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My Shot: Earl Woods

A roaring ride with Tiger's dad as he ponders hobo coffee, demolition men and, of course, his famous progeny

Earl Woods

Earl Woods with 20-week-old Bengal tiger Lucy Liu, photographed Nov. 17, 2003, at Isleworth Country Club in Windermere, Fla.

Ben Van Hook

Podcast: Interview with Earl


Earl Woods was a force in golf, his voice indelible. Now in an exclusive Golf Digest podcast, hear Tiger's father talk about child-rearing, competition and the game they loved. This free podcast covers over an hour of Guy Yocom's interview with Earl Woods.
February 2004

Age: 71 • Cypress, California

Clubs like Augusta National don't discriminate. They just don't want you. There's a difference. It's a bitch not being wanted by something or someone, which is why divorces are so difficult. But I've learned to handle rejection very well. If you love yourself enough, you won't give a damn if they want you or not.

Tiger's birthday is Dec. 30, which meant he got presents at Christmas and another batch five days later. When he was 5, he started claiming he got only half a Christmas and half a birthday. He thought we bought one batch of presents and split them. I never could convince him otherwise. He left Santa Claus out of the debate and focused on Tida and me. He did get more presents. Smart kid.

When we Green Berets were in Alaska on maneuvers for a long time, nothing tasted better than hobo coffee. We'd fill a can with water, boil it, pour in some coffee and let it brew. When it was done, we'd throw a little snow in the can, which made the grounds instantly settle to the bottom. At that point we'd dip our cups. Then we'd pour in more water and brew the same grounds. We'd do this over and over. None of the grounds got in the cup, and we'd get 10 batches of coffee from a handful of grounds.

I was in the recovery room after my heart operation, with my wife and Tiger by my side. Suddenly I was in this tunnel with a bright light at the end. It got brighter, but there was no sense of moving toward it. I felt better than I ever did my entire life. Then a voice says, "Are you all right?" and it jarred me back to this Earth. Next thing I know the nurse — it was her voice; she'd rushed in — was jacking me full of adrenaline. My blood pressure had gone almost to zero, and I had, in fact, died for a second. It scared the hell out of Tiger. Me, all I felt was a momentary pang of regret that I was back in the hospital. That tunnel was so peaceful, just like people describe. I haven't feared death since.

At age 6, Tiger signed for a wrong scorecard. It was at the Junior World in San Diego, on the par-3 Presidio Hills course. He made a par on a hole, but the scorekeeper for the group put down a birdie. Tiger signed his card and was disqualified. Afterward, making sure Tiger was standing right there, I lectured the scorekeeper. Tiger stood there scowling, like, You tell 'em, Dad. But the lecture was for show; I winked at the scorekeeper as I talked. I wheeled on Tiger, and in a stern tone asked, "Did you sign this?" Tiger said, "Yes." I said, "Did you check it?" Now Tiger looked nervous. "No, Daddy." I told him to never trust anyone else with your scorecard. Never. Tiger's little eyes were as big as teacups. That was the end of it. He hasn't signed a wrong scorecard since.

Tiger was 4. I'd say, "Why are you hitting your ball over there, Tiger?" And he'd say, "Because there's a sand twap." "Why are you going that way?" "Because there's wawa." It was course management. To this day, it may be his greatest strength.

Tiger had a stuttering problem in the first grade. Tida and I couldn't figure out why. Even the speech therapist was stumped. Then it dawned on us: Tida talked to him in Thai, and I talked to him in English. When Tiger spoke, he talked in English. The thing was, he didn't want to listen or speak in Thai. His mind was rebelling. We stopped talking in Thai, and his stuttering ceased.

Here's how you teach a child to putt. Place a ball in their right hand and have them stand sideways, like you do at address. Ask them to swivel their head sideways and look at the hole. Ask them, "Do you see the picture?" Have them look down and back up at the target two more times, allowing them to ingrain that picture in their minds. Now say, "Toss the ball across your body to the picture." It works. It makes putting intuitive. The first time I tried it with Tiger, he tossed the ball to within six inches of the hole. When I eventually handed him a putter, he did even better. He used this technique to make the crucial putt on the third playoff hole against Ernie Els in the Presidents Cup.

When Venus Williams won Wimbledon, there was her father, standing up with a sign that read, "It's Venus' party, and no one's invited." I couldn't imagine doing something like that. It would embarrass Tiger, and it would embarrass me. It infuriates me when people compare me to Richard Williams, because I don't respect him.

If you're seven-eighths Irish and one-eighth Indian, you're Irish. If you're seven-eighths Irish and one-eighth black, you're black. Why is that?

Years ago the Army sent me to Germany. My first wife came with me. A landlord took us downtown to show us an apartment. And we caused a traffic jam. I mean gridlock. People got out of their cars, pointing at us as though we were aliens. I asked the landlord what they were talking about. "They're looking for your tails," he said. "When the white soldiers came through here in World War II, they told us black people had tails." Now, you can't blame the Germans for thinking we had tails. But it bothered me that American soldiers would perpetuate such a thing.

I could quit smoking if I wanted to. I have tremendous willpower. A while back I quit for 18 months. But then I went to my daughter's college graduation. Got stuck in my ex-wife's house with all her relatives. I snapped and lit up. Been smoking ever since.

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