THANK HEAVEN FOR nicknames. Eldrick Woods sounds like a mock-tudor townhouse development in some former cornfield, behind the Cracker Barrel and the Hampton Inn off the new bypass exit.
Can you be an elite athlete, a master of the sporting domain, and be called Eldrick? The headlines would certainly suffer:
* Eldrick stalks field, 2 strokes back
* Eldrick lurking as final round approaches
* So-and-so hopes to tame Eldrick
Fortunately for Eldrick, when his father served in Vietnam he had a friend - a South Vietnamese officer, Vuong Dang Phong - whom Earl Woods nicknamed "Tiger" because of his courage. So even though he chose an English name meaning "wise ruler" for the son who was born in 1975, Earl quickly started calling him Tiger. The nickname stuck, despite attempts by teammates at Stanford to refer to him as "Urkel," in reference to Jaleel White's nerdy sitcom character.