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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Record Amateur Victory Catapaults Tiger to Pros

COMBINED REPORTS


CORNELIUS, Oregon -- Tiger Woods has played his last competitive round as an amateur golfer, he announced Tuesday.


Woods, who won an unprecedented third consecutive U.S. Amateur title Sunday, made the announcement in a statement released through the Greater Milwaukee Open, where he will play this weekend.


"This is to confirm that, as of now, I am a professional golfer," Woods said. He declined further comment until a press conference Wednesday, saying he wanted to practice without distraction Tuesday in Milwaukee.


Woods, a 20-year-old student at Stanford University in California, is the most heralded player to come out of the amateur ranks since Jack Nicklaus 35 years ago. And because times are different, Woods will receive endorsement riches never dreamed of by a golfer.


In addition to his enormous talent, Woods is extremely marketable because of his youth, good looks, intelligence and his ethnic background -- his father is black and his mother was born in Thailand.


Woods had earlier accepted a sponsor's exemption to Milwaukee and to next month's Quad Cities Open, saying he would play in both events as an amateur before his third year of college starts in late September.


Butch Harmon, a Houston teaching pro who serves as Woods' coach, said Woods had asked him if his game was good enough to play in the pros. Harmon said he answered in the affirmative.


"The only player I can compare him to at comparable stages of their careers is Jack Nicklaus," Harmon said. "Like Nicklaus, he has tremendous length, tremendous touch and tremendous focus and concentration."


And also like Nicklaus, Woods is getting a head start on how to become a millionaire. Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, and Ely Callaway, who founded Callaway Golf, were in Woods' gallery at the U.S. Amateur.


Nike has long coveted Woods as a client.`The New York Times reported Tuesday that he had signed a $40 million, five-year deal with sporting apparel company Nike.


Professional golf is a fertile ground for endorsement income for its top stars. In addition a clothing and apparel company Woods will be paid to play a certain brand of clubs, a certain brand of ball, wear corporate logos on his shirt and on his headgear.


Callaway said he isn't surprised that Woods has chosen to go pro, considering the money available, but thought it might a premature decision.


"First of all, he can do what he wants to do, but my personal opinion is he would be better off finishing up at Stanford," Callaway said. "He's going to be a great golfer forever."


But after Woods won his third straight U.S. Amateur, there was little left for him to prove on the amateur level. ()