Jack Nicklaus was a junior when he faced a similar decision in 1961 after winning his only NCAA title, which in those days was decided by match play. "There are only two important tournaments as far as I'm concerned—the Masters and the [U.S.] Open," he said. "I plan to drop out of school for the  spring term so I can get ready for them. I just don't have the time to combine school, my insurance business and golf. So I'll have to finish school later."
Nicklaus turned pro in January '62 and won his first U.S. Open that same year. Yet the Bear had some pressures that Tiger—what is it with these predatory animal nicknames?—doesn't have. Nicklaus was newly married and had his first child on the way; Woods has no such obligations. And Woods seems more determined to get a college degree.
At the Nicklaus award ceremony on Sunday, Woods reiterated that he would not turn pro before he graduates from Stanford in 1998, although he left his options open by adding during the telecast of the Memorial, "unless something exciting happens." Still, he clearly likes college life. "The only two weeks I don't enjoy are midterms and finals," he said.
With the NCAAs behind him, Woods planned on cramming his finals in at Stanford in time to compete in the U.S. Open next week. In last year's Open at Shinnecock, he shot 74 in the first round and withdrew after five holes in the second, ostensibly because he injured a wrist while trying to hit out of the rough. "[The injury] had nothing to do with it," said his dad. "He was absolutely gone because he had just gone through finals. All he could think of was eating and sleeping."
Woods could be in the same state when he arrives for this year's Open, which will be held at Oakland Hills. "The golfer at Stanford gets no slack—absolutely none," said Earl last week. "He'll arrive at the Open like a zombie from studying."
In the 35 years since Nicklaus's title, the NCAA has been won by such notable future pros as Hale Irwin, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite and Phil Mickelson. Only now has the tournament produced a player—and a nickname—who merits comparisons to the young Bear. On the golf course Tiger is that good. But he's also a serious student. "Of the six kids he hangs around with, Tiger says he's the dumbest one," says Kutilda. That's no disgrace. One of his pals is a math whiz who had already passed all of Stanford's basic math courses when he enrolled as a freshman. Another assembled a computer from parts so expertly that it worked from the moment he turned it on. And so on.
As for Woods, he's majoring in economics while trying to prove himself the best collegiate golfer in the nation. Last week he aced the Honors Course.