Maybe it's true: The hybrid rose is stronger than the two strains. They tended it as if it were the last rose in the garden. In his 18 years under their roof, Tiger never once had a baby-sitter. "I let my husband go," Tida says. "I stay with Tiger. Tiger more important than a party."
Not only did the First Son know the joy of being an only child (like Leonardo da Vinci, Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert De Niro), but he also had the elevating love of two parents whose whole lives were dedicated only to him: a father who retired from the Army and took a 9-to-5 as a contract manager with McDonnell Douglas so his little boy would not have to grow himself up, and a mother who knew she would never have another baby.
In their love for him they were equally devout, but they stuck to their roles. Earl was the best friend. Tida was the parent. Earl was the road buddy. Tida was waiting at home. Earl wouldn't spank the boy. Tida would. Earl let him make his mistakes. Tida punished him.
Earl would take him away all the time to play golf, but Tida never minded. "At least he not get hurt in golf," she says.
The parents bombarded the son with ways to live right. Earl: "Care and share." Tida: "No homework, no practice." Earl: "Expect the best. Prepare for the worst." Tida: "Tiger, you pray to Buddha yet?"
Earl can hardly get through a speech about his son without breaking down and crying. "If you treat your child with admiration, respect and love," he will say, "a miracle will occur and, and—" and then he just dissolves into tears, and Tiger has to jump up and say, "That's my dad. I love him." Guess after 20 years, you just plain run out of coldness. But Tida, she never cries. That's not part of her role. "I see my husband cry, and I think, Tida, god, why you not show some emotion? But in my culture we don't show that. It not proper. You lose face." But when Tiger called home one night last fall to say a mugger had stuck a knife to his throat at Stanford and taken his watch and his 24-karat gold Buddha necklace, it was Earl who was back snoring after a bit, and Tida who didn't sleep the rest of the night. When Tiger came home, she rushed him over to the temple to be blessed by the monks. "For good luck," she says.
I STICK TO IT, EASILY, NATURALLY!
So far today, Tiger Woods has won the Masters, come from behind to win the U.S. Open (twice), played in his first British Open and turned in a term paper for his course in Critical Media. And it's barely 4 p.m.
"Here's Woods, 13th tee box, Augusta National, Sunday," he says, waggling a driver on the Stanford driving range on a blustery day in early March. "A 19-year-old who just happens to be black winning the Masters. Would that be a story?" Woods whipsaws his 6'1", 148-pound body into a crusher, but the ball has a distinct odor of smother-hook on it, which means it would be in the creek or lost in the trees. "Now here's Woods asking his caddie for another ball."
This is his third straight hour out here in the freezing drizzle and wind of Palo Alto. He is wearing a pair of nylon jogging pants, an NBA T-shirt and his Stanford hat. Misery? What misery? To the Mozart of golf, every shot is more fun than the last, just as it was when his father taught him to love practice as a boy. O.K., let's see who can hit it closer to that flag off one foot. O.K., now, closing your eyes. O.K., now, using a seven-iron. Now a two-iron. Odds are that Tiger Woods will never burn out from golf. This is not the Todd Marinovich of golf. The 100-watt bulbs that come on in his chocolate eyes when the text-books finally get put away and the tee balls come out show you that. There is no tenseness in his face or body. There is only the kind of liquid, happy motion that comes from someone who knows that nobody can cough and make his swing curdle and that there's nobody he'll disappoint if the ball goes in the lake. He is free of all that, so everything about golf to him is a joy. If anything, golf will burn out from him.