Tiger Woods (born December 30, 1975), son of Earl and Kultida Woods, is considered one of the greatest golfers of all time. He was born "Eldrick Woods" but changed his name officially to "Tiger Woods", longtime nickname, on his twenty-first birthday.
As of July 2002, at only 26 years of age, Woods had already won 8 "major" tour events on the PGA Tour. He is one of only five players (along with Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player) in the history of golf to win all four professional major championships in a career. With his victory in The Masters in 2001, he became the only man to have held all four professional majors at once, although this did not occur in a calendar year, and is therefore not recognized by some as a true "Grand Slam". The achievement, however, has been nicknamed "The Tiger Slam". Before joining the PGA Tour, Woods won three consecutive United States Junior Amateur titles, followed by three consecutive United States Amateur titles. With his first US Amateur win in 1994, he became the youngest man ever to win that event. He won one NCAA individual championship while studying at Stanford University and is the only two-time winner of Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportsman of the Year" award (1996, 2000).
Woods has an excellent all-around game. He is one of the longer drivers on the tour (12th place in 2003), with a driving distance average of 300.2 so far in 2003. He is also one of the best putters, at 19th place in putts per round so far in 2003. At the 2003 TOUR Championship, he set an all-time record for most consecutive cuts made, with 114. The next player is Ernie Els with 26 consecutive cuts.
Woods, who has African-American, Asian, Native American, and Caucasian ancestors, is credited with prompting a major surge of interest in the game of golf, especially among minorities and younger people in the United States. His father Earl Woods, an African American, is a Vietnam War veteran and a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel. His mother Kultida Woods is an Asian-American whose parents were immigrants from Thailand.
His success has led to three completely different backlashes of criticism from three entirely different groups:
Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune decried the "racially charged, money-linked sports obsession" fueled by a "fixation in which the riches and fame of such sports heroes as Michael Jordan have caused a wildly disproportionate number of young black Americans, in particular, to focus on the brass ring of professional sports at the expense of more realistic and productive career paths." Woods in fact dropped out of Stanford to pursue his golf career.
As Page writes, "That works out fine for his bank account, but, for too many others it only reinforces the wrongheaded notion that academics should take a back seat to athletics."
The second criticism focuses on the ecological impact of golf as a game, its negative social justice impact in Asia, and Woods' paid promotions of an SUV (the 2002 Buick Rendezvous) deemed second-most-dangerous by the IIHS, and of mutual funds implicated in ecological devastation. Woods is sometimes criticized for promoting the game and products that have the worst possible impact on the Earth's ecology, human health, and social justice. In addition, claims the Anarchist Golfing Association, his long drives might cause golf courses themselves to expand onto more land, destroying its ecology.
This last criticism, at least, may be partially undone by the third: "The question has been asked, seriously, and more than once: Isn't Tiger Woods actually bad for golf?" - Bill Lyon, Knight-Ridder
Apparently, some fear that Woods may drive all spirit of competition out of the game of golf, by obsoleting existing courses, and having no competitors.
If that is so, those who oppose golf itself may well have cause to celebrate.