"All right, Shinnecock, U.S. Open, Tiger Woods one shot ahead of Mr. Strange, two holes to play. Mr. Strange making an amazing comeback here today! Woods needs two perfect drives here." He takes two more range balls out of the huge plastic milk crate he's draining and tees them up. Then he unleashes his simple and elegant swing on two breathtaking drives, both of them splitting the distance between two red-and-white poles that sit 20 yards apart, 250 yards out on the scruffy range. The balls finally roll themselves to exhaustion under an old fence 310 yards away. "That may do it!"
This year, one of the greatest venue years in golf history, Woods will play majors at Augusta National (the Masters), Shinnecock Hills, in Southampton, N.Y. (U.S. Open) and St. Andrews, Scotland (British Open). But odds-makers have him 100 to 1 to win any one of them. Woods ponders that for a moment and then says, "They're crazy."
"More like 500,000 to 1."
I WILL MY OWN DESTINY!
Even the name was part of the plan. Eldrick (Tiger) Woods. The "Eldriek" was made up out of the blue by Tida, because it joined the first letters of her husband's first name, Earl, and hers, Kultida. You understand? No matter what, we will always be there at your side.
The "Tiger" was given to him by his father in honor of his father's Vietnam combat partner, Nguyen Phong of the South Vietnamese army. Earl nicknamed Phong "Tiger" for his unblinking bravery. It was Tiger who took him on an insane mission through the streets of a VC-held village and got him the Vietnamese silver star for it. It was Tiger, his best friend, who pulled him off a rice-paddy dike seconds after sniper fire tore over him. Around 1967 or '68 they lost contact, but Earl is convinced that Tiger is still alive somewhere in the world. And so he nicknamed his own son Tiger in hopes that someday Nguyen Phong would pick up a newspaper and read about Earl's famous son, the greatest golfer who ever lived, and understand.
IT HELPS ME UNCONSCIOUSLY!
When the boy was 13, they added the sports psychologist, Navy Capt. Jay Brunza, a family friend. He worked with Tiger the first time on a Saturday night—just some mind tricks, a little trance work—and then let Tiger join Brunza's little 12-man, low-bet choose-up. Tiger played two groups in front of Brunza, and halfway through the front nine an angry friend of Brunza's suddenly came trundling back in a cart. "What kind of monster have you created?" the man huffed. "He's birdied five of the first seven holes!"
The First Son is so clear-minded and open to all possibilities in golf that Brunza was able to hypnotize him in less than a minute. Once he did it right in front of Earl without Earl's even knowing. "Tiger, hold your arm out straight," Brunza said. Tiger did. "Now, Earl, try to bend it." Earl pulled, pushed and even hung off that arm, and it wouldn't bend. Brunza got so good at hypnotizing Tiger, he could do it over the phone. Now, they are both so good at it, they don't have to do it at all.