The Secret History of Tiger Woods

The fatality of his father collection a fight raging inside the world"s biggest golfer. How he waged that battle -- through an obsession through the Navy SEALs -- is the tale of exactly how Tiger shed his way.

You are watching: The secret history of tiger woods


Tiger flourished up without any kind of siblings or many kind of friends and also spent his childhood via Earl, either on the golf course or hitting balls into a net in the garage. Splash News

"I walk," he shelp.


He smiled.

"I walk and also I walk some even more."

He pasupplied, and also asked himself a question. "Where is the light at the finish of the tunnel?"

"I don"t recognize. I think pretty much every little thing past this will be gravy."

His friends started hearing these adgoals about a month earlier. His college roommate Notah Begay texted him around Halloween. Tiger loves Halloween. He"s a big son in many type of methods. When he lived in Orlando, a previous neighbor said, he liked to ride on a skateboard behind a golf cart in the gated nation club he referred to as house. He loves the Transformers and also comic-book heroes; in the previous, he"s checked into hotels under the name Logan Howlett, which is Wolverine"s huguy name in X-Men. When he booked his free-diving lessons in Grand Cayguy, instructor Kirk Krack redubbed, he booked his spot under the name Eric Cartman. So of course he loves Halloween, and as soon as Notah asked around his costume, Tiger created back.

"I"m going as a golfer known as Tiger Woods."

Sitting at a steakresidence in the Bahamas one night, Begay is quiet for a moment. He"s below for the Golf Channel, forced years earlier by his very own negative back to make the exact same admissions that Tiger is making now: The dreams he dreamed as a boy are finishing. They met as youngsters -- Tiger was 9 and Notah was 12 -- playing youth golf in The golden state. They experienced each other, probably the only nonwhite, nonrich civilization approximately, and Notah walked as much as Tiger and told him, "You"ll never before be alone again." They"ve been friends ever before because, passing together with each stage of life. A few weeks back, he and Tiger were hanging out at the residence in Jupiter as soon as Woods realized they needed to make a carpool run and gain his youngsters at college. They drove over and parked in line via the various other parental fees, around 30 minutes at an early stage, and also to kill the time, they laughed and also talked around Stanford. "Tiger and I carry out many looking back," Begay says. "He loves to talk around college."

Tiger told stories about how his daughter likes soccer and also is already a prankster, and Begay sassist exactly how his girl loves gymnastics and drawing, and also then they both looked at each various other and also just started laughing: Can you believe we are sitting in a carpool line? Tiger is encountering the reckoning that all young and also effective guys challenge, the finish of that youth and also power, and a future invested figuring out exactly how those points could be mourned and maybe reput. This last comeearlier, if he ever before gets healthy and balanced, will certainly be his last.

"He knows," Begay states.

"Tiger and also I carry out many looking ago," says Notah Begay, Tiger"s roommate at Stanford. "He loves to talk around college." Warren Little/Getty Images

THE DECADE SEPARATING the cemetery in Kansas and the marina in the Bahamas has seen Tiger lose many kind of of the things a lot of important to him, and the even more time passes, the more it"s clear he left some vital component of himself there in the ground in between Miles and also Maude Woods. How did all he"d constructed come undone so quickly and also so completely? That"s the question that will shadow him for the rest of his life. The answer is facility and layered. He dropped victim to many things, some popular and others deeply private: grief, loneliness, desire, liberty and also his fixation through his father"s profession, the army. These forces started functioning in Tiger"s life virtually as soon as his G-IV landed back in Ovariety County after he hidden his father"s ashes. The pressures retained working until finally his wife uncovered text messages from Rachel Uchitel on his phone and also he ran his Cadillac Escalade right into a fire hydrant (that automobile, incidentally, is owned by a man in rural Arkansas, who bought it provided from a neighborhood dealer, neither of whom kbrand-new its own trick history).

After Thanksoffering in 2009, his life break-up open up in the most public and also embarrassing means -- deserve to you imagine having to talk about your sex life in a news conference through your mommy in the front row? -- yet that vehicle crash wasn"t the beginning of his unraveling. In an odd means, it was the end. Everypoint he"s sustained these past seven years, consisting of admitting that his golf career can be finimelted, is a repercussion of decisions he made in the three years after he shed Earl. He"d been hurtling toward that fire hydrant for a lengthy time. On some level, he even taken what was happening to him, or at least was invested in understanding. Tbelow was a book in his auto the night of the wreck, and it finished up on the floorboard, extended in shards of glass. Its title was Get a Grip on Physics.

The topic fascinated Woods. He"d lengthy struggresulted in sleep, and as soon as he wasn"t texting or playing video games, he"d check out, often military books about lone men encountering impossible odds, such as Roberts Ridge or Lone Survivor, or books around theoretical physics and also cosmology. The intro to Get a Grip lassist out the fundamental rules of early on scientific research, from Newton and Galileo, concentrated on the concepts of friction and gravity. These had actually long interested him. Five-year-old Tiger when made a illustration that confirmed stickguys swinging different clubs, with the clubchallenge sketched, and the trip route of the ball, including distance and apex.

That illustration is a window into somepoint Woods himself maybe still can"t articulate; also at that age, he was curious enough to be thinking about physics. From the beginning, his golf talent has seemed to be an expression of his genius, not the genius itself. He is a remarkable perkid, and not because he once won 14 essential golf tournaments, yet because he thinks around exactly how he came to occupy his specific area in the world. "He certainly had actually his mind open up to huge concerns, such as that he was, or who anyone was," claims a cshed frifinish that asked for anonymity, "and had his mind open up to the concept that occasionally the question is the answer." Six pages right into Get a Grip, writer John Gribbin sums up a fact governing both the people and the relationship in between Earl and also Tiger Woods: "There was a basic legislation of nature which sassist that, left to their very own gadgets, things relocate in circles."

Tiger Woods reads a statement in which he apologizes for his actions. Scot Tucker/AP Images; Florida Highmeans Patrol/Getty Images; Eric Gay/AP Images

THERE"S ALWAYS A layer of mystery between fathers and also sons, even those as close as Tiger and Earl Woods. They lived such various resides. Earl joined the Green Berets bereason he observed them as the just place a babsence man might be treated sensibly, and when he reexhausted, he played golf day after day. (Before his child, Earl had the lowest handicap at the Navy golf course near their house, despite not picking up a club till he was 42.) Tbelow were things Tiger can never recognize around combat, simply as Earl could never really understand also the expense of his son"s fame.

"I understand exactly how you feel," Earl said once.

"No, Dad, you don"t," Tiger replied.

He grew up without siblings or many type of friends. Tiger and also Earl did every little thing together, hitting balls into a net out in the garage, or spfinishing hrs at the golf course, and also as soon as they"d finish, Earl would order a rum and Diet Coke, and Tiger would certainly acquire a Coke with cherries, and they"d sit and also nurse their drinks favor 2 old males. The golf pro at the Navy course, Joe Grohman, worried that Tiger didn"t have actually friends his very own age until high college. His friends were Earl and Earl"s old armed forces buddies. That"s that he played golf with, reexhausted old soldiers and also seafarers and also marines, with the occasional active-duty man stationed near Los Angeles. Fighter jets took off and also landed at the airspilgrimage parallel to the 17th and also 18th fairmeans. Tiger heard the stories and also witnessed the deep love even strangers felt for each other. His whole childhood rprogressed around these men and their code.

Tiger and also Earl held strong opinions about just how points need to work and also nursed deep stubborn streaks, so they often butted heads. The a lot of serious rift between them, which festered for years, focused on Earl"s love for women. Tiger hated that his dad cheated on his mom and also cried to his high institution girlfriend around it. His paleas never divorced but moved right into their very own houses, and also the just factor they still essential to connect at all was their son"s rising golf career; choose many type of overachieving youngsters in a damaged house, Tiger discovered early on that his talent could aid produce the household he wanted. He might mfinish the damaged areas inside all of them. It"s likewise clear that Tiger flourished up initially emulating his dad and then trying to be better than Earl. All sons, whether they love or hate their fathers, or some combicountry of both, want to cleanse themselves of any type of inherited weakness, shaking complimentary from the past. This is absolutely true for Tiger, whose father seems to evoke conflicting emotions: The finest and also worst things that have actually taken place in his life taken place bereason of Earl.

“The point is, I love him so much that I can not tell him, "You"re not gonna be good aacquire."”

- Michael Jordan
As Tiger acquired famed, Earl traveled the world through him. The definitive book about Tiger and Earl, Tom Callahan"s His Father"s Son, details the woguys in Earl"s orbit. Tright here was a "cook" at the 2001 Open Championship, and when Callahan sassist she need to be an excellent cook, Earl grinned and said, "She certain knows just how to store that potato chip bowl filled up." At another event in South Africa, a stream of escorts made their method to Earl"s room. Callahan reports that close to the finish of Earl"s life, Tiger and also Earl quit talking for a while. "Tiger"s mad at me," he told the author, and implied that he"d gotten right into some sort of womale trouble that his child passist to make go amethod. Eventually, Callahan composed, Tida is the one that encouraged Tiger to make tranquility, telling her kid that he"d regret it if Earl died before he made things best.

"He"s going to be gone and also you"re going to be sorry," she told him.

They fixed the rift, maybe bereason as Tiger"s circle of trust tightened to incorporate practically no one, he still knew he could talk to his dad about anything, even if he didn"t especially prefer Earl at the moment. Earl never judged. They were father and kid, and also teacher and student, ideal friends and also running buddies and together, one finish perboy.

Just after the 2004 Masters, Tiger and also his dad took a trip together to Fort Bragg, wbelow Earl had been stationed via the Green Berets. A group of Earl"s old armed forces buddies came alengthy, while Tiger gained the VIP tour, running with the 82nd Airborne and also tandem-jumping through the Golden Knights, the Army"s parachute team. The man assigned to take Tiger out of the aircraft was a soldier called Billy Van Soelen, who explained the difference between wide daylight at Ft Bragg and also pitch-babsence combat instances. "Your dad was doing tactical jumps," he sassist, nodding around at the managed environment. "This is Hollyhardwood."

Van Soelen strapped Tiger to himself and also then the 2 flung themselves out right into area, smooth through no bobble. Tiger grinned the entirety way down.

Earl was waiting in the drop zone, Van Soelen says, and he offered Tiger a big hug.

"Now you understand also my world," he told his child.

Earl necessary an oxygen tank during that trip. He"d been dying gradually for years and regretted that he wouldn"t live to watch the end of Tiger"s journey. His second heart strike occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the time of Tiger"s initial year on tour, and by the winter of 2005, a year and also a half after Ft Bragg, it was clear to everyone that Earl didn"t have actually much time. Now consider Tiger Woods again, in this moment the best golfer in the civilization, taking his first break ever -- 24 days without poignant a club, the the majority of given that he was a boy -- watching his father die. He spent most that break on Teaklumber Street, struggling to sleep, 3 days passing prior to he lastly drifted off on the floor. On Dec. 25, his dad woke up and threw a shoe at a sleeping Tiger.

When Tiger groggily looked up, Earl shelp, "Merry Christmas."

That vacation ended -- they both kbrand-new Earl was dying and Tiger made his peace via it -- and also Woods planned to open up his seachild at the 2006 Buick Invitational close to San Diego. But 3 days prior to his first competitive round of the year, Tiger arranged for a VIP tour of the Coronaexecute BUD/S compound (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training), where recruits are turned right into SEALs. Most classes start with about 200 students, and if 30 graduate, that"s a great percentage. It"s the a lot of hard army training in the world.

See more: Chris Brown & Busta Rhymes Chris Brown Why Stop Now (Feat, Busta Rhymes Feat

When he arrived, Tiger spoke to Class 259, tbelow waiting for First Phase to begin, and told them something he"d never said in public: He wanted to be a SEAL once he was young. The course loved Tiger"s advice about mental preparation and focus, while the instructors rolled their eyes as soon as Tiger shelp he would have been among them were it not for golf. They"ve seen Olympic medalists and Division I footsphere players quit, unable to stand the pain. A top-ranked triathlete wamelted out.

The tour visited Special Boat Team-12 and also SEAL Team 7. Throughout one sheight, a SEAL called Thom Shea aided conduct a weapons demonstration, through salso or eight weapons spread out in front of him, from the Sig Sauer pistol via the whole sniper suite of weapons. Three years later, Shea would earn a Silver Star leading a team into battle in Afghanistan. Tiger stood on one side of the table, his arms crossed, a pair of Oakley sunglasses resting on the earlier of his knit cap. Shea claims Tiger stayed incredibly quiet, taking in as much as he might, only turning on his renowned smile when someone asked for a photo or an autograph. After the table show, Shea walked Tiger to another building for the next part of this tour. The 2 men talked on the means, and even a decade later, Shea remembers the conversation, because of whatever that would certainly happen later. Tiger wanted to recognize how SEALs maintained their home life together despite the strain of consistent take a trip and lengthy separations. Shea told him that balance was the only point that functioned. He states Tiger asked how they retained this up, year after year of stress and anxiety, the long slog constantly outlasting the romance of a project title. "It"s a life," Shea remembers saying. "You just execute it. You keep practicing."