Woods voices disgust at lack of black players

A look down the entry list of the US Open merely underlines the huge obstacle Tiger Woods has conquered in his 29 years: he was the first and remains the only African American on tour. But until yesterday the golfing world did not know how gigantic - and how sickening - this was.

A look down the entry list of the US Open merely underlines the huge obstacle Tiger Woods has conquered in his 29 years: he was the first and remains the only African American on tour. But until yesterday the golfing world did not know how gigantic - and how sickening - this was.

"I became aware of my racial identity on my first day of school, on my first day of kindergarten," revealed Woods. "A group of sixth-graders [11-year-olds] tied me to a tree, spray-painted the word 'nigger' on me and threw rocks at me. That was my first day of school. And the teacher really didn't do much of anything.

"I used to live across the street from school and kind of down the way a little bit. The teacher said, 'OK, just go home'. So I had to outrun all these kids going home, which I was able to do. It was certainly an eye-opening experience. You know, being five years old and everything."

This account, in Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man? - a book written by Woods' good friend, the basketball superstar Charles Barkley - put the countdown to this week's 105th US Open into perspective.

"You know I am disappointed that it's my 10th year on tour and I'm still the only African American out here," he said. "I thought there would be more of us by now. But it's a matter of getting a big enough player base. A lot of kids don't have the opportunity yet to practice and play around the country in junior golf or amateur events."

Woods did express his "excitement at all the kids playing golf in college", and how different it was to when he was growing up.

"For some reason all the white kids who were 10 and under were allowed to play, though I wasn't," he recalled of the US Navy course on which he spent his youth.

"I had people who were older - and I don't know if they were servicemen or retired or active or just guests - use the 'n' word with me numerous times."

That still happens, of course, but not to Woods and definitely not at the US Open, where he remains the firm favourite on more than the bookmakers' boards.

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