Woods was heavily recruited by college golf powers. He chose Stanford University, the 1994 NCAA champions. He enrolled at Stanford in the fall of 1994 under a golf scholarship and won his first collegiate event, the 40th Annual William H. Tucker Invitational, that September.[50] He selected a major in economics and was nicknamed "Urkel" by college teammate Notah Begay III.[51] In 1995, he successfully defended his U.S. Amateur title at the Newport Country Club in Rhode Island[44] and was voted Pac-10 Player of the Year, NCAA First Team All-American, and Stanford's Male Freshman of the Year (an award that encompasses all sports).[52][53]

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Following an outstanding junior, college, and amateur golf career, Woods turned professional in 1996 at the age of 20. By the end of April 1997, he had won three PGA Tour events in addition to his first major, the 1997 Masters, which he won by 12 strokes in a record-breaking performance. He reached number one in the world rankings for the first time in June 1997, less than a year after turning pro. Throughout the first decade of the 21st century, Woods was the dominant force in golf. He was the top-ranked golfer in the world from August 1999 to September 2004 (264 weeks) and again from June 2005 to October 2010 (281 weeks). During this time, he won 13 of golf's major championships.
Buick Invitational: Won his first start of the season for the fourth time in 11 seasons on TOUR. Became the first player in Buick Invitational history to win the tournament four times (1999, 2003, 2005-06). Made an eight-foot birdie on 72nd hole to get into a three-man playoff with Jose Maria Olazabal and Nathan Green. Green was eliminated after first hole, Olazabal on the second.
Difficult season off the course, as he suffered the loss of father Earl after a long battle with cancer on May 3. Inside the ropes, World No. 1 dominated with eight victories, including two major titles (The Open Championship and PGA Championship). Entered the 2007 season with a TOUR streak of six consecutive victories. Led the TOUR in scoring average (68.11) but not eligible for seventh Vardon Trophy as he did not play 60 competitive rounds. Won Byron Nelson Award for low scoring average.

A related effect was measured by University of California economist Jennifer Brown, who found that other golfers scored higher when competing against Woods than when he was not in the tournament. The scores of highly skilled golfers are nearly one stroke better when playing against Woods. This effect was larger when he was on winning streaks and disappeared during his well-publicized slump in 2003–04. Brown explains the results by noting that competitors of similar skill can hope to win by increasing their level of effort, but that, when facing a "superstar" competitor, extra exertion does not significantly raise one's level of winning while increasing risk of injury or exhaustion, leading to reduced effort.[163]
Woods has held numerous golf records. He has been the number one player in the world for the most consecutive weeks and for the greatest total number of weeks of any golfer in history. He has been awarded PGA Player of the Year a record 11 times[12] and has won the Byron Nelson Award for lowest adjusted scoring average a record eight times. Woods has the record of leading the money list in ten different seasons. He has won 15 professional major golf championships (trailing only Jack Nicklaus, who leads with 18) and 82 PGA Tour events (tied for first all time with Sam Snead).[13] Woods leads all active golfers in career major wins and career PGA Tour wins. He is the youngest player to achieve the career Grand Slam, and the second golfer (after Nicklaus) to have achieved a career Grand Slam three times. Woods has won 18 World Golf Championships. In May 2019, Woods was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the fourth golfer to receive the honor.[14]
Despite his power advantage, Woods has always focused on developing an excellent all-around game. Although in recent years[when?] he has typically been near the bottom of the Tour rankings in driving accuracy, his iron play is generally accurate, his recovery and bunker play is very strong, and his putting (especially under pressure) is possibly his greatest asset. He is largely responsible for a shift to higher standards of athleticism amongst professional golfers, and is known for utilizing more hours of practice than most.[173][174][175]
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