The night Tiger Woods was exposed as a serial cheater
The life and career of the world’s greatest golfer fell apart with the swing of a club — and it wasn’t even his swing.
Four years ago this Thanksgiving, Tiger Woods’ wife, Elin Nordegren, chased him out of the house with a golf club after learning he’d been unfaithful.
She thought there was another woman, maybe two. Nordegren — along with the rest of the world — had no idea. In the years since, details have trickled out about what really happened that night.
Top of the world
Less than two weeks prior, Woods had won his first event in Australia, the Masters, by two strokes. Since 1999, not a year had gone by without him winning at least one golf major championship, and he won 14 majors from 1997 to 2008. In April 2009, he was photographed in the Oval Office meeting President Obama. On Oct. 1, Forbes named him the first athlete to earn $1 billion.
Woods was considered the greatest golfer of all time and a uniquely American success story, a multi-ethnic superstar dominating a historically white sport. He had a beautiful wife, a former model in Sweden who had been working as nanny to golf star Jesper Parnevik when she met Woods at the 2001 British Open. They had two children — daughter Sam, then 2, and newborn son Charlie — and a wholesome image that netted him $110 million in endorsements. He was 33 years old.
On Nov. 26, 2009, Woods and Nordegren, then 29, were hosting his mother for Thanksgiving at their $2.4 million mansion in Windermere, Fla., near Orlando.
The day before, at the Albertsons supermarket around the corner, the new edition of the National Enquirer was freshly slotted in the checkout racks. The banner headline read “Tiger Woods Cheating Scandal.” Inside was a spread detailing Woods’ months-long affair with a New York City nightclub hostess named Rachel Uchitel. She’d been photographed checking into the same hotel as Woods during the Australian Masters and was quoted as telling a friend: “It’s Tiger Woods! I don’t care about his wife! We’re in love!”
Wielding a golf club, Elin Nordegren chased after an Ambien-addled Tiger Woods outside their home in 2009.
David Cannon/Getty Images
Sources close to Nordegren later told The Daily Beast that on Nov. 24, one day before the Enquirer hit stands, Woods put his wife on the phone with Uchitel, who insisted there was no truth to the imminent story. Nordegren and Uchitel spoke for 30 minutes.
Woods was satisfied; Nordegren was not. That afternoon, Woods left his cellphone unattended, and Nordegren scrolled through his call history. She found another name, Jaimee Grubbs, and called her. Nordegren got voice mail. She left a message.
“You know who this is,” Nordegren said, “because you are f- -king my husband.”
Nordegren didn’t tell Woods, and when he retrieved his phone, he, too, called Grubbs.
His call also went to voice mail.
“Hey, it’s, uh . . . it’s Tiger,” he said. “Can you please take your name off your phone? My wife went through my phone and, uh, may be calling you. So if you can, please take your name off that. And, um . . . just have it as a number on the voice mail. OK? You got to do this for me. Huge. Quickly. All right, bye.”
Over the next two days, Nordegren said nothing. But she read the Enquirer’s story and was shaken by the detail: Her husband had met Uchitel in June, four months after the birth of their son, at a club in New York City. Uchitel, who appeared on the front page of The Post after her fiancé was killed on 9/11, had had an affair with the actor David Boreanaz while his wife was pregnant. Uchitel’s pet name for Woods was “Bear.” She’d shown friends sexts Woods had sent and claimed Woods was getting a divorce.
‘I knew it was you’
On Thanksgiving night, after Woods, an insomniac, took an Ambien and fell asleep, Nordegren took his phone and scrolled for Uchitel’s number.
She clicked on it and found a text from her husband: “You are the only one I’ve ever loved.”
It was now 1 a.m. on Friday, and Nordegren, described by friends as an exceptionally controlled person, thought for a moment. How could she be sure to catch her husband in this lie?
She began texting Uchitel — as Woods.
“I miss you,” Nordegren wrote. “When are we seeing each other again?”
Uchitel replied immediately, expressing surprise that Woods was up.
Nordegren called Uchitel immediately. “I knew it was you,” she said. “I know everything.”
“Oh, f- -k,” Uchitel said. She hung up.
Nordegren’s screaming woke up Woods. He was woozy, but he grabbed his cellphone and ran to the bathroom, locking himself in and texting Uchitel.
“She knows,” he wrote. “I’m going to be packing.” He told her it looked like divorce.
Nordegren was still yelling at Woods, demanding he come out. When he emerged minutes later, she swiped the cellphone, took one look at his last sent message — “divorce” — and exploded. She threw it at Woods, chipping his tooth. She pummeled his chest and scratched his face. He wrested himself away, and Nordegren reached for the nearest weapon — a golf club — and began chasing him.
Woods tore out of the house barefoot, Elin in hot pursuit, their shouts waking the neighbors. “You’ve ruined our Thanksgiving!” Woods yelled, still running. “Are you happy now?”
He hopped into his 2009 Escalade; she dashed to a golf cart. It was 2:25 a.m. Woods pulled out of the driveway at 30 mph, crushed some hedges, careened into a curb, then hit a fire hydrant before smashing into a tree. He wound up in the street, unconscious, bloody and snoring. A neighboring couple ran over, and there was Nordegren, with the golf club, the Escalade’s two back windows smashed out.
“Help us,” she said.
Wall of silence
Woods was knocked out for six minutes; a neighbor called 911. According to Windermere Police Chief Daniel Saylor, officers found Nordegren “frantic” and “upset.” Woods was still on the ground, but now he had a pillow and a blanket. He was sliding in and out of consciousness, with cuts to his lips, blood pooling in his mouth. He tried to talk but made no sense; he’d also taken Vicodin.
While waiting for an ambulance, Nordegren told police it was a simple car accident — she’d been in the mansion when she heard the crash. She ran out, got in her golf cart, and when she realized it was her husband in the car, she used the golf club to extricate him.
The cops seemed skeptical.
“She supposedly got him out and laid him on the ground,” Saylor said. (Woods is 6-foot-1, 185 pounds; Nordegren is 5-foot-10 and 135 pounds.)
When the ambulance arrived, Nordegren ran back inside to get socks and shoes for Woods; when she tried to ride with him, a paramedic blocked her. The police report says she was told this looked like a domestic disturbance. Woods’ condition was listed as “serious.”
Woods was taken to Health Central Hospital, where he was treated and released. When investigators returned to the home that Friday evening, a little before 6, Nordegren invited them in and said she’d get her husband. She returned a few minutes later and said Woods was sleeping; she suggested they come by the next day at 3 p.m.
As officers pulled into the driveway that Saturday, Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, met them outside and said his client was indisposed. They should come back tomorrow at 3 p.m.
But before that meeting, investigators got a call from an attorney for Woods who said the couple would not be cooperating. Investigators petitioned for a subpoena: They wanted access to Woods’ medical records from that night. A judge denied the request, and the most the cops could do was issue a $164 ticket for careless driving.
Bimbo in every port
Uchitel hired Gloria Allred as the scandal blew up and scheduled a press conference. It was canceled. Reports circulated that Woods had paid her $10 million to keep quiet.
Had he only been more generous, perhaps Woods could have avoided what came next — the onslaught of porn stars, strippers, escorts and party girls who said they, too, had been having sex with Tiger. But as an increasingly astonished public learned, Woods also was really cheap, only ever buying one mistress a sandwich at Subway.
That mistress was Mindy Lawton, a diner waitress who said she and Woods had sex at his family’s home in Florida and in his Escalade, in a church parking lot, tossing her tampon out the window. There was also porn star Holly Sampson, who had sex with Woods the night of his bachelor party, and her colleague Joslyn James, who said she’d gotten pregnant by Woods more than once. Exotic dancer Cori Rist revealed Woods loved eating Froot Loops while watching cartoons. Grubbs said she’d texted Woods the day after the crash, saying she’d be devastated if anything happened to him, but she never heard back and when she tried to call, the number was out of service.
By Dec. 11, 2009, two weeks after Woods’ accident, the number of known mistresses was up to 14. He lost endorsements with Nike, Gatorade, Gillette and Accenture — the latter alone earning him between $10 million and $15 million a year. He announced he was taking a leave from golf and on Nov. 30, he pulled out of the Chevron World Challenge.
By the end of the month, Woods had entered rehab for sex addiction.
Nordegren used the time to renegotiate her prenup and mull her marriage. The day after the accident, Woods had reportedly told a friend that Nordegren had “gone ghetto” on him and that he needed to “run to Zales and get a Kobe special — a house on a finger,” referring to caught-cheating NBA star Kobe Bryant’s gift to his wife.
Woods’ golf game fell apart, and his career has never fully recovered. He now earns about $54 million in endorsements — half of what he made pre-scandal, Forbes says — and has not won a major tournament since.
Woods reportedly confessed to sleeping with 120 women, but sources close to Nordegren say she remained on the fence about leaving him until April 2010, when a 15th mistress was revealed. Her name was Raychel Coudriet. She was a daughter of the couple next door and first met Woods when she was only 14.