TIGER AT 40

Tiger's 40 Biggest Moments: No. 4 - The 2009 Sex Scandal

Tiger's 40 Biggest Moments: The Scandal
Sports Illustrated senior writer Michael Bamberger talks about the circumstances and fallout surrounding Tiger Woods' 2009 sex scandal. 

Over 40 days, GOLF.com is rolling out Tiger Woods' 40 biggest moments. Our ranking started on Nov. 21 and will culminate on Dec. 30, which is Tiger's 40th birthday. That's 40 Tiger moments. In 40 days. Ranked. Click here to learn more about our list.

Tiger's 40 Biggest Moments: No. 4 - The 2009 Sex Scandal

 

The legend of Tiger Woods, as we knew it, crumbled forever on Thanksgiving night in 2009. That's when Tiger started an unprecedented four-month run as the world's No. 1 gossip item in what has simply been called The Scandal.

It began with a domestic squabble—Tiger’s wife, Elin Nordegren, used his cell phone to confirm that he had a mistress, the same Rachel Uchitel mentioned in a National Enquirer exposé a day earlier as Tiger’s girlfriend. You remember the rest. Nordegren chased Woods out of their Windermere, Fla., mansion, apparently smashing in a few windows on the black Cadillac Escalade that Woods promptly smashed into a fire hydrant. (He later paid a $164 traffic citation for the incident; Uchitel was rumored to have received $1 million for canceling a tell-all press conference scheduled by her lawyer, Gloria Allred.

The Scandal unraveled in the months to follow. Tiger was a multiple womanizer, it turned out. Almost daily, there seemed to be a new addition to a parade of mistresses, including a porn star, a waitress at a local Perkins restaurant and the daughter of a neighbor who met him at least once in Tiger’s garage.

Woods hid from the public and the paparazzi for two months, one of the most remarkable feats of his career. That exile meant he had to skip the Chevron World Challenge, a tournament he hosted.

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It wasn’t pretty, but this episode defined the modern media storm as Internet and social media outlets often beat the mainstream media with Tiger news -- often it was unsourced and sometimes untrue, and made it clear we had entered a brave (and not very attractive) new world in journalism. It was a feeding frenzy unlike anything ever seen in golf, and maybe in any sport. Woods was the top story of the day, every day, almost without interruption, and was a frequent punchline in late-night talk-show humor.

Tiger’s daughter, Sam, was 2, and his son, Charlie, was still a newborn when The Scandal broke.

Tiger was finally sighted at a sex addiction clinic in Mississippi and in February delivered a televised, carefully scripted and stilted apology in which he told a select audience of Friends of Tiger in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., that he “was deeply sorry.” A number of his sponsors dropped him, including Accenture, Gatorade and Gillette. Nordegren went on to divorce him later in 2010.

Woods returned to golf in April to compete in the Masters. He did better than some expected while tying for fourth place, and slowly and carefully worked his way back into competitive golf.

Six years later, his air of invincibility as a golfer gone, and he hasn’t won a major title since.

Check back on GOLF.com every day until Tiger's birthday on Dec. 30 for a new moment in our TIGER@40 countdown.

No. 5: The Drop at the 2013 Masters

No. 6: Completing the Tiger Slam at the 2001 Masters

No. 7: Dueling with Bob May in 2000 PGA Championship

No. 8: Winning '05 Masters Over Chris DiMarco

No. 9: Winning '06 British for Earl

No. 10: Ace at 1997 Phoenix Open

No. 11: Y.E. Yang Beats Tiger at 2009 PGA

No. 12: Charles Pierce's GQ Cover Story

No. 13: Battling Sergio at the 1999 PGA Championship

No. 14: Outdueling Sergio, Phil at ’02 Open

No. 15: Seven Straight Tour Wins in ’06-‘07

No. 16: Hello, World

No. 17: ’Better Than Most’ at 2001 Players Championship

No. 18: Winning the 2000 British Open at St. Andrews by 8

No. 19: Winning SI Sportsman of the Year in 1996

No. 20: Return from Scandal at 2010 Masters

No. 21: Winning Third Straight U.S. Amateur Title

No. 22: The Apology Press Conference

No. 23: Shot from Fairway Bunker at 2000 Canadian Open

No. 24: Passes Nicklaus in Career PGA Tour Wins

No. 25: Signs First Deal With Nike

No. 26: Knee Surgery After 2008 U.S. Open

No. 27: Winning Back-to-Back Masters

No. 28: Launching the Tiger Woods Foundation

No. 29: Becoming a Father for the First Time

No. 30: Ugly Breakup With Steve Williams

No. 31: First U.S. Amateur Win at TPC Sawgrass

No. 32: Wire-to-Wire British Open Win at St. Andrews in 2005

No. 33: Relationship With Lindsey Vonn

No. 34: Third Straight U.S. Junior Am Title

No. 35: A Shot in the Dark at Firestone

No. 36: Television Debut at Age 2

No. 37: Breakup with Hank Haney After Six Years

No. 38: Disastrous 2004 Ryder Cup Pairing with Phil Mickelson

No. 39: Beats Stephen Ames 9&8 in 2006 Cadillac Match Play

No. 40: Wins 2008 Arnold Palmer Invitational with Dramatic Putt

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