His Father's Son: New book examines the Earl/Tiger dynamic


His Father's Son—Earl and Tiger Woods, Gotham Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright © 2010 by Tom Callahan, 304 pages, $27.

The November 2010 issue of Golf Digest features the most revealing portrait yet of Earl Woods and the son he raised to become the world's most famous golfer.

"His Father's Son," excerpted from the book of the same name by Golf Digest Contributing Editor Tom Callahan, details the loving but complicated relationship between Tiger Woods and his late father, touching on everything from the son's days as a junior golfer, to the beginning of his professional career, to Earl's final days in spring 2006. Although Earl died more than three years before the famous Thanksgiving car crash that set off a series of revelations about Tiger's personal life, parrallels are also drawn between father and son's extramarital behavior.

Callahan's book is a result of numerous interviews with the Woods family, including Earl's sisters, his first wife, and his three older children. It also draws on the author's long relationship with Tiger and Earl Woods, which included multiple visits to the Woods home in Cypress, Calif., up until Earl's death at 74.

Among some of the details in the story:

Conversations with Earl's family reveal an uneasy dynamic between the children from his first marriage and the son who would go on to become a household name.

Earl's daughter, Royce, describes the scene from Earl's memorial, in which she thought she shared a rare authentic moment with Tiger.

"I'm walking in and out of rooms, crying, crying, crying, and a couple of times Tiger grabbed me and held me. 'It's OK, it's OK,' he said. I thought at the time it was genuine. But ask me today. I just don't feel, I just don't believe, he's genuine. I think he pretends. With Tiger, you always ask yourself later, 'Was it real?'"

Enough of a connection existed with Earl's sister, Mae, however, that at the outset of the Woods scandal, she wanted to reach out to the player's children.

"I want to write the children," she said. "I just want them to know they have an Aunt Mae somewhere who loves them."

Tiger was aware of his father's philandering well before his parents' marriage ended. The golfer's high school girlfriend recalls a heartbroken Woods calling about his father being with another woman.

"He would just call, crying," she said, "and say, 'My dad is with another woman,' and that would be all he could say, he would be so upset. So, I just tried to be there for him and listen to him."

Toward the end of Earl's life, he and Tiger had a falling-out that lasted about a year, only to reconcile thanks to the intervention of Tiger's mother Tida.

"Tiger," Tida said, "you got to forgive your dad, for your own sake. Because he's going to be gone, and you're going to be sorry."

Callahan describes Ernie Els' role in the early part of Woods' pro career, including the South African's recollection of a conversation at the 1996 British Open in which he convinced Tiger he was ready to play on tour. "Mate," Els told him, "I've never seen anybody readier than you are." Later, after Woods had turned pro and moved to Isleworth in Orlando, the two men spent time together socially, but Els eventually withdrew because of Woods' growing celebrity. "I could see people flock around him and I just said, 'You know what? I'm not going to get in there.' ... We just let it go."

Callahan visited with Earl Woods shortly before his death. At the time, Tiger was arguably the most dominant athlete on the planet, but Earl chose to dwell on a telling moment from Tiger's junior days.

"Once," Callahan quotes Earl as saying, "when Tiger was about 14 or 15, he blew his tee time at a tournament in San Diego. You know how some people cross their 7s? Well, the way it was written on the sheet, he misread his starting time. 'OK, you screwed up,' I said. 'Let's go home.' During the drive, after he finally came out of his funk, we got to talking about grinding for a score. Just then we passed a public golf course. 'Dad,' he said, 'can we stop here and practice grinding?' We played seven holes. He birdied five of them. When I see Tiger grinding now, that's what I think of, so long ago."

The complete story can be read in the November issue, available on newsstands Oct. 12.