August 25, 1996: The launching pad for what will become, if not the greatest, the most-watched career in the history of golf. Fresh off a two-year stay at Stanford, 20-year-old Tiger Woods wins the U.S. Amateur Championship for a record third straight year. It was the following week that he turned pro. Just eight months later, Woods had his first three PGA Tour wins in hand. The hardware haul included the 1997 Masters, which he won by a record 12 strokes. By June of that year, he had risen to No. 1 in the world golf rankings for the first time.
Woods, with the encouragement of his father Earl, started playing golf when he was two years old. At the age of three he shot a 48 over nine holes, leading to a putting contest against Bob Hope on the Mike Douglas Show. By the time he was five, Woods had made the pages of Golf Digest and was featured on ABC’s “That’s Incredible.” He won his first world title when he was eight while competing in the boys 9-10 age group at the Junior World Championships. Tiger was also eight when he broke 80 for the first time.
Tiger is the best Black golfer in history, although his ancestry is a fascinating mix. ESPN once put it this way: “For the record, he is one-quarter Thai, one-quarter Chinese, one-quarter Caucasian, one-eighth African American and one-eighth Native American. Tiger has described his ethnic make-up as ‘Cablinasian’ (a syllabic abbreviation he coined from Caucasian, Black, American Indian, and Asian).”
Woods, of course, is the career leader in PGA Tour wins and is still chasing Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships. It’s unlikely Tiger will get there due to his myriad injuries, but today he’s trying to contribute to the sport in other ways as he wades into the LIV Golf controversy. He has encouraged fellow pros to stay the course on the PGA Tour and resist the temptation of the Saudi-financed tour. Just Wednesday, Woods and Rory McIlroy announced the creation of TGL, a tech-based golf league that will kick off within a few years. It’s complicated. Google it.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)