Before his greatest victory of all, in last year's U.S. Amateur on the Stadium course of the TPC at Sawgrass, his father whispered into his ear, "Let the legend grow." It practically doubled. Down six holes in the final match, Tiger roared murderously back, making two birdies in the last three holes—including a 139-yard wedge to the island-green 17th that stayed out of the water by three feet—to win 2 up. It's believed to be only the greatest comeback in the tournament's 99-year history.
"See, this is the first black intuitive golfer ever raised in the United States," says Earl Woods. "Before, black kids grew up with basketball or football or baseball from the time they could walk. The game became part of them from the beginning. But they always learned golf too late. Not Tiger. Tiger knew how to swing a golf club before he could walk."
I BELIEVE IN ME!
From the beginning the idea was synergy: Produce a thing greater than the sum of its parts. But how? He and she were so opposite. He was 37. She was 23. He was a quarter American Indian, a quarter Chinese and half black. She was half Thai, a quarter Chinese and a quarter white. He was from Manhattan, Kans. She was from Bangkok. He was a paid killer. She was a peaceful civilian. He was a Protestant. She was a Buddhist. He had raised himself. She came from a wealthy family. Both of his parents had died by the time he was 13. She still lived with hers.
Raise a wonder child? They could barely hook up for a first date. He was on assignment in Thailand, and she was working as a secretary in a U.S. Army office. He said eight, thinking p.m. She heard eight, thinking a.m. "Thai girls not go out at night," she says proudly. When she didn't show up, he figured she had stiffed him. When he didn't show up, she went and found him.
"We had a date," she sniffed. She was accompanied by a friend. ("Thai girls not go out unchaperoned," she says proudly.)
"Yeah," he said, his boots up on the desk. "Last night."
"We still have date," she said.
She insisted he take her to the temple of the Reclining Buddha, for it was a holy day in Bangkok. "What could I do?" growls Earl with a grin today. "I took her to the damn church."
They moved to Brooklyn, where they were married in 1969, and then to Cypress, Calif., where in 1975 she bore him a son, the First Son, in Asia the most important child, the one responsible for the family as soon as he's able. It was also her last child, since she suffered complications during the delivery. Together, the two of them, Earl and Tida, the two opposites, his yang to her yin, put all their love in one babbling, smiling, golf-swinging basket.