Did Tiger Woods Legally Change His Real First Name to 'Tiger'?

Tiger Woods at the 2001 Mercedes Championship
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Tiger Woods' first name, his given name at birth, is Eldrick. But Tiger, at some point, legally changed his name from "Eldrick" to "Tiger"? Some golfers believe that claim to be true. Is it?

This is one of those things we'll classify as a "golf urban legend." (But since we're talking about golf, is the appropriate term "suburban legend"?)

The answer is no: Woods never legally changed his name to Tiger. Tiger has always been, and remains, a nickname, despite its ubiquitous use when referring to Woods.

But there's a reason some people believe — or at least believed at one time — this story: A prominent figure in the golf world once believe it himself and gave the story a public airing.

A Major Golf Figure Once Seemed to Confirm the Name-Change Story

The Eldrick-to-Tiger rumor had been around for years after Woods turned pro, but it was in 2007 that the story appeared to be given some credence by a notable golf figure.

That golf figure was Peter Kostis, today still one of the USA's top golf instructors and better-known for his work as an on-course reporter and swing analyst for CBS Sports' golf broadcasts.

Back in 2007, writing in a "mailbag" feature on the CBS Sports Web site, Kostis told an emailer that "Tiger changed his name legally several years ago. Eldrick no long exists."

The "years ago" reference was to earlier rumors about when Woods, allegedly, had legally changed his first name from "Eldrick" to "Tiger." According to that story, when Woods turned 21, in late 1996, he filed the paperwork, putting "Eldrick" to bed and transforming Tiger from his nickname to his actual name.

But It's Not True: Eldrick Lives On

No documentation or verification that such a legal name change actually took place ever came to light.

And when Woods' marriage to Elin Nordegren ended in divorce in 2010, the divorce papers, which became public record, all referred to Woods by his full, given name: Eldrick Tont Woods. Had Woods ever legally changed his name to Tiger, those legal documents would have used "Tiger" rather than "Eldrick."

Also note that the bio section of Tiger's official Web site (tigerwoods.com) lists Tiger's name as "Eldrick (Tiger) Woods."

So this is one golf urban legend that is, in fact, busted: Tiger Woods never legally changed his name to "Tiger." He is now and always has been Eldrick.