A Tiger Woods book worth reading
Tom Callahan first met Earl Woods in 1996 at the Greater
Milwaukee Open, and he spent the next 10 years listening to stories
and gaining insight. Few others had such access and trust.
The hard part was convincing his agent and a publisher that a
book on the late father of Tiger Woods was worth writing.
”Nobody wanted me to do this book,” Callahan said. ”They
figured, ‘Who cares about Earl Woods?”’
Of all the books involving the world’s No. 1 player, this might
be the most compelling.
”His Father’s Son,” published by Gotham Books, is scheduled to
go on sale Oct. 28. Golf Digest, for whom Callahan is a
contributing editor, plans to publish excerpts in its November
Callahan devotes the first half of the book to Earl Woods – his
Kansas roots, the prejudice he faced as the only black baseball
player at Kansas State; his military career; his first marriage,
which produced three children; meeting his second wife in
The second half is about Tiger Woods.
At times, the lines are blurred.
Callahan portrays Earl Woods as a womanizer, minus the names or
the details. In one chapter, he writes about Tiger being furious
with his father toward the end of his life. Earl implied that Tiger
had to buy him out of what Callahan described only as ”some kind
of sexual jackpot.” It was Woods’ mother, Kultida, who served as
peacemaker, urging her son to forgive his father.
Callahan was well into writing the book on Nov. 27, when Woods
ran over a fire hydrant outside his Florida home, and soon after
lurid details of his sexual escapades began gushing out in the
”The funny thing is, it didn’t change the book that much,”
Callahan said. ”The original outline was 40 chapters. I ended up
with 31. Nine that were lost were melted into other chapters in the
first half. I waited half a book to get to Tiger. I didn’t want
people to be impatient.”
His publisher asked if Callahan was going to contact some of the
women linked to Tiger.
”I said, ‘No, I don’t care about them,”’ he said. ”Leave that
to the floozy books.”
This book was always about the intricate relationship between a
father, who didn’t touch a golf club until he was 42, and a son,
who has dominated golf at every level.
Callahan was fond of Earl Woods. The intention was not to bash
either father or son, although he doesn’t duck any of the dirt.
He writes of the father’s philandering, ”Any woman who ventured
within fifty feet of Earl was a potential plaintiff.” And of the
son’s extramarital affairs, ”Golf never needed a shower more than
it did after Tiger Woods careened off a fire hydrant into a tree,
shaking loose a multitude of cocktail waitresses, lingerie models
and porn actresses, none of whom accused him of gentleness.”
Callahan’s research includes interviews with Earl Woods’
sisters, neighbors from his childhood home on Yuma Street in
Manhattan, Kan., his first wife and their three children.
His greatest resource, however, was Earl.
In his book, ”In Search of Tiger,” Callahan details his trip
to Vietnam to find the soldier after whom Earl named his son – Col.
Nguyen ”Tiger” Phong, who died in April 1976. After learning of
his fate, Callahan arranged a tearful meeting with the Phong and
He knew the father so well that Callahan often went to the house
where Earl stayed at majors to watch Tiger on television. In one
scene, Callahan describes how Earl would doze off between shots,
but eerily woke up when his son was on TV, sometimes offering
instruction. He later claimed Tiger could hear him when he
”Come on, Earl. Stop it,” Callahan tells him.
Earl laughed for about 20 seconds and said, ”You don’t mind if
I believe it, do you?”
”He told a lot of stories,” Callahan said. ”All of them
weren’t true. They weren’t total lies, they were just a little
untrue. The only thing he didn’t exaggerate about was
Callahan talked to Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, but the most
intriguing interview was with Ernie Els, who spoke fondly about the
time Tiger sought his advice on turning pro, and was bluntly honest
about the future.
The interview took place Wednesday of the Arnold Palmer
Invitational earlier this year, which Els won for his second
straight victory. That was about the time Woods announced he would
be returning to golf at the Masters.
Els predicted a good week at Augusta National for Woods, but not
a green jacket.
”I think he’ll contend,” Els said that day. ”I think so. He’s
that good. But win it? No. There’s a guilt. There’s a
”I still say you can’t play your best golf without
self-respect,” Els said. ”Obviously, Elin married the person she
believed he was. If he sincerely wants to become that person, good
on him. I’ll support him. Absolutely. That’s what I’ve done my
whole career, supported him. But, to be honest, I wonder where he’s
going to put his energy now? Into fitness? … Tiger’s going to be
a very lonely guy, I think, unfortunately.”
Callahan also includes several recollections from Royce Woods,
the daughter from Earl’s first marriage. Woods made good on a
promise as a kid and bought her a house in northern California. She
lived with her dad when Tiger was young, and cared for Earl in his
”I asked him once,” Royce said in the book, ”’Don’t you ever
want to do a little dirt, Tiger? Be a little bad? Spray graffiti
paint all over a wall at school, or something?’ ‘You know, I
probably would,’ he told me, ‘if I didn’t know I was going to be