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Tiger Woods' Father Dies At 74

Earl Woods, who was more determined to raise a good son than a great golfer and became the role model, architect and driving force behind Tiger Woods' phenomenal career, died Wednesday morning at his home. He was 74.

"My dad was my best friend and greatest role model, and I will miss him deeply," Tiger Woods said on his Web site. "I'm overwhelmed when I think of all of the great things he accomplished in his life. He was an amazing dad, coach, mentor, soldier, husband and friend. I wouldn't be where I am today without him, and I'm honored to continue his legacy of sharing and caring."

Woods was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1998 and was treated with radiation, but the cancer returned in 2004 and spread throughout his body. Last month, he was too frail to travel to the Masters for the first time, reports CBS News correspondent Richard Schlesinger. His son finished tied for third.

"I think you're talking about, with Tiger and Earl Woods, one of the greatest father-son relationships in the history of sport," said CBS Sports' Jim Nance. "Probably the best of all time."

From the beginning, Earl Woods guided, nurtured, managed and inspired his child prodigy. Earl, who served as a Green Beret in Vietnam, also gave him the nickname Tiger, after a buddy, a lieutenant colonel in the South Vietnamese army who Earl said saved his life, 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley reported in March.

Tiger Woods told Bradley one of his fondest memories is the warm embrace he and his father shared after Tiger, then 21, won the Masters in 1997. Earl Woods had recently undergone bypass surgery after a heart attack, but instead of resting at home, followed Tiger to the tournament and even offered helpful putting tips.

"And that's why you saw the bear hug being so big on 18. Because it meant so much for me to have him there. Because it was like borrowed time. He wasn't supposed to be there," Woods said.

The last tournament Earl Woods attended was the Target World Challenge in December 2004, when his son rallied to win and then donated $1.25 million to the Tiger Woods Foundation that his father helped him establish.

Earl Woods was more than a golf dad, more than a zealous father who lived vicariously through his son's achievements.

He had played catcher for Kansas State, the first black to play baseball in the Big Eight Conference, and served as a Green Beret for two tours in Vietnam. But he felt his true purpose was to train Tiger, and he watched his son evolve into the dominant player of his time the youngest player to win the career Grand Slam and one of the most celebrated athletes in the world.

"I knew Tiger was special the day he was born," Woods said in a May 2000 interview with The Associated Press.

In February, Tiger Woods cut the ceremonial ribbon to officially open his $25 million Tiger Woods Learning Center, aimed at helping children find their way.

Woods nearly broke down when he mentioned the support of his father.

"I talked to him last night," Woods said. "He kept telling me how proud he was of what I was able to do, and proud of me for thinking of this. It's hard on all of us."

Foremost for Earl Woods was raising a son who could influence life beyond golf. Woods was black and his wife, Kultida, whom he met during one of his tours to Vietnam, was Thai and Chinese.

Tiger Woods won twice in his first seven PGA Tour events after turning pro in 1996 at age 20 and was named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. Woods predicted greatness for Tiger on and off the course, telling the magazine that his son ``will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity.''

"He's the bridge between the East and the West," the father said. "There is no limit because he has the guidance. I don't know yet exactly what form this will take. But he is the Chosen One. He'll have the power to impact nations. Not people. Nations. The world is just getting a taste of his power."

Earl Woods was born March 5, 1932, in Manhattan, Kan., the youngest of six children. His parents died by the time he was 13.

His father wanted him to play for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues, and his mother stressed education. Woods wound up going to Kansas State, graduating in 1953 with a degree is sociology.

Woods did two tours during the Vietnam War as a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. It was his second tour that shaped the latter part of his life.

He met Kultida Punsawad, who was working as a receptionist in Thailand, and married her in 1969. He fought alongside Lt. Col. Nguyen T. Phong of the South Vietnamese army, a friend he nicknamed "Tiger" because of his courage and bravery. Woods promised Tiger Phong that he would name a son after him.

Eldrick "Tiger" Woods was born Dec. 30, 1975.

Earl Woods moved to Cypress, Calif., to the house where he died, and set up a makeshift practice range in the garage with a mat and a net, placing his son in a high chair as he practiced.

The education went beyond swinging a club.

"I tried to break him down mentally, tried to intimidate him verbally, by saying, 'Water on the right, OB on the left,' just before his downswing," Woods once said in an AP interview. "He would look at me with the most evil look, but he wasn't permitted to say anything. That's the frustration. He couldn't say a word, but he always had an escape word. He never used it.

"One day I did all my tricks, and he looked at me and smiled," Woods said. "At the end of the round, I told him, 'Tiger, you've completed the training.' And I made him a promise. 'You'll never run into another person as mentally tough as you.' He hasn't. And he won't."

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