My Nation brings to you exclusive excerpts from Tiger Woods first major biography, based on three years of extensive research and 400 interviews
If you thought you knew everything about the scandalous double-life of the American golf star that is Tiger Woods, it’s only the surface that you’ve skimmed so far. My Nation brings you exclusive excerpts from his first major biography, based on three years of extensive research and 400 interviews. Two of today’s most acclaimed investigative journalists, Jeff Benedict of Sports Illustrated and eleven-time Emmy Award winner Armen Keteyian get us groundbreaking, behind-the-scenes details from the Shakespearean rise and epic fall of a global icon.
Woods will next compete in the Open Championship at Carnosutie, Scotland (July 19-22), which would be his third major of the season.
Elin had been stunned by the discovery that her husband had cheated on her. But the subsequent litany of new revelations in the aftermath of the crash left her in a state of shock and disbelief. “I felt so stupid as more things were revealed,” Elin said. “How could I not have known anything?” “The feelings of embarrassment were overwhelming. This wasn’t one affair, nor was it two or three; Tiger was a serial philanderer. How could I have been so deceived?”
The departure of Elin and the children forced Tiger to do something he’d always managed to avoid—confront the truth about himself. He had a serious problem, and he needed professional help. Losing corporate sponsors was one thing; losing his family felt entirely different. In a few weeks’ time, the carefully crafted image that had taken thirteen years and hundreds of millions of dollars to build and maintain had been obliterated by his addiction to sex. Without treatment to get the addiction under control, there was no chance of his marriage surviving. Desperate to hold on to Elin, he agreed to check himself into a facility right after Christmas.
“I’m going to be gone for a while.”
As part of his first week in treatment, Tiger underwent a comprehensive diagnostic assessment. It included a brief physical and medical history, followed by a psychiatric evaluation and psychological testing. Perhaps the most valuable diagnostic tool was something called the Sexual Dependency Inventory, or SDI, which gathered information on various sexual behaviors, fantasies, and interests. As part of that assessment, Woods had to put together a time line from childhood to the present day detailing every sexual experience and encounter he could remember, including what his family had taught him about sex and sexual development. Many of the four-hundred-plus questions on the survey were probing and precise: about frequency of masturbation, whether or not he had ever been caught, sexual secrets, desires.
The house no longer felt like a home. Elin and the children were living elsewhere. Butcher paper covered the windows, preventing anyone—especially tabloid photographers—from seeing inside. Self-help books littered the kitchen counter. It had been a month since Tiger had completed inpatient treatment for sex addiction. Now his days consisted of lying low.
He was exercising on his own, hitting golf balls by himself, getting most of his meals from the clubhouse, and going to bed early. He was in marriage counseling and receiving outpatient treatment for sex addiction. He was also meditating on a daily basis in an attempt to reconnect with his Buddhist roots and get himself in the right mind-set to work through a very difficult reconciliation process with his wife. I need to do these things, he told himself.
The worst part was that it seemed like Woods would never escape his past. Shortly after he got out of treatment, Tiger was confronted by one of his longtime neighbors, a twenty-two-year-old college student who was home on spring break. She was distraught and anxious. Approximately a year earlier, in the spring of 2009, Tiger had taken her to his office about a mile from his home and had sex with her. She was looking for closure. With a second mistress identified, Woods hurriedly posted an apology on his website. “I have let my family down, and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart,” he said. “I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves...But for me, the virtue of privacy is one that must be protected in matters that are intimate and within one’s own family.”
Thanks to therapy, Tiger had also begun to look at himself in a more realistic light. His parents had raised him to believe he was “the Chosen One” and trained him to be a “cold-blooded assassin.” But fame had been thrust on him at a very early age, skewing his perspective and damaging him in ways that were impossible to predict and that took years to manifest. In other words, the seeds of his self-destructive, addictive habits were planted long before his marriage to Elin. It took treatment to get him to realize that certain aspects of his life had been a lie.
Treatment also taught Tiger something that changed his modus operandi when it came to women—that he could no longer randomly have sex with someone unless he genuinely felt something for that person. Otherwise, he would be putting himself in serious jeopardy. On an intellectual level, this was easy to understand—but on a practical level, Tiger was facing a monumental challenge. As the world’s most celebrated athlete, he had become accustomed to casual sex with lots of partners. “I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by,” he said. “I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have to go far to find them.”
Woods took a potentially lethal cocktail of drugs—Dilaudid, a controlled substance prescribed for severe pain; Vicodin, another powerful opiate used for pain relief; Xanax, an antianxiety medication also used to help treat sleep deprivation; THC, the active ingredient in marijuana; and Ambien, an anti-insomnia medication—and lost consciousness while behind the wheel of his Mercedes sports car. Shortly after two a.m., an officer from the Jupiter Police Department pulled up behind Tiger’s car, which was stopped in the right-hand lane in the 2900 block of Military Trail, just south of Indian Creek Parkway. Both tires on the driver’s side were blown out, and the rims were damaged. The right blinker was flashing, the brake lights were illuminated, and the engine was still running.
During an eight-year span stretching back to his 2009 SUV crash, Woods had lost his marriage, his reputation, his iconic status, and his health. The sheer height from which he’d fallen would have destroyed most mortals—but Tiger Woods never behaved or reacted the way most people do.
It started with a willingness to face his new reality. In August 2017, he entered a DUI first-offender program. Then, on October 27, surrounded by eight uniformed officers, Woods entered a courtroom in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, accepted full responsibility for his actions, and pleaded guilty to reckless driving. He was put on probation for twelve months and required to submit to regular drug testing, complete DUI school, and perform fifty hours of community service.
On the same weekend when thirty-six-year-old tennis star Roger Federer further redefined the limits of age by winning his twentieth Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open, Woods dominated the headlines by completing a PGA Tour event for the first time in nearly nine hundred days. By the time he finished his round on Sunday, the sports world was experiencing a sense of déjà vu. Final-round ratings for the CBS Sports telecast were up 38 percent from the year before, giving the tournament its best Sunday numbers in five years—since the last time Woods won at Torrey.
Given the depth of his descent into a dark, cavernous hole that has swallowed so many child stars—actors, musicians, athletes—Tiger’s greatest victory was not in golf but rather in his journey back into the light and, for the first time in many years, into life. A changed man, he stood poised to show his children—and a fresh generation of golf pros and fans—just what a living legend looks like.
Excerpted with the permission of Simon & Schuster India.
Last Updated 6:22 PM IST