Woods turned pro at age 20 in August 1996 and immediately signed advertising deals with Nike, Inc. and Titleist that ranked as the most lucrative endorsement contracts in golf history at that time.[58][59] Woods was named Sports Illustrated's 1996 Sportsman of the Year and PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.[60] On April 13, 1997, he won his first major, the Masters, in record-breaking fashion and became the tournament's youngest winner at age 21.[61] Two months later, he set the record for the fastest ascent to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings.[62] After a lackluster 1998, Woods finished the 1999 season with eight wins, including the PGA Championship, a feat not achieved since Johnny Miller did it in 1974.[63][64]
In 1997, Woods and fellow golfer Arnold Palmer initiated a civil case against Bruce Matthews (the owner of Gotta Have It Golf, Inc.) and others in the effort to stop the unauthorized sale of their images and alleged signatures in the memorabilia market. Matthews and associated parties counterclaimed that Woods and his company, ETW Corporation, committed several acts including breach of contract, breach of implied duty of good faith, and violations of Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.[147] Palmer also was named in the counter-suit, accused of violating the same licensing agreement in conjunction with his company Arnold Palmer Enterprises.
In 2002, Woods was involved in every aspect of the launch of Buick's Rendezvous SUV. A company spokesman stated that Buick was happy with the value of Woods' endorsement, pointing out that more than 130,000 Rendezvous vehicles were sold in 2002 and 2003. "That exceeded our forecasts," he was quoted as saying, "It has to be in recognition of Tiger." In February 2004, Buick renewed Woods' endorsement contract for another five years, in a deal reportedly worth $40 million.[135]
Farmers Insurance Open: In his season debut on the PGA TOUR, became the first player in TOUR history to win on the same course eight times with his Farmers Insurance Open victory at Torrey Pines GC. The win marked the sixth time on TOUR he has won in his season debut. His seventh Farmers Insurance Open win came five years after his U.S. Open win at Torrey Pines. At 14-under 274, won by four strokes over defending champion Brandt Snedeker and Josh Teater. He converted the 54-hole lead into victory for the 50th (of 54) time. With the win, the Farmers Insurance Open became the third event in which he has won seven times, the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational and Arnold Palmer Invitational being the others. In the previous six years he has won this event, he has gone on to win at least four times in each of those years. His 75th TOUR victory is just seven shy of the all-time record of 82, held by Sam Snead.
PGA Championship: Won 12th major at the PGA Championship at Medinah CC, moving into solo second behind Jack Nicklaus (18) on the career majors list. First player to win two PGAs at the same course (1999 and 2006). Recorded four rounds in the 60s (69-68-65-68) for just the second time in a major (2000 Open Championship). Tied the tournament record which he set with Bob May in 2000 (18-under 270). Became the 29th player in major championship history to collect two major wins in the same year, this being his fourth time.
Woods overcame difficulties with stuttering as a boy.[48] This was not known until he wrote a letter to a boy who contemplated suicide. Woods wrote, "I know what it's like to be different and to sometimes not fit in. I also stuttered as a child and I would talk to my dog and he would sit there and listen until he fell asleep. I also took a class for two years to help me, and I finally learned to stop."[49]
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BMW Championship: Captured his sixth title of the season and took the lead in the FedExCup standings with an eight-stroke victory over Jim Furyk and Marc Leishman at the BMW Championship. Shot a third-round, course-record 62 at Cog Hill to take a seven-stroke lead entering the final round and finished at 19-under 265 to win for the fifth time at Cog Hill. It was his 10th career PGA TOUR victory by at least eight shots. It was also his 71st career victory, two short of Jack Nicklaus for second on the PGA TOUR's career list. Also tied Sam Snead with his sixth season of at least six victories.
Buick Open: Shot a final-round 69 and coasted to a three-shot victory with a 20-under 268 at the Buick Open for the 69th PGA TOUR title of his career. Improved to 36-1 when he had the outright lead after 54 holes. The win was his fourth of the season in just 11 starts since returning from knee surgery and the 69th of his career. He also claimed 500 FedExCup points and moved to the top of the standings. Reached victory No. 69 at the age of 33 years and seven months–almost seven years faster than Jack Nicklaus and eight years sooner than Sam Snead. Shot a 71 in the first round and came back with the best five-hole start of his career–beginning 6-under in the second round–en route to a 9-under 63 for his best score in relation to par in four years. Shot a 65 in the third round and held a one-shot lead going into Sunday.
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