It may have looked different to the rest of the world, but Tiger Woods doesn't think 2000 was an especially great year for him. "The best year of my life was when I was 11," he says. "I got straight A's, had two recesses a day, had the cutest girlfriend and won 32 tournaments. Everything's been downhill since."
Not his sense of humor, obviously, nor—let's get serious now—the competitive zeal that enabled him to improve upon near perfection. Last year Woods won eight PGA tournaments. This year he copped nine. Last year he captured one of golf's four major events, the PGA Championship. This year he became the first man in nearly half a century to take three. (For the record: the U.S. Open in June, the British Open in July and the PGA, again, in August.) After just four years as a pro, he is the all-time career money winner, with more than $20 million in prize earnings. His $40 million deal with Nike is reported to have more than doubled in size, and nearly a third of voters polled by CNNSI.com think he deserves a piece of the PGA tour's Tiger-fueled TV revenue.
Woods may live in a glittery cocoon of private jets, chauffeured limos and room-service meals, but friends say he's remained his loosey-goosey, video-game-loving 24-year-old self. Except, of course, when there's a competition on the line. "People talk about Tiger's will to win," says CBS Sports golf analyst Peter Kostis, "but I believe his hatred of losing is second to none." Maybe that's why the greatest golfer ever acknowledges his vulnerability like this: "In 10, 15, 20 years," Woods said in October, "some kid is going to come along who blows me out of the water." Think about it. What he's really saying is that no one's going to catch him for 10 years—at least.
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