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Since then, Woods has won three consecutive U.S. Amateurs, three of the PGA tournaments he entered after turning pro last August and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's Sportsman of the Year award, as well as a five-year, $40 million endorsement deal with Nike. Even before Bay Hill, Woods made news this year with a triumphant swing through his mother's native Thailand, an awe-inspiring victory at the Mercedes Championships and a rare show of petulance after an inconsiderate photographer disturbed his concentration. The snit was perfectly understandable given his age and the demands newly placed on him--demands that can't be kept behind gallery ropes, demands that not even Palmer has faced. Woods, after all, carries the hope of both African and Asian Americans, not to mention Nike, and he must deal with much more media than Palmer ever did. And those demands will only increase as his tour proceeds back through golf history, from Palmer's Bay Hill to the Masters created by Jones to Ouimet's U.S. Open. "Tiger has an opportunity to become one of the greatest golfers, or maybe even the greatest golfer, of all time," Palmer recently told Larry Guest of the Orlando Sentinel. "But coming with that is the heavy responsibility to preserve the traditions and integrity of the game that provide him the opportunity."
For his part, Woods is well aware of the example Palmer has set for him. "Arnold has many qualities I look up to, especially the graciousness that comes from the gentleman he is." Hot as he is, Woods would also do well to display the warmth that Palmer often shows his public. When someone pointed out to him on the first tee Thursday that the price tag on his hat was still attached, a la Minnie Pearl, Palmer responded, "That's because I'm going to turn it back in when I finish."