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.