A tearful Tiger Woods recalled fighting racism as a youth and the support of his parents on Wednesday in an emotional induction ceremony to the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Woods was hailed for a transcendent career that has seen him capture 15 major titles, second only to the career-record 18 of Jack Nicklaus, and win 82 US PGA Tour titles, level with Sam Snead for the all-time record.
He thanked instructors, caddies, friends and family — many of them in attendance — for the support that helped him turn childhood dreams into a historic sport career.
“I didn’t get here alone,” Woods said. “I had unbelievable parents, mentors and friends who supported me in the darkest of times and celebrated the highest of times.
“It’s actually a team award. All of you allowed me to get here and I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
The 46-year-old American was among four enshrined in a ceremony at US PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, joined by former PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, the late pioneer golf course developer Marion Hollins and four-time women’s major winner Susie Maxwell Berning.
Woods was emotional before he began reflecting on his life, opening his remarks by saying, “I just lost a bet to (PGA veteran Steve) Stricker I wouldn’t cry.”
Woods recalled having to search for lost golf balls to practice with as a child and his inspirational late father Earl telling him to stop putting for quarters, so “I come home a week later, I had a pocket full of dollars.”
“One of the things that drove me was his passion to play the game of golf,” Woods said of his dad.
Woods was stung by racism when denied access to clubhouses, so he changed shoes in the parking lot.
“You had to be twice as good to get half a chance (so) I made practice so hard, hurt so much, because I want to make sure I was ready come game time.
“I was not allowed into the clubhouses. The color of my skin dictated that… As I got older that drove me even more.”
While his father taught golf, his Thai mother Kultida infused him with toughness that would serve him well in the decades of competition to come.
Woods said he would not have become a legend “without the sacrifices of mom and dad, who instilled in me this work ethic to fight for what I believe in, to chase after my dreams.”
“Nothing is ever going to be given to you. Everything is going to be earned. If you don’t go out and put in the work, the effort, one you’re not going to get the results and two, and more important, you don’t deserve it. You didn’t earn it,” Woods said.
He broke down recalling his parents taking out a second mortgage on their home so he could play junior events, crying as he recalled getting sponsor deals and prize money so “the first thing I was able to do was to pay off that mortgage.”
Woods was a three-time US Amateur champion who turned professional in 1996 at age 20. In 1997, he won the Masters by 12 strokes in an epic performance to become the first Black golfer to win a major title. Two months later, he became world number one for the first time.
Woods dominated golf for the next decade, including a run of four consecutive major titles starting at the 2000 US Open and concluding with the 2001 Masters — the “Tiger Slam”.
In all, Woods has won the Masters five times, the PGA Championship four times and the US Open and British Open three times each.
– ‘You’re a fighter’ –
There were hardships. Woods admitted affairs with multiple mistresses in December 2009 and was divorced from Elin Nordegren in August 2010.
Woods struggled with knee and back injuries and underwent multiple surgeries on both, wondering if he would ever live without back pain before a 2017 operation enabled him to play again, ending a five-year victory drought at the 2018 Tour Championship.
In 2019, Woods won the Masters for his first major title since the 2008 US Open, hugging children Sam and Charlie off the 18th green at Augusta National the way he had hugged his parents there after his 1997 Masters triumph.
Woods suffered severe leg injuries in a single-car crash in February 2021 and continues to recover, saying he hopes to be able to play a few events each year but so far giving no timetable for a possible return.
Woods was introduced by daughter Sam, who noted the crash in her remarks.
“We didn’t know if he’d come home with two legs or not,” she said. “Not only are you being 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. You’ve defied the odds every time (including) being able to walk just a few months after your crash.”