In his nearly 20 years on the PGA Tour, Tiger Woods has been involved in a number of high-profile scandals. And some of them even involved his actions on the golf course.
Woods has always described his life as being lived “in a fishbowl.” Occasionally accused of being a bland corporate athlete, Woods’ life off the course was largely unknown to public prior to 2010 (save for the fact that he enjoyed cereal and cartoons). A cascading series of events, however, produced a tsunami in Mr. Woods’ fishbowl.
From fried chicken to the aforementioned Fire Hydrant Incident and its aftermath, Tiger Woods-related scandals have presented a broad range of actors and improbable scenarios. Here are the best (or worst) of Tiger’s transgressions.
After missing the fairway at the 1999 Phoenix Open, Tiger Woods’ golf ball landed behind what can only be described as a gigantic boulder. Upon consulting the rules official on site, the golfer was informed that the boulder was a “loose impediment,” as defined by the Rules of Golf.
The ruling, theoretically at least, gave Woods permission to remove the boulder. The only problem? Most loose impediments are leaves, pebbles, or twigs. This impediment was a massive rock. Woods may be strong, but lifting 1,000-pound rocks is impossible even for him. Fortunately for Tiger, a team of spectators sprung into action and rolled away the rock in a feat no less magnificent than the opening of Jesus’ tomb.
Although Woods was technically not in violation of the rules as they are written, many felt he violated the spirit of the rule and established a problematic precedent. The incident was one of the first instances of Woods “cavalier” (Brandel Chamblee’s words) attitude toward the rules.
However, as Wendy Uzelac of the USGA writes:
Decision 23-1/3, which asks the question: “May spectators, caddies, fellow-competitors, etc., assist a player in removing a large loose impediment?” The answer is “Yes.”
4. Fried Chicken – Part I
At the 1997 Masters as Tiger Woods marched toward a historical victory at the tournament, Fuzzy Zoeller said: “So you know what you guys do when he gets in here? Pat him on the back, say congratulations, enjoy it. And tell him not to serve fried chicken next year …. or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.”
Zoeller was referring to what Tiger Woods would serve at the Champions Dinner the following year, as the previous champion sets the menu for the dinner.
Zoeller’s comments, of course, rightfully caused an uproar as both the mention of fried chicken in that context and referring to people of other ethnicities as “they” are profoundly racist.
Woods accepted Zoeller’s apology, but the latter’s reputation has been forever marred by the off-the-cuff remarks.
3. Fried Chicken – Part II
At a European Tour Awards gala in 2013, Sergio Garcia reprised Fuzzy Zoeller’s 1997 number. In response to a question about whether he’d have Tiger Woods over for dinner during the U.S. Open that year, the Spaniard said: “We will have him ’round every night…We will serve fried chicken.”
Certain things are lost in translation, to be sure, but most agreed at the time that Sergio Garcia knew all about the racial connotations of mentioning the stereotypical food of poor African Americans in conjunction with the world’s No. 1 golfer.
Garcia, of course, quickly issued a mea culpa, but the story had blown up across the globe.
Garcia’s original apology read:
I apologize for any offense that may have been caused by my comment on stage during The European Tour Players’ Awards dinner. I answered a question that was clearly made towards me as a joke with a silly remark, but in no way was the comment meant in a racist manner.
Whatever you say, Sergio.
2. The 2013 Trifecta
The Rules of Golf are relatively simple in theory but often prove difficult in practice. Nevertheless, the standing rule on the PGA Tour has to be, “When in doubt, call a rules official.”
Woods took relief from an embedded lie from a sand-covered spot in the Abu Dhabi Championship early in the season. The only trouble? He wasn’t allowed to take relief from that spot. Woods and playing partner Martin Kaymer both erroneously believed he was entitled to relief from the spot. However, as it was technically a sandy area/hazard, he wasn’t. For the violation, Woods was assessed a two-stroke penalty. Eventually he missed the cut.
Later in 2013, Tiger again ran into rules-related difficulties at the Masters. After taking a bad drop following a wedge shot that clattered off the flag at the 15th hole and landed in the water, Woods was eventually informed by the Rules Committee of his offense and assessed a two-stroke penalty.
The golfer’s final rules infraction of 2013 came at the BMW Championship. Removing a stick from near his ball in the woods, Woods’ golf ball moved slightly. The golfer later stated that he believed the ball oscillated and returned to its previous position, thus it didn’t change positions and Woods didn’t need to call a penalty on himself.
Unfortunately for the world No. 1, rules officials felt differently after examining evidence of the incident, and the golfer was hit with a penalty. Upon viewing and reviewing the video, however, Tiger failed to see the infraction, maintaining that ball merely oscillated and didn’t change positions.
1. The Woods Regime of Infidelity
Now for the big one, or perhaps more accurately, the big 100-plus, as that the estimated number of Tiger Woods extramarital conquests is north of that number
The scandal that developed following a car crash on November 27, 2009 has certainly been the most notable and most damaging of Tiger Woods’ career, costing him his marriage, several sponsors, and destroying his carefully crafted public persona.
The parade of mistresses and sordid revelations that followed led ultimately to Woods entering rehab for sex addiction and stepping away from golf for four months, prior to returning at the Masters.
Since returning in April of 2010, the 14-time major winner has not added another major to his tally.