Page last updated at 19:42 GMT, Friday, 19 February 2010

Tiger Woods: Celebrity under pressure

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods was the youngest player to complete a career Grand Slam

Tiger Woods is arguably the best-known sportsman of his generation and, before he announced he was taking a break from the sport amid claims about his private life, he was on his way to becoming the most successful golfer of all time.

The 34-year-old American has won 14 major titles and is just four short of equalling Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major victories.

As the most successful black player in a traditionally white sport, Mr Woods has been credited with boosting interest in the game, raising TV audiences, and bringing greater wealth to the sport in prize money and sponsorship.

He was born on 30 December 1975 in Cypress, California, the son of retired US Army lieutenant colonel Earl Woods and his Thai-born wife Kultida.

Tiger Woods with his parents Kultida and Earl Woods (file pic 1998)
Tiger Woods's parents Kultida and Earl motivated him to become a top golfer

Originally named "Eldrick" he was nicknamed "Tiger" after a Vietnamese soldier friend of his father.

A golf prodigy, he featured on TV putting against Bob Hope aged two, and shot 48 for nine holes aged three.

After a glittering amateur career, he turned pro in 1996 and backed up his Masters win with victory in the USPGA Championship in 1999.

In 1996, he and his father set up the Tiger Woods Foundation which is dedicated to helping disadvantaged children.

He won his first major - the Masters - in 1997 by a record 12 strokes, becoming the prestigious tournament's youngest winner in history at 21 years three months and 15 days.

Later that year he became world number one - briefly - for the first time and he would later go on to hold the top spot for all 52 weeks of a year a record eight times.

'Tiger Slam'

He has now been world number one since 12 June 2005, and through endorsements and appearance fees earns an estimated $100m (£62.5m) a year.

In September 2009, Forbes Magazine declared him to be the first athlete in history to earn $1bn in the course of his sporting career.

In 2000, he won the US Open title, by a record 15 strokes at Pebble Beach, and the Open Championship at St Andrews.

Tiger Woods (file pic: October 2009)
Tiger Woods is one of the world's top sportsmen

In doing so he became only the fifth player - the youngest - to complete a career Grand Slam of all major titles.

He clinched the 2001 Masters to hold all four major titles at the same time, a feat dubbed the "Tiger Slam".

In 2002 he remodelled his swing, prompting claims of a slump when he did not win a major title until the 2005 Masters, his fourth victory at Augusta.

In 2006, he missed the first cut in 38 majors as a professional at the US Open at Winged Foot following a nine-week lay-off after the death of his father.

He went on to clinch the Open Championship at Hoylake and, amid emotional scenes, broke down in tears as he dedicated the win to his father.

In April 2008 he underwent a third operation on a troublesome left knee.

Private life

But the absence of this sporting legend resulted in US television ratings dropping by 50%.

He returned to win the US Open at Torrey Pines after a 18-hole play-off, despite being crippled by knee pain.

In 2005, Mr Woods married Swedish girlfriend Elin Nordegren, who he met during the 2001 Open Championship.

In 2006 she gave birth to the couple's first child, daughter Sam Alexis, and in February 2009 their second child Charlie Axel was born.

However, speculation about Tiger Woods's private life has been intense since he was involved in a car crash outside his Florida home in November.

Tiger Woods and his family
Tiger has two children with his wife Elin

Newspaper allegations followed about extra-marital affairs.

He broke a long silence on 19 February to apologise for cheating on his wife.

"I was unfaithful, I had affairs and I cheated. What I did was unacceptable," he said in a statement televised live around the world.

He said he was undergoing therapy and that he would return to gold, but could not say when.

The golfer, who was found bleeding and semi-conscious, after hitting a tree and a fire hydrant, was later charged with careless driving.

He pulled out of the Chevron World Challenge, a tournament he had hosted for the past nine years.

Many of Mr Woods's numerous sponsors - including Nike, Gillette, Tag Heuer and NetJets have stood by him.

But Accenture and AT&T dropped him as a spokesman and soft drink brand Gatorade axed a drink endorsed by the sports star.

Gatorade said it was not related to revelations about the golfer's private life.

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