Eldrick Tont "Tiger" Woods (born December 30, 1975) is an American professional golfer who is among the most successful golfers of all time. He has been one of the highest-paid athletes in the world for several years. Following an outstanding amateur and two-year college golf career, Woods turned professional at age 20 in late summer 1996. By April 1997 he had already won his first major, the 1997 Masters in a record-breaking performance, winning the tournament by 12 strokes and pocketing $486,000. He first reached the number one position in the world rankings in June 1997. Through the 2000s, Woods was the dominant force in golf, spending 264 weeks from August 1999 to September 2004 and 281 weeks from June 2005 to October 2010 as world number one.
Woods grew up in Orange County, California. He was a child prodigy, introduced to golf before the age of two, by his athletic father Earl, a single-figure handicap amateur golfer who had been one of the earliest African-American college baseball players at Kansas State University. In 1978, Tiger putted against comedian Bob Hope in a television appearance on The Mike Douglas Show. At age three, he shot a 48 over nine holes over the Cypress Navy course, and at age five, he appeared in Golf Digest and on ABC's That's Incredible. Before turning seven, Tiger won the Under Age 10 section of the Drive, Pitch, and Putt competition, held at the Navy Golf Course in Cypress, California. In 1984 at the age of eight, he won the 9–10 boys' event, the youngest age group available, at the Junior World Golf Championships. He first broke 80 at age eight. He went on to win the Junior World Championships six times, including four consecutive wins from 1988 to 1991. Woods' father Earl wrote that Tiger first defeated him at the age of 11 years, with Earl trying his best. Earl lost to Tiger every time from then on. Woods first broke 70 on a regulation golf course at age 12. Woods' first major national junior tournament was the 1989 Big I, when he was 13 years old. Woods was paired with pro John Daly, then relatively unknown, in the final round; the event's format placed a professional with each group of juniors who had qualified. Daly birdied three of the last four holes to beat Woods by only one stroke. As a young teenager, Woods first met Jack Nicklaus in Los Angeles at the Bel-Air Country Club, when Nicklaus was performing a clinic for the club's members. Woods was part of the show, and impressed Nicklaus and the crowd with his skills and potential. Earl Woods had researched in detail the career accomplishments of Nicklaus, and had set his young son the goals of breaking those records. While attending Western High School in Anaheim at the age of 15, Woods became the youngest ever U.S. Junior Amateur champion (a record which stood until it was broken by Jim Liu in 2010). He was named 1991's Southern California Amateur Player of the Year (for the second consecutive year) and Golf Digest Junior Amateur Player of the Year. In 1992, he defended his title at the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, becoming the first multiple winner; competed in his first PGA Tour event, the Nissan Los Angeles Open (he missed the 36-hole cut); and was named Golf Digest Amateur Player of the Year, Golf World Player of the Year, and Golfweek National Amateur of the Year. The following year, Woods won his third consecutive U.S. Junior Amateur Championship; he remains the event's only three-time winner. In 1994, at the TPC at Sawgrass in Florida, he became the youngest-ever winner of the U.S. Amateur Championship, a record he held until 2008 when it was broken by Danny Lee. He was a member of the American team at the 1994 Eisenhower Trophy World Amateur Golf Team Championships (winning), and the 1995 Walker Cup (losing). Woods graduated from Western High School in 1994 at age 18, and was voted "Most Likely to Succeed" among the graduating class. He had starred for the high school's golf team under coach Don Crosby. Woods overcame difficulties with stuttering as a boy. This was not known until he wrote a letter to a boy who contemplated suicide. Woods wrote, "I know what it's like to be different and to sometimes not fit in. I also stuttered as a child and I would talk to my dog and he would sit there and listen until he fell asleep. I also took a class for two years to help me, and I finally learned to stop."