Tiger Woods

With every helpless golf ball he crushes into next week, Eldrick “Tiger” Woods is powering his sport into the next millennium. Perhaps then all golfers will have 125-mph swings, beguiling smiles, superhuman poise and some $43 million worth of endorsement deals with Titleist and Nike—but for now, Woods is the one and only. “He’s that very unusual combination of incredible skill and incredible will to win,” says Rod Tallman, director of marketing for Nike Golf. “It’s similar to what Michael Jordan has.” Did we mention that he’s just about to turn 21?

Legend, phenom, prodigy—you name it, he’s heard it and earned it. After winning an unprecedented three straight J.S. Amateur championships (the last two before dropping out of Stanford University earlier this year), Woods turned pro in August and promptly won two of his first seven events. “On the course he’s a seasoned veteran,” says his coach, Butch Harmon. “But off the course he’s just a kid.”

That blend of “aw, shucks” and awesome helps explain his appeal. A one-man Rainbow Coalition (he’s part African-American, part Native American, part Dutch, part Chinese and part Thai), Woods is popularizing golf among minorities and teenage girls. “He’s had proposals of marriage on the fairway,” says his father, Earl Woods, a former Green Beret from whom Tiger gets his toughness. His mother, Kultida, a Buddhist, instilled his inner calm. “Tiger,” says Earl, “has an aura that says ‘I am clearly superior to you and I will beat you.’ ”

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