November 19, 2007

Newsmakers 2007: Tiger Woods

How did Tiger Woods' PGA Championship victory at Southern Hills differ from his dozen other major titles? It was his first as a father. Since his daughter, Sam Alexis, was born hours after he left Oakmont with a T-2 finish at the U.S. Open, Woods has been a changed man. As had the death of his father, Earl, a year earlier, Sam's birth moved -- and motivated -- the golfer, bringing an emotional current that recharged his season. The completeness was articulated in mid-September, just after he closed out a seven-title year by winning four of his last five events (the last two to clinch the FedEx Cup and move within one of Arnold Palmer's 62 career PGA Tour victories). "This year has been basically just a dream come true," said Woods while promoting his Target World Challenge. "I know I've had some nice success on the golf course ... but this year, having the birth of our first child, has been just truly amazing. It's been just so much fun. My life right now is a complete full opposite of what it was a year ago. Couldn't be happier. I think it's fantastic." Woods is 31 now. He is entering his prime as a golfer and public figure. That came through in April when he accepted the Charlie Bartlett Award for his work with the Tiger Woods Learning Center and Foundation. Although he signed a staggering $100 million deal with Gatorade and broke into golf course design with an unprecedented $25 million fee (that could include another $75 million in real-estate investments) in Dubai, Woods will tell you his most rewarding business transaction was adding an East Coast version of his Anaheim, Calif., center -- thanks to the overnight creation of the AT&T National stop on the PGA Tour and its overwhelming support in the nation's capital. For the richest athlete in the world, already making a reported $98.9 million a year, the $10 million annuity for winning the FedEx Cup seemed like chump change. While he wouldn't kiss the cup when commissioner Tim Finchem asked at the trophy presentation in Atlanta, he did give it his blessing, just by winning it. It was the perfect staged exit, with nothing left but a Presidents Cup singles loss to Mike Weir. Other than his Block Party in California or an Orlando Magic game back in Florida, Tiger laid low at year's end, hanging out with his family at Isleworth or on his boat off Palm Beach. On his website he denied rumors that his working relationship with swing instructor Hank Haney had ended, but, truth is, Tiger's swing has become very much his. He has taken ownership of it, the way he has the rest of his life.