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"I'm not saying one person's turmoil is any more or less important than anybody else's, but having to experience that in front of the world—having everybody at the grocery market, the gas station, the gym knowing exactly what you did, who you did it with and how it's adversely impacted [your] life—multiplies the impact it has on [your] emotional stability and psyche. It was evident in his play. He was not very focused."
Woods had long leaned on his interactions with famous men, iconic men, from Michael Jordan to Muhammad Ali to Nelson Mandela, to learn how to handle global celebrity. But in 2010 he was stuck.
"I know him as well as anybody," Begay says, "and I had no advice."
Woods had endured minislumps before. But those struggles had merely brought him closer to the field; they had not made him part of it. At age five he was so good that the best 15-year-old golfers in Southern California viewed him as a peer. They ate lunch with him, joked with him and competed against him. Years later this would be spun as part of Earl Woods's grand plan, but Tiger's first coach, Rudy Duran, says it wasn't planned at all. "I provided the same outlet to hundreds of other kids," Duran says. "Earl was way less pushy, way less trying to groom a touring pro than most of these parents."
The father was not obsessed. The child was. Tiger played golf to the point of exhaustion, then fell asleep in the car on the way home. His parents had to push him away from the course, toward school.
Earl was so amazed that he kept raising expectations in public. He'd show up at a junior tournament and casually announce that his son would win. By the time Tiger turned pro, in the summer of 1996, Earl famously told SI, "I was personally selected by God himself ... to nurture this young man.... Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity."
"Earl was an idiot," says John Anselmo, Tiger's coach from ages 10 to 18, with a laugh that lets you know he is talking about a friend. "I loved him, but he was an idiot. He was bragging about his son like crazy, and he was overdoing it."
Tiger wasn't trying to change the course of humanity. Given the choice between golf and anything else, Tiger chose golf. Anselmo says that even when pretty girls walked past the driving range, the young Tiger barely noticed.
It was commonly accepted that Tiger was hunting Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 majors. Friends say that isn't quite true. Sure, he had a poster of Nicklaus in his childhood bedroom. But many kids own posters of their heroes. Trip Kuehne, who competed against Tiger as an amateur and became a good friend, says the record never came up between them.