Tiger Woods

He has mauled key golfing records, strikes fear into the hearts of fellow competitors and is the first ever professional golfer to hold all four major championships at the same time. In short, Tiger Woods is the best golfer the world has ever seen. He is also reported to be the first billionaire athlete in history.

By the age of 34 he had won an astounding 71 PGA tour events and brought in just under £93 million in prize money. A series of lucrative sponsorship deals, including a record-breaking £105 million agreement with Nike, has placed him among sport's biggest money earners.

Born on December 30, 1975, in California, Eldrick "Tiger" Woods was named after a Vietnamese soldier friend of his father. He made his golfing debut at a very early age, putting against Bob Hope on a TV show when he was only two. "My love affair with golf began before I could even walk or talk," says the sporting star.

"Pop" Earl Woods, a retired US Army lieutenant colonel, ruled over his son's career with military precision. Tiger took every junior title going in America and turned professional in 1996 after dropping out of Stanford University.

In the predominantly white, elitist sport of golf, Tiger's exotic racial origins – his father was African American, his mother Kultida is Thai – have often been a cause for comment. But the young golfer has coped admirably with the jibes, saying proudly: "I am the product of two great cultures – one African American and the other Asian."

He became a phenomenon in 1997 when he dominated The US Masters in a way that no rookie had any right to do. But deciding there were still flaws in his game, he tore it down and started over.

The influence of Woods senior also made itself felt on the young golfer's personal life. A three-year love affair with high-school sweetheart Dina Gravell hit the rocks in 1997 amid claims of "gold digging" on the part of Tiger's father.

The combined pressure of both father and career precluded any subsequent romance, although Tiger went on to distance himself from his parents and find a steady companion in 22-year-old law student Joanna Jagoda, who he met on a blind date. However, the couple quietly split in early 2001.

On October 5, 2004, Tiger wed Elin Nordegren at the Sandy Lane Hotel in Barbados after a three-year courtship. A former psychology student and nanny to the family of pro golfer Jesper Parnevik, Elin had met Tiger at the Williams World Challenge in 2001. The couple welcomed their first child, daughter Sam Alexis, on June 18, 2007.

The birth of his first child, he says, helped him get over the death of his father, who passed away the previous summer. As the loss and the pain began to subside, he began to recover his form after a while off the winners' podium, earning victory in seven consecutive events by January 2007.

In 2009 Tiger and Elin welcomed their second child, Charlie Axel. To most they seemed like the picture-perfect family. But in November that year, everything fell apart.

The couple were hit by numerous allegations that Tiger had been unfaithful with different women. Media interest in the stories began to grow after Tiger was involved in a car crash at his home, and at first refused to talk to police.

He took full responsibility for the accident, and even praised his wife for getting him out of the car, all the time denying reports she had smashed the windows of his car during an argument.

A month later he released a statement saying he was taking an indefinite break from golf to sort his personal situation out.

"I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children," he said. "I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness. It may not be possible to repair the damage I've done, but I want to do my best to try."

The sportsman returned to professional competition at the US Masters in April 2010. 

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