Emotional Tiger Woods inducted into World Golf Hall of Fame
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Wearing Wednesday red just like her father wore Sunday red, Sam Woods shined bright while introducing her father, Tiger, for induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
The oldest of Tiger Woods' two children cracked jokes and was unbroken when talking about difficult times she has shared with her father.
"About a year ago you were stuck in a hospital bed at one of your ultimate lows and one of the scariest moments of your life and ours," the 14-year-old Sam said, referring to her father's single-car accident last February that nearly took his life. "We didn't know if you'd come home with two legs or not. Now not only are you about to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but you're standing here on your own two feet.
"This is why you deserve this; because you're a fighter."
Some 44 years after shuffling on to the stage of "The Mike Douglas Show" as a 2-year-old and entertaining Bob Hope, Jimmy Stewart and the host by hitting golf balls into a net and hitting a few putts, Tiger Woods proudly walked to the podium at PGA Tour headquarters for his rightful induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
During her induction speech, Maxwell Berning, 80, addressed Woods.
"Tiger, I know it's hard for you to believe, but as young as I am, I won all my tournaments before you were born," she said to laughter. "And by the way, Tiger, of my three U.S. Opens, the total winnings (were) $16,000. I was wondering if you'd like to swap checks. Perhaps, if not all, we could do one, right?"
Woods smiled throughout.
Woods' family was in the front row – Sam, his mother, Tida; son, Charlie; and girlfriend, Erica Harman.
Among PGA Tour players in attendance were Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Billy Horschel, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson, Keegan Bradley, Mackenzie Hughes and Tom Hoge. Among the 27 members of the Hall of Fame on hand were Ben Crenshaw, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Mark O'Meara, Davis Love III, Sandy Lyle, Karrie Webb, Juli Inkster and Nancy Lopez Russell.
Video tributes came from Serena Williams, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Brady.
They all came to see the man who changed the game.
After winning three consecutive U.S. Junior Amateur titles and three consecutive U.S. Amateur championships, Woods, 46, turned pro in 1996. He promptly won three times on the PGA Tour in his first 10 starts.
Then he won the 1997 Masters by 12 shots, a historic victory as Woods became the first man of color to win at Augusta National Golf Club.
Woods became the needle that moved the sport. Purses began to significantly rise, TV ratings surged upward. His presence spurred more athletic, stronger players to pick up the game. His peers followed him into the gym and the game became one featuring more power.
His influence on advertising and fashion for the sport was striking. Minorities became attracted to golf. And a generation of youngsters wanted to be like Tiger.
The list of his feats stretches out as long as one of his drives from his heyday. The record-tying 82 PGA Tour titles, the 15 major championships. A record 142 consecutive cuts made, a record 683 weeks – 13 years – atop the official world rankings. A record 11 PGA Tour Player of the Year Awards.
He's the youngest player to complete the career Grand Slam, doing so at age 24 when he won the 2000 British Open at the Home of Golf, the Old Course at St. Andrews. En route to becoming the only player to win four consecutive professional major championships – known as the "Tiger Slam" – he won the 2000 U.S. Open by 15, the 2000 Open by 8, the 2000 PGA in a playoff, and the 2001 Masters by two. And he won on a broken leg at the 2008 U.S. Open and captured his fifth Masters in 2019 following spinal fusion surgery (his fifth back surgery, to go along with five surgeries on his left knee).
The list goes on and on and on.
"Although I never met my dad's most influential role model, my grandfather, Earl Woods, I feel like I can hear his voice every day reminding me to 'train hard, fight easy,' " Sam Woods said. 'This is an old special forces saying that he ingrained into my dad, who now says it to Charlie and me. It not only teaches us that we have to put in the hard work to get what he wanted, but it's that hard work that will pay off in the end."
Tiger Woods was still wearing his Sunday red after finishing runner-up in the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont in Pennsylvania. After rushing to the airport and flying to Orlando, then driving to the Winnie Palmer Hospital, Sam was born within five minutes of his arrival.
"He may have lost that day, but he won the greatest gift of all," Sam said with a smile. "I realized while writing this speech that, no matter what life throws our way, we somehow come out together and stronger.
"You know, 'train hard, fight easy.' "
A proud father hugged his daughter on the stage before beginning his 17-minute speech. Throughout he talked of his upbringing, his difficult times recovering and the many times he celebrated.
"I had this burning desire to be able to express myself in this game of golf," Woods said. "One of the things that Dad had instilled in me is that he grew up in the same era as Charlie Sifford (the first black member of the PGA Tour) and why my son is named after Charlie, is that you had to be twice as good to be given half a chance. So that understanding and that drive, as Sam said, train hard, fight easy.
"I made practicing so difficult, hurt so much, because I wanted to make sure that I was ready come game time. I hit thousands of balls, hands bleeding, aching, just so that I could play in a tournament.
"I know that golf is an individual sport. We do things on our own a lot for hours on end, but in my case, I didn't get here alone. I had unbelievable parents, mentors, friends, who allowed me and supported me in the toughest times, the darkest of times, and celebrated the highest of times."
He broke down a couple of times, especially when he brought up his mom and dad.
"Without the sacrifices of Mom who took me to all those junior golf tournaments, and Dad, who's not here, but who instilled in me this work ethic to fight for what I believe in, chase after my dreams, nothing's ever going to be given to you, everything's going to be earned," he said. "If you don't go out there and put in the work, you don't go out and put in the effort, one, you're not going to get the results, but two, and more importantly, you don't deserve it. You need to earn it.
"So that defined my upbringing. That defined my career."
And what a career is has been.