Earl Woods, who mentored his son Eldrick and watched him grow into the golfer Tiger Woods, one of the world's most celebrated athletes, died on Wednesday at his home in Cypress, California. He was 74.
The cause was cancer, the Tiger Woods Foundation said. Earl Woods had heart problems, diabetes and poor circulation in his legs, and his prostate cancer returned in 2004.
In announcing his father's death, Tiger Woods said on his Web site, tigerwoods.com: "My dad was my best friend and greatest role model. He was an amazing dad, coach, mentor, soldier, husband and friend."
The close bond between the father and son became a widely known part of the Tiger Woods story as he quickly rose to become the game's dominant player. After almost every tournament victory, Tiger Woods could be seen on national television striding off the 18th green and embracing his father.
When Tiger Woods won the Masters last year, he said he was dedicating the victory to his father, who was watching on television from a nearby hotel room because he was too ill to be on the course.
"I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for my dad," he said. "I just hope this win gives him a little more hope, a little more fire to fight with."
In 2001, Earl Woods told Golf Digest: "I never treated Tiger like a kid. I treated Tiger as an equal. We transcended the parent-child relationship and became best friends a long time ago."
When Tiger was only six months old, he said, he would sit in the garage and watch his father hit golf balls into a net. By the time Tiger Woods could walk, he had a golf swing, his father said.
But Earl Woods always denied that he had pushed his son to embrace golf.
"The idea of me as a controlling father is 180 degrees from the truth," he told the British publication Observer Sport in 2002, adding: "It was never a question of me forcing Tiger to play golf. Everything came from him."
In his 1998 book The First Coming -- Tiger Woods: Master or Martyr? John Feinstein said that Earl Woods insisted to a Sports Illustrated reporter in 1996 "that his son had been sent by God and that he would be the most important human ever -- not the most important golfer or the most important athlete, but the most important human."
Woods said that this story was exaggerated.
Earl Dennison Woods was born March 5, 1932, in Manhattan, Kansas, raised there and went to college there -- at Kansas State, which granted him a scholarship as a baseball catcher. At the time he was the only black athlete in the Big Seven (now the Big 12). He earned a degree in sociology in 1953, joined the Army in 1954 and stayed 20 years. He did two tours of duty in Vietnam and attained the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Green Berets. But, he said, "Even in the Army, I was not given a fair and equitable chance."
He first played golf at age 42, three months before he retired from the Army and about a year before Tiger Woods was born. After the Army, he was a corporation executive until he retired in 1988. Later, he was president of the Tiger Woods Foundation.
In addition to Tiger, he is survived by his wife, Kultida; three children from a previous marriage, sons Earl Jr, of Phoenix; Kevin, of Los Angeles; and a daughter, Royce Woods, of San Jose, California; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
It was on his second tour as a military adviser in Vietnam that the name Tiger came to him. It was the nickname he gave to a South Vietnamese lieutenant colonel he had befriended named Vuong Phong. Woods resolved that if he had another son, he would name him Tiger, and that if the son became famous, the original Tiger would make the connection and get in touch.