What Is Tiger Woods' Ethnicity? He Says It's 'Cablinasian'

Woods invented the word to describe his multiracial background

Tiger Woods with his parents Kultida and Earl Woods at the Johnnie Walker Classic at Blue Canyon Golf Club, Thailand in 1998
Tiger Woods in 1998, between his parents Kultida and Earl. David Cannon/Getty Images

Like many Americans, Tiger Woods' racial and ethnic background contains multitudes. Which is another way of saying, Woods is multiracial. Woods has described himself as "Cablinasian," a word we explain below.

Woods' mother, Kultida, is a native of Thailand whose own ancestry includes Chinese and Dutch, according to various reports over the years.

Woods' father, Earl, was an African-American whose heritage, according to various sources, also included white, Chinese and Native American ancestors.

So Woods' heritage is predominantly black and Asian, and also includes white and Native American ancestry.

Who Cares About Woods' Ethnicity?

Many people, apparently. Especially when Woods first gained prominence, still in his teens, within the golf world. Tiger was young, gifted and black in a sport that was almost entirely made up of athletes (and media members and fans) who were old(er) and white.

And golf's history with matters of race and ethnicity is not a good one, particularly when it comes to African-Americans. These things are in the past, but into the 1960s the PGA of America had a "Caucasians-only" clause written into its charter. The first black golfer at The Masters didn't play until 1975 and Augusta National didn't allow its first black member until 1990.

There were many public and private golf courses that excluded blacks from playing during the Jim Crow era; some private clubs continued that practice until relatively recent times.

In an early commercial for Nike, Woods said, "There are still courses in the United States that I am not allowed to play on because of the colour of my skin." He received (from some quarters) criticism for that, but it was clearly a true statement at that time.

When Woods first burst onto the pro golf scene in 1996, he was the first victorious black golfer on the PGA Tour in many years.

As seen above, Woods has a multiracial, multi-ethnic family background, and he received repeated questions about race.

Woods was clearly uncomfortable being put in that situation. In 1997, he revealed to the world a word he said he invented years before to describe himself.

Tiger Woods Coins the Term 'Cablinasian'

Woods' first full year as a pro golfer was 1997 (he turned pro late in the 1996 PGA Tour season), and that's the year he revealed the word "Cablinasian."

Appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Woods explained that in his early school days he was asked to put a check mark on forms next to his race. Today, such forms, if they are presented to a person, are likely to include a "multiracial" option. Not back then.

It was as a child, Woods explained to Oprah, that he created the portmanteau Cablinasian:

Caucasian Black Indian (Native American) Asian

Ca + bl + in + Asian = Cablinasian