phong, who was nicknamed Tiger, and Earl felt the need to honor when he had a son of his own.
Earl Woods was an athlete in his own right. Before turning to golf, he played college basketball for Kansas State University. During these years in college, he was one of the first African-American athletes to compete in college basketball.
10. It Runs in the Family
Golf runs in the blood. Not only was his father a passionate lover of the sport, but Tiger’s niece Cheyenne Woods is also a professional golf player, currently competing in the LPGA.
9. Tiny Tiger
Tiger was a child prodigy who began golfing at only two years of age. He was able to hone his craft due to some privilege, as his father had access to the Navy golf course at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos. He was such a good player, that at three years old, he was allowed to play at other golf courses in Long Beach, California.
8. World’s Youngest Golfer
In case you haven’t made it to that corner of the internet, the first time the public got a glimpse of Tiger Woods was in 1978 when he was only three years old. Appearing on The Mike Douglas Show, he showed off his skills by putting against comedy legend, and lifelong golf fanatic, Bob Hope.
When I was three years old, odds are I was still getting the hang of using the toilet solo. Yet somehow, Tiger was learning how to finish a Birdie from off the green at the same age. The man must have been born with a caddie, and with a set of clubs on his back.
7. The Beginning of the End
It took Tiger only until the age of 11 for him to finally beat his father. Earl Woods said that was the beginning of the end for him, as he was never able to defeat his son in golf again.
I suppose he can console himself with the fact that for several years, no one else in the world could either. Oh, and the fact that his son is worth several tens of millions of dollars. That probably feels nice as well.
When Tiger was only 20 years old, he turned professional. Both Nike and Titleist immediately jumped on the wagon and signed him to what was then the richest endorsement contract in the history of golf... about 60 million dollars, all told. Which is a lot (I mean a lot) of money. But it's only a drop in the bucket compared to what he would make later on...
5. The King’s Speech
Tiger grew up with some insecurities. As a child, he dealt with a stutter, something that he only corrected after two years of speech therapy classes. This only became public after Tiger responded to a letter by a young fan who had written him about his contemplation of suicide.
4. Beginning of the Fall
The public scandal which erupted and subsequently disrupted the life and career of Tiger Woods is thought to have begun with his car accident, in which he crashed into a fire hydrant and tree near his home after a fight with his wife. However, it actually began weeks earlier... when the National Enquirer published a claim that he was having an affair with nightclub manager and media personality Rachel Uchitel.
Which has to mark one of the only times in history that the National Enquirer managed to not only get a story right (which is a miracle in itself) but actually break a story first. Then again, I guess if you throw enough spaghetti at the wall, eventually some of it is bound to stick.
As it turns out, Ms. Uchitel had made the covers of a paper before. She tragically lost her fiancé in the 9/11 attacks of the World Trade Center. He worked at an investment bank in one of the towers, and after the attack, Uchitel visited area hospitals holding a flyer with his picture on it, looking for him, and a photo of her crying and clutching the flyer made the cover of the New York Post.
3. Fall From Grace
The accident and infidelity allegations happened in November 2009. In December, over a dozen women came out with their own stories about affairs with Tiger. This led to a massive public shaming, and he announced a break from golf competition. He would eventually lose most of his endorsement deals as a result, except for those with Nike and Electronic Arts (EA).
2. Shareholder Crisis
Due to the scandal, it has been estimated that Tiger's affairs cost shareholders between $5 and $12 billion. That's billion... witha a B.
Yikes. That's a lot of pressure to be well behaved.
1. Playing More Than Golf
During the fallout, it was revealed that Tiger was keeping many affairs hidden from his wife, and had over a dozen different mistresses in different locations. After the reveal of the women, many of them released their text messages from Tiger which revealed his raunchy, dirty side.
In response to one text about his playing ways, he responded that it was because he was “Blasian.”'
Oh, Tiger. Where did it all go wrong?