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The way to handle a raging phenomenon such as Tiger Woods is the same way one would handle a real tiger: Carefully.

And the man holding the tail is Hughes Norton, senior corporate VP at International Management Group who manages Mr. Woods' career. So far, Mr. Norton has not only been able to hang on, but even steer the direction of Mr. Woods.

"I've never seen anything like this. It's absolutely frenetic," says Mr. Norton, one week after his 21-year-old client became the youngest golfer ever to win The Masters.

Advised by his father, Earl, and Mr. Norton, Mr. Woods is being positioned as the multicultural messiah of a predominantly white, upper-crust game. He's launched the Tiger Woods Foundation-funded by his sponsors, Nike, Titleist, All-Star Cafe, American Express and, soon, a watch marketer-which will stage six clinics this year to inspire underprivileged youths to take up golf.

So far, Mr. Woods hasn't hurt for exposure. In the last year, he has appeared on the covers of Newsweek and Time, Business Week and Fortune, even GQ. He was Sports Illustrated's 1996 "sportsman of the year."

Nike alone has made him a star, with his first commercials sparking controversy by making Mr. Woods' ethnic identity and an as-yet unproven greatness the crux of his commercial persona. The Masters made Nike look prophetic.

Mr. Norton isn't rushing his client to Madison Avenue. He approaches marketing Tiger as if he were a brand, one that will have a shelf-life of some 30 years and can't risk commercial burn-out early on.

"That's not who Tiger is anyway," says Mr. Norton, adding that Tiger has already turned down several deals, fearing such obligations will cut into his practice time.

He can afford to be patient: Nike and Titleist will pay out $60 million over the next five years.

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