Tiger can go to such deep levels of concentration that he doesn't even remember making shots. He can tell you what club he hit, he just can't remember actually hitting the ball. During last year's thrilling Amateur win, with Brunza caddying, Tiger sank a 14-foot putt on the 17th to take the lead for good, and he punctuated it with the year's best take-that arm-pumping strut, startling in its defiance. And yet Tiger can't remember doing it.
But the minds that most fascinate Brunza may be Earl's and Tida's. People sidle up to Brunza and whisper things like, "These two have got to have 'Little League Parents from Hell' written all over them, right?" But that's the thing: The Woodses break every stage-parent rule ever written. When dads drag their seven-year-olds up to Wayne Gretzky and say, "Wayne, will you tell him he's got to practice," Gretzky always says, "Nobody ever told me to practice." The same is true for Tiger Woods. Not once did Earl or Tida insist that he get in his golf practice. The trick was getting him home. Tiger's swing coach says that when Tiger and his dad come for sessions, Earl takes a chair and sits nearby, never saying a thing. "He not have to be Jack Nicklaus," Tida says of Tiger. "There too much pressure on the kid already." Says Earl: "If he should fail at this, we'll be his parachute. He'll land softly."
Ask the psychologist what would happen if Tiger suddenly said, "Mom. Pop. I'm selling my clubs. I'm taking up stamp collecting."
"Well," Brunza says, "I think they'd say, 'Great, Tiger. We're behind you 100 percent' and kiss him on the forehead."
I SMILE AT OBSTACLES!
When the Great Black Hope goes to the Augusta National Golf Club in two weeks as the most-anticipated young black player to ever walk through its clubhouse doors, there will be only one weird thing.
He isn't black.
Well, he is a quarter black. But mostly he is Thai, and partly he is Chinese, and Tida wants you to know it. "All the media try to put black in him," she says, rising off the couch. "Why don't they ask who half of Tiger is from? In United States, one little part black is all black. Nobody want to listen to me. I been trying to explain to people, but they don't understand. To say he is 100 percent black is to deny his heritage. To deny his grandmother and grandfather. To deny me!"
Earl could argue that in this country, one-quarter black is more than enough for any racist. Earl should know. As the first black baseball player in the history of the Big Eight Conference, back in the early 1950s (when it was the Big Seven), he was forced to stay in all-black hotels apart from his white Kansas State teammates. He remembers all the times he heard other players on mostly white high school teams call him nigger. And he remembers the time when he was in a Little League tournament and the kid playing third base came up and said, accusingly, "Your skin is black." Earl said to the kid, "Lemme see your arm." And when the two of them turned the undersides of their forearms to the sky, Earl's was lighter than the flabbergasted boy's. Nobody tougher mentally.
But crusading is not part of the plan. The plan is for Tiger to knock down flags, not carry them. So Earl tells his son one rule: "When you're in America, be black. When you're in the Orient, be Asian."