NEARLY TWO decades before The Woods Jupiter plated its first ceviche—and months before its namesake won his first green jacket—Tiger took his first round through the restaurant industry. In December 1996 the 20-year-old, freshly crowned PGA Rookie of the Year, invested in the Official All Star Cafe, a chain of sportscentric eateries whose partners included Joe Montana and Wayne Gretzky. At that month's Las Vegas opening, Woods celebrated by sprawling himself in the arms of new business partners Monica Seles, Andre Agassi, Shaquille O'Neal and Ken Griffey Jr.
The initial Official All Star Cafe had opened a year earlier, in New York City, near the peak time of a 1990s fad: the themed restaurant. In '91, Hard Rock CEO Robert Earl had left to found Planet Hollywood; as that venture grew, he announced plans for a sports bar on steroids. The two-level, 34,000-square-foot All Star Cafe in Times Square—featuring a TV-saturated, stadium-inspired dining area, patrolled by a miniature blimp—was loaded with memorabilia, from Agassi's ponytail to Babe Ruth's camel-hair coat. It quickly became a go-to site for press conferences and charity benefits, and franchises sprouted from Cancun to Waikiki.
Alas, the Cafe did sizzle better than steak. The Orlando Sentinel declared diners would "be better off with a hot dog from a stadium vendor." In 2000, with the company in debt, Woods and three other investors sued to end their endorsement deals and to have their likenesses removed from menus and their keepsakes from exhibits. By then only the Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Orlando outposts remained; the latter proved the final, star-crossed holdout, finally going under in 2007.