THE BOOK OF REVELATIONS
Three long years in the making and with the insights of more than 400 people, many speaking on the record for the first time, the new book Tiger Woods presents the most comprehensive portrait of the world’s greatest golfer ever written. A boy both blessed and cursed, Tiger Woods reveals the human being long hidden behind the golfing genius, charting his rise, fall and rebirth in painstaking detail. Here, in an exclusive excerpt, we select six of our favourite tales.
Tiger’s halo effect was also clearly evident on the PGA Tour’s negotiations with its network partners and tournament sponsors. When Woods turned pro in 1996, total purses amounted to $68 million per year. By 2001, the number had swelled to $175 million. In 2003, it would jump to $225 million. But perhaps the biggest indication of Tiger’s ability to draw ratings was the Monday Night Golf matchups that IMG had put together with ABC Sports. The second instalment, billed as the “Battle at Bighorn,” pitted Tiger against Sergio García at the luxurious Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, California, near the end of the 2000 season. The headto-head contest drew a (TV) rating of 7.6, the highest in the series. Remarkably, nearly eight million viewers tuned in on a Monday night in late August to watch García and Woods compete in prime time. But when García edged Tiger by a single shot to claim the $1 million prize, Woods was so upset that the future of the series was in jeopardy.
Losing out on a million bucks was one thing – the blow was softened by his guaranteed $1 million appearance fee – but Tiger didn’t like for his status to be threatened. The last thing he wanted was to give García the slightest hope that he could beat him when it counted, on Sunday in a major. So he told IMG’s Barry Frank, the creator of Monday Night Golf, that he was done. Finished. Quitting the series.
Frank had played more than his fair share of hardball at negotiating tables around the world. He knew bullsh*t when he heard it, and this was no bullsh*t. Woods was the drawing card. Without him, Monday Night Golf was history. But Frank hadn’t negotiated record-breaking rights deals without having a flair for the dramatic and knowing how to keep a card or two in his back pocket. He played those cards now with Woods and Team Tiger. What about a change in format, Frank suggested. Mixed teams? Fourball instead of match play? “That way,” he told Woods, “if you don’t win, it’s not your fault.” Eventually, Tiger agreed to a new format that ensured none of his rivals would have a chance to beat him one-on-one in prime time. The next year, Tiger and Annika Sörenstam edged David Duval and Karrie Webb in nineteen holes. Then, in 2002, Tiger and Jack Nicklaus defeated García and Lee Trevino 3&2. On it went. IMG and ABC profited, and so did Tiger. Over the course of seven years of Monday Night Golf matches, Frank estimated that Tiger earned at least $10 million in prize money and guarantees from the show.
Frank never expected to be loved by Tiger, but he wanted to be liked, and, more than anything, to be respected. In an interview at his home in Connecticut in the summer of 2015, Frank made clear that Woods had never been unkind or rude, and never owed him anything. But at the same time, Frank said they had never shared what he called an intimate moment, such as a celebratory drink or lunch, and Woods had never once offered a single word of thanks for everything Frank had done for him. Sitting on the back deck of his sprawling ranch home, Frank was asked if Woods respected him. A long pause ensued before Frank, who was celebrating his eighty-third birthday, answered.
“No,” he finally said. “I think I was just another Jew doing what he was paid to do. That I owed him more than he owed me.”
‘When Woods turned pro in 1996, total purses amounted to $68m a year. By 2001, it had swelled to $175m. And by 2003, to $225m’
As Tiger’s private plane made its descent into Las Vegas in the dark, the cluster of new megaresorts below came into view. The Mirage, Bellagio, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, the Venetian – their shimmering lights seemed to be winking at him. For Tiger, Vegas had become a familiar place, a home away from home. He frequently went there to work with Butch Harmon, who had relocated his golf school to nearby Henderson. Tiger’s trainer, Keith Kleven, an acquaintance from his Stanford days who was helping him build up his endurance, strength, flexibility, and speed, also lived there. But by the summer of 2001, Woods’ primary purpose for going to the desert was to escape. His destination of choice was the MGM Grand, and he had a system that enabled him to get there without detection.
It helped that Tiger never travelled with a huge entourage. Upon arrival, he would step from his private plane into a limo that delivered him to the Mansion, an ultra-exclusive Italian-themed enclave of twenty-nine villas tucked behind the MGM. Using a secluded alley entrance, Tiger would duck into an elevator that took him to a private floor, where his luxury suite awaited. Once inside, he could stay for days, and no one in the outside world would know he was there. A personal VIP host was at his service, ready to deliver most anything upon request – fine cuisine, a corner table, endless rounds of free drinks, exotic women, and, most of all, absolute discretion. That’s what made Vegas so attractive. It was his private playground, a place where he could indulge without fear of scrutiny, what locals called being “in the bubble.” When it opened in the spring of 1999, the Mansion was billed as an invitation-only high-rollers’ paradise promising “beyond attentive” service and absolute privacy. It was just what Tiger craved, and he had no trouble gaining access to it. Villas were doled out like four-carat diamonds, reserved for “whales”– casino-speak for gamblers with credit lines of $100,000 and above.
Tiger wasted little time becoming a whale. He’d always been a numbers guy, and he easily took to gambling in the late nineties when he started betting $100 a hand at blackjack and established a $25,000 credit limit that steadily increased over time. After a few years, Woods would routinely play $20,000 per hand, often on two or more hands at a time. His credit line at the MGM reached $1 million; only about a hundred gamblers in the country had that kind of limit.
Unlike a lot of celebrities who went to casinos to party, Tiger approached gambling the way he approached golf. He was there to win, and he often did. Industry insiders in Vegas referred to Tiger as “a sharp,” meaning he took a very smart, calculated approach to his bets and consistently won more than he lost. He thought nothing of walking away with half a million in winnings, and he didn’t chase big losses.
Tiger’s attitudes toward money and people were already well ingrained. Even when a meal was free – and it almost always was – Tiger rarely left a decent tip. And as far as tipping doormen, bellmen, and valets? It got to the point where PGA Tour representatives were often quietly leaving $100 tips on Tiger’s behalf with locker room attendants at Tour stops to keep his parsimonious ways out of the press. For Tiger, even the most basic human civilities – a simple hello or thank you – routinely went missing from his vocabulary. A nod was too much to expect. Tiger didn’t learn all of this behaviour from his good friend, NBA superstar Michael Jordan, a frequent – and not particularly beloved – visitor to Vegas. If anything, this sense of entitlement had been originally authored by Earl. Tiger’s relationship with Jordan simply provided reinforcement.
“When Tiger got famous, he got mean,” said a former nightclub owner.
‘Tiger’s credit in Vegas was $1m – only 100 gamblers in the US had such a limit’
While Elin was overseas, Tiger went to Vegas, where he remained for a VIP bash celebrating the grand opening of Light, an upscale nightclub inside Steve Wynn’s Bellagio hotel. Tiger’s go-to guy at the Mansion had set him up with an allexpenses-paid comp. Previously, Tiger had hung out with Barkley and Jordan at places like Drink or the bar at P.F. Chang’s. Light, however, was a whole new scene, the kind of place that literally put the “sin” in Sin City. It catered to a young, hip crowd with money to burn, and offered – for a $300 fee – premium white-glove treatment and a chance to party with A-list stars.
With little more than a nod, a VIP could have his host escort a woman from the dance floor and discreetly deliver her to his table. Light’s runaway success spawned similar nightspots, each trying to be more exclusive and seductive than the last. But the opening of Light marked the first time that the casino industry had embraced an upscale nightclub that catered to the rich and famous, and it quickly became Tiger’s destination of choice. “It was absolutely crazy, out of control,” said one long-time Vegas insider who partied at the club alongside Woods.
One night not long after the grand opening, Tiger and another high-profile athlete had settled into their VIP table, in a back corner just off the dance floor, when they noticed a couple of attractive young women partying at a nearby table. A request was made, and a VIP host approached the ladies with the magic words: “Tiger Woods would like you at his table.” The brunette and her blonde friend got up as if shot out of a cannon. Later, they accompanied Tiger and the other athlete up to a suite at the Bellagio, where they slipped into a hot tub. At one point, Woods took the brunette by the hand and led her out of the hot tub. Avoiding the various bedrooms, he instead walked her straight into a closet and had his way with her in the dark. The rough nature of the encounter shocked the brunette. She left wondering why he couldn’t have at least taken her to a bed.
Hank Haney knew he was dealing with more than a world-famous golfer. He considered Tiger’s mastery of every facet of the game – right down to the equipment he used – downright intimidating. For instance, according to Kel Devlin, Nike’s global marketing manager for golf, the company had recently shipped a box of prototype titanium drivers to Woods so he could test them. There were six in total. After putting the drivers through their paces, Tiger told Devlin that he preferred the one that was heavier than the others. Devlin informed him that all six drivers were the exact same weight. Tiger argued otherwise, insisting that one weighed more than the others. To prove him wrong, Devlin sent the drivers back to the design wizards at the Nike testing facility in Fort Worth with instructions to weigh them. They found that five drivers were exactly the same weight, but the sixth was two grams heavier. When they pulled the club apart, they discovered that an extra dab of goo had been added to the inside of the head by one of the engineers to help absorb a few floating particles of titanium. The weight of the goo was equivalent to the weight of two one-dollar bills. Yet Tiger noticed the difference in the way the driver felt in his hands.
With stories such as that in mind, Haney understood that it wasn’t wise to consider Tiger his student. He knew Woods was testing him, and he wasn’t about to get off on the wrong foot by arguing with him. As Tiger started to hit balls, they talked about the fact that he wasn’t consistently able to get his upper body to rotate fast enough on his downswing. The other thing they worked on was getting Tiger’s eyes to stay level through his swing. Woods’ intensity on the practice range was beyond anything Haney had ever experienced. He proceeded gently through this first session. By the time he returned home, Haney had an agreement with Tiger to continue working with him. Haney would be earning $50,000 per year – the same amount Tiger had paid Harmon – and would receive a $25,000 bonus each time Tiger won a major championship.
Later that week, Tiger played in the Bay Hill Invitational. After a strong first round, he played poorly, shooting 74, 74, and 73 to finish tied for forty-sixth place. In his press conference afterward, he said that he was very excited about what he had worked on earlier in the week and that 90 per cent of his game was good. But what he said publicly was almost always different from what he really felt.
When Haney showed up at Isleworth the next day for his second round of practice sessions, Tiger was already on the range, hitting balls. He didn’t look up when Haney reached the tee. Nor did he respond when Haney pointed out a few things he had noticed in Tiger’s swing during the Bay Hill Invitational. A couple of compliments from Haney didn’t faze Tiger either. Silence was his way of sending a message. It was also his method for assessing weakness.
“I’m not sure what you’re doing here,” Haney finally said. “But I guess you’re trying to knock me off my spot. I know what you need to do to get better. I know what your plan needs to be. So if you’re trying to knock me off my spot, it’s not going to happen.” Tiger still didn’t acknowledge him, but when Haney suggested some new drills, he immediately executed them with passion and precision. The practice session was solid. The next day’s session was even better. But Tiger stayed in silent mode, providing instant clarity to something Butch Harmon had said to Haney the first time he saw him after being succeeded as Tiger’s coach. “Hank, good luck,” Harmon told him. “It’s a tough team to be on. And it’s harder than it looks.”
‘When Hank Haney showed up on the range, Tiger didn’t even look up. “I guess you’re trying to knock me off my spot,” he told Tiger’
The only thing that seemed to be a consistent source of inspiration was Tiger’s foundation and a new education initiative. Back on 9/11, when he was in St. Louis preparing to play in the WGC– American Express Championship, the tournament was abruptly cancelled. With flights grounded, Woods rounded up a rental car and started driving toward Orlando and home. Alone on the highway for fifteen hours, he had a lot of time to contemplate what mattered in his life. With the country reeling in the immediate aftermath of the deadliest terrorist attack in American history, Tiger felt inspired to do something more in the world. He didn’t have a clear vision, but he knew he wanted to focus his efforts on helping young people, and he began to see that the Tiger Woods Foundation, as then constructed, was not the best vehicle. A phone call to his father led to a brainstorming session. By the time Woods reached home, he had decided to change the focus of his foundation from golf clinics – which had become something of a circus act and had little lasting impact – and grants to community groups to something more meaningful and lasting: education.
The result was a four-year effort to fund and construct the Tiger Woods Learning Center, a state-of-the-art facility focused on teaching science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to underprivileged children. The thirty-five-thousand-square-foot flagship building was constructed near his childhood home in Anaheim, a city with a high percentage of minority and low-income students.
With the grand opening scheduled for February 2006, Woods was looking to generate publicity. His foundation requested that former first lady Barbara Bush attend as a guest of honour, but after initially accepting the invitation, she had to cancel. Tiger’s team then approached California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, but he was unable to fit the event into his schedule. His wife, television correspondent Maria Shriver, was suggested instead, but she was not quite what the foundation was looking for in terms of star power. With time running out, Executive Director Greg McLaughlin called Casey Wasserman, a prominent entertainment and sports industry executive based in Los Angeles and the grandson of legendary Hollywood mogul Lew Wasserman. Casey, in turn, reached out to attorney Doug Band, Bill Clinton’s long-time counsellor. Band couldn’t help seeing the irony in Tiger’s asking Clinton for a favour.
“Did they tell you the story?” Band asked Wasserman.
The story, of course, involved the Jackie Robinson ceremony snub back in 1997, sparking a schism between Clinton and Woods that was later widened by a subsequent President’s Cup incident in which Clinton walked into the US team’s locker room only to see Tiger walk out. Later, Woods refused to have his picture taken with Clinton when the victorious American team visited the White House. For these reasons, Tiger was sure Clinton would never go for it. The ex-president, he insisted, hated him. Woods never let a slight go, and he assumed Clinton operated the same way.
However, after much wrangling, the former president’s people came back and said Clinton would be amenable to an appearance under certain conditions: Tiger had to personally call and make the request; as an icebreaker, he wanted to play a round of golf with Woods in Orange County when he came out for the event; and he needed a private plane to travel to the West Coast.
After several moments of whining, Tiger got over his reluctance and made the call. A gracious Clinton put him at ease, and the event and golf game were scheduled. Wasserman had already agreed to provide a private plane, so the deal was done.
“Wow, that was easy,” Woods told everyone after hanging up.
‘When President Clinton hit a wayward drive, Woods sniggered, then proceeded to tell a series of off-colour jokes and be obnoxious’
On the day before the official opening of the learning centre, Woods met Clinton, Doug Band, sports agent Arn Tellum, and Wasserman for the promised round of golf at Shady Canyon Country Club in Irvine. Tiger was having breakfast with McLaughlin in the clubhouse when Tellum and Wasserman approached. At that point, Woods had never met either man.
Dispensing with introductions, Tiger wanted to know if the president had arrived. When told Clinton was on his way, Woods replied with a straight face, “I can’t wait to talk about p*ssy.”
According to an eyewitness, the situation got even more awkward after Clinton arrived. Tiger’s behaviour did nothing to bridge the gap between him and Clinton. At the outset, Clinton started carrying on, monopolising the conversation, as he was known to do, before Woods interrupted and said, “How do you remember all that shit?” Once they got onto the course, Tiger acted completely indifferent to the entire group, mostly riding alone in his cart and spending an inordinate amount of time on his phone. After finishing a hole, he would routinely exit the green while others were still putting, a major breach of golf etiquette. When the president hit a wayward drive, Woods snickered. He also told a series of off-colour jokes. “He was really obnoxious,” said the eyewitness. “It was so clear to me that day who Tiger really was. I’ve never seen the president more put off by a person than that experience.”
To make matters worse, about a week later, Clinton’s office sent a picture of Clinton and Woods on the course together and asked Tiger to personalise it and send it back to the president for framing. Whether Tiger forgot or simply ignored the request remains unclear. Many months later, a staffer for Clinton called Tiger’s office in exasperation and asked, essentially, what the f*ck was going on. At that point, Tiger scribbled his name on the photograph and sent it back. Years later, a long-time Clinton staffer had unpleasant memories of the entire autograph episode. “Clinton hauled his ass out west, and you can’t sign a picture? The whole experience was a lot of ‘I’m Tiger Woods, king of the world, go f*ck yourself’.”