Anyone who talks about professional golfers cannot ignore Tiger Woods. Born on December 30, 1975 in Cypress, California, the US American already had the status of a true legend at a young age.
With 15 major tournaments won to date and estimated annual earnings of around $42.5 million, he has certainly made sports history. He ranks second in the leaderboard behind Jack Nicklaus and shares the PGA Tour record of 82 tournament wins with Sam Snead. He also led the world rankings for 683 weeks.
His career started at a very young age. It is reported that little Eldrick was already imitating his father's golf swings at the tender age of 6 months.
When he was just two years old, his father took his son on television, where the little boy proved that he could already execute a real golf swing. He also putted for publicity with the famous comedian Bob Hope.
Even then he had the nickname "Tiger", which his father gave him in honor of a friend who had fought with his father in Vietnam, as the story goes.
By the age of 13, every major television station in the United States had already reported on Woods, laying the foundation for the creation of the legend.
But before starting his golf career as a professional, Woods first attended Western High School in Anaheim and studied economics at Stanford University for two years.
Woods turned pro in 1996 and, buoyed by his previous successes as an amateur golfer, signed the biggest advertising deals in golf history, including a $40 million contract with Nike.
His first successes were not long in coming, and in the same year he was named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated and Rookie of the Year by the PGA Tour.
The following April, Woods won his first major tournament, the Masters, with a record score of 18 under par (270 strokes) and a record lead of 12 strokes. He was not only the youngest Masters winner ever, but also the first African-American winner.
In all, he set 20 tournament records in that victory, as well as another six. In 1996, he added three more victories and on June 15, 1997, just 42 weeks into his professional career, he became the world number one for the first time.
What followed has long since gone down in the annals of golf history: Woods' victory in the Memorial Tournament in June 1999 marked the beginning of a period of dominance arguably unprecedented in golf. Woods ended the season with four tournament victories in a row - including the PGA Championship - and a total of eight wins, the best figure since 1974.
He dominated the next few years unchallenged, collecting records as well as prize money and becoming the absolute top star in golf. He was unable to maintain this position in 2003 and `04, although he continued to enjoy success.
Finally, the change of golf swing, which, including the replacement of the swing coach, ensured a resurgence that would last until 2009, even if 2008 was marked by an eight-month break due to injury.
From 2009 onwards, Tiger Woods' life was marred by crises, first of a private nature, then also of a sporting nature. A winless period set in, which the Tiger was only able to end in 2012. In 2013, he regained the top spot in the world rankings by beating Rory McIllroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
But the overpowering dominance of earlier years is over. In the years that followed, Tiger Woods had ups and downs, problems and injuries characterized this period. It wasn't until 2018 that things started to look up again. Woods achieved his first top 5 finish since 2013 and finally second place in a major tournament.
On April 14, 2019, he won the Masters for the fifth time, his 15th major victory and first triumph at one of the four major tournaments since 2008. In the process, he managed to win a major tournament for the first time in his career with a deficit before the final round.
His victory at the Zozo Championship in Japan marked his 82nd win on the PGA Tour, equaling Sam Snead's 54-year-old record.
But where there is a lot of light, there is also a lot of shadow: Unfortunately, the Tiger's life has also been overshadowed by a number of crises that have been brought into the public eye. After all, if you're in the spotlight as much as Woods was during his best years as an athlete, the press likes to ruthlessly pick you apart when negative news comes out.
A marriage crisis, including divorce, was widely reported in the media, as was a temporary liaison with ski racer Lindsay Vonn and, finally, several car accidents, all of which ultimately turned out well for Woods. The last one, for example, was in February 2021, when he suffered serious but not life-threatening leg injuries.
Next article in the series: Jack William Nicklaus