The 21-year-old Woods, who graduated last month from Wake Forest with a degree in communications, also has a smile that is both radiant and readily accessible, the way Tiger's used to be before his world collapsed in scandal. Now at a time when Tiger appears to be making progress in his attempt to climb back to the top, Cheyenne is beginning anew. But the shared bloodlines -- and the fact both first learned the game in Earl Woods' garage -- is pretty much where the comparison ends. Tiger was the Can't Miss Kid when he turned pro; Cheyenne is a maybe. That said, she shows remarkable poise as she makes her pro debut this week at the Wegmans LPGA Championship on a sponsor's exemption.
Cheyenne qualified for the Women's Open as co-medalist in her sectional just three days before Tiger won the Memorial last week, his second triumph this year as he tries to work his way back from scandal, injuries and a swing change. Tiger, who is not close to Earl Jr., has nonetheless been supportive of Cheyenne and she signed with Tiger's agent, Mark Steinberg of Excel Sports Management and is wearing Nike clothing, like Tiger, although she has yet to finalized a deal with them. "He has always been so supportive of me, and I've been so thankful for that," Cheyenne said when asked if Tiger has helped her prepare for being a pro. "Always telling me just to kick butt," she said when asked how he has helped. "You know, Tiger is always dominating, so that is the one word of advice he would give me."
But being Tiger's niece brings with it a none-too-enviable burden. "The most difficult thing I would say, dealing with the expectation and the pressure," Cheyenne said. "But I have dealt with it for a long time and I have somehow been able to play my own game." Tiger and Cheyenne do have the Earl Sr. connection. "I first picked up a club when I was about two years old in my grandfather's garage and that's where Tiger got started," Cheyenne said about the fact Tiger's father was her first teacher. "My grandfather, he didn't push me into the game, I kind of picked it up on my own and just fell in love with it," she said, describing an approach similar to the one Earl, who died in 2006, took with Tiger. "He was always there to kind of guide me through my junior career and kind of helped my family out."
Cheyenne Woods does not join the LPGA with the same skill level Tiger Woods brought to the pro game in 1996, but then again, few in the history of the sport have. She does, however, show the promise to compete on tour well enough to not only keep her card, when she gets it, but also win. While Cheyenne may not be the female version of her famous uncle, that smile and her easy manner could give the LPGA another marketable vehicle on which to hang its hat if she does win. And if she eventually gets into the mix as the best American on tour, the tour would really have something special to sell. Thanks to Tiger, a lot of equity has already been built up in that family name.