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Tiger Woods: Child prodigy who changed golfing forever

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Tiger Woods is in hospital after suffering multiple leg injuries in a car crash. Many from the golfing world and beyond are wishing him a swift and full recovery, but some fear this could mark the end of the 45-year-old’s glittering career.

So what more do we know about the man considered by many to be the greatest golfer of all time?

He was a child prodigy

As young as 10 months, Wood’s eye for a ball and an impressive swing had been spotted by his father Earl, who fashioned him a set of clubs and was his earliest teacher.

Tiger Woods with his father after he won the USGA Junior Amateur Championships in Orlando in July 1991

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At two, his potential was already getting wider notice and he was invited onto a TV show alongside the legendary comedian Bob Hope to show off his skills.

Just months later, he won a competition for children under 10 – and so began a dazzling ascent through the junior game that saw him win tournament after tournament, collecting accolades and breaking records as he went.

By the time he turned professional in 1996, he had won six USGA national championships and an unprecedented three consecutive US amateur titles.

The man with the Midas Touch

In 1997, a year after he turned pro, Woods won his first professional major, the Masters.

He was only 21 and had not only become the tournament’s youngest winner and first person of colour crowned champion, but he had also become the youngest golfer to be ranked No 1 in the world.

Tiger Woods holds his daughter Sam, alongside his then wife Elin Nordegren, in Palo Alto, California, in 2009

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By 2008, he had won 14 major golfing titles, and he jointly holds the record for most PGA Tour wins at 82 with Sam Snead and is three behind Jack Nicklaus’ mark of 18 major titles.

Along with the championship wins came the sponsorship deals, and his deals with Nike and Titleist in the early days of his pro career were some of the most lucrative ever seen in golf at the time.

Over the course of his career, Woods has earned $1.5bn (£1.05bn) from endorsements, appearances and course design fees, according to Forbes magazine.

In 2004, his gilded life seemed complete when he married former model Elin Nordegren, the daughter of a Swedish politician and radio journalist, and had two children – Sam, a daughter, born in 2007, and son Charlie in 2009.

A man of “Cablinasian” heritage

His father Earl Woods, a lieutenant colonel in the US army, was of African-American, Chinese and Native American descent. His mother, Kultida, is of Thai, Chinese and Dutch descent.

The golfing champion told Oprah Winfrey in 1997 that it bothered him when people called him an African-American.

“Growing up, I came up with this name: I’m a Cablinasian,” he said, to describe his heritage mix of Caucasian, black, Indian and Asian.

Tiger Woods with his mother Kultida Woods after he publicly admitted to infidelity, on 19 February 2010

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Woods’ achievements in golf have been that much more impressive for a game that has traditionally been seen as the preserve of white, middle class Christians.

In his 2017 book on winning the Masters for the first time, he said that, while he hoped his win “would open some doors for minorities”, his biggest hope was “we could one day see one another as people and people alone. I want us to be colour blind. Twenty years later, that has yet to happen”.

Public fall from grace

It began with a story, in November 2009, that Woods had been in his car when it sped out of his Florida driveway, collided with a fire hydrant and ploughed into a neighbour’s tree.

In the days and weeks that followed, the world learnt that he had been cheating on his wife and was in fact a serial philanderer. The proud champion that appeared to have everything was, in fact, a deeply flawed individual.

He took a break from golf, checked into rehab for what was widely rumoured to be treatment for sex addiction. In February 2010, he gave a 14-minute televised statement in which he apologised for his “irresponsible and selfish behaviour”.

Tiger and Elin eventually divorced, and the golfer dated US skier Lindsey Vonn before settling into a long-term relationship with Erica Herman, general manager of his restaurant in Jupiter, Florida.

Painful return to glory

In 2019, Tiger Woods seemed to have put his troubled decade behind him when he won the Masters at Augusta – his 15th major title, and the first one for 11 years.

His victory was watched by his two children, something he described as coming “full circle”. “My dad was here in 1997 and now I’m the dad with two kids here,” he said at the time.

Tiger Woods with his won Charlie in Orlando, Florida, on 18 December 2020

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But he also described the win as “one of the hardest” because of his ongoing back problems, which, between 2013 and 2017 saw him start just 24 events.

In 2017, he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence when he was found asleep at the wheel of his car, later pleading guilty to reckless driving.

He had five prescription drugs in his system at the time of his arrest. He had been recovering from spinal fusion surgery that ultimately gave him the chance at a second golfing career.

Woods earlier this week said he hoped to play in this year’s Masters after having a fifth operation on his back in January.

“I’m feeling fine – I’m a little stiff,” Woods told CBS Television on Sunday. “I have one more MRI scheduled so we’ll see then if I can start doing more activities.”

It remains to be seen whether the man who has bounced back from many obstacles in the past will be able to surmount the challenges facing him after this latest car crash.

This post courtesy of BBC-World

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