Golf

The Rachel Uchitel Bombshell Was the Beginning of the End for Tiger Woods

The dozens of interviews that went into the HBO documentary about Tiger Woods will help paint the picture of the PGA great. But one interview in the two-part special figures to stand out above all the rest. Rachel Uchitel will be the only person speaking authoritatively about the affair the ruined a marriage and derailed a spectacular golf career.

Unless and until Tiger Woods speaks on a subject he would prefer to keep in his past, Uchitel’s words will stand up as voyeurs’ access to the inside story.

The HBO documentary on Tiger Woods interviews Rachel Uchitel

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The two-part HBO special on Tiger Woods that premieres at 9 p.m. ET on Jan. 10 features an interview with Rachel Uchitel, the woman whose liaison with the golfer caused Elin Nordegren to chase her husband out of their house on Thanksgiving night 2009.

Woods suffered minor injuries when he crashed his Cadillac Escalade in the driveway while trying to flee the house after being confronted by Nordegren, the mother of his two children. What ensued was weeks of tawdry revelations as other women who’d had affairs with Woods came forward.

Woods, 33 at the time, saw his career crash to depths unimaginable for a man who had won 31 times on the PGA Tour – including five majors – over the previous five seasons. He went winless over the next two seasons, damaging his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record for wins in the sport’s four majors.

Woods has won 11 times on the PGA Tour since, but only one has been a major.

The events of Nov. 26, 2009, and Tiger Woods’ undoing

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The HBO documentary on Tiger Woods draws heavily from a 2018 book by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian. The authors said Woods was already dealing with addictions to painkillers and sleeping pills. Then, rumors hit the internet that the National Enquirer had a bombshell story alleging that the golfer had been having an affair with Rachel Uchitel while he was married to Elin Nordegren.

Woods had been warned what was coming. His lawyers were not able to halt publication of the story, which contained a devastating quote from Uchitel:

“I don’t care about his wife! We’re in love.”

Early in Thanksgiving week, Woods took the extraordinary step of arranging a phone call between his wife and mistress, with Uchitel assuring Nordegren that the relationship was non-sexual. The following day, the magazine reached supermarket racks with a screaming “Tiger Woods Cheating Scandal” headline. Still, the magazine’s reputation for sensationalism meant that most of the national media outlets weren’t picking up the story.

Woods’ mother, Kultida, visited on Thanksgiving, and the day was relatively routine. That lasted until Woods fell asleep and Nordegren picked up his cell phone to scroll through his texts. “You are the only one I’ve ever loved,” one of them said.

Unsure of the recipient’s identity, Elin sent a text from his phone. It read, “I miss you. When are we seeing each other again?” When the reply came back, Nordegren called the number and was stunned to hear Uchitel’s voice.

There would be a subsequent divorce. For all practical purposes, however, that moment was the end of the marriage.

Why has Rachel Uchitel decided to speak?

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Rachel Uchitel has been out of the headlines for more than a decade, but her name remains forever linked to Tiger Woods by an internet that does not forget.

“I have stayed quiet about this story, but at this point, I have nothing left to lose,” she tells HBO in its Tiger Woods documentary. “My name hasn’t lost the stigma at all.”

Woods met Uchitel, now 45, at a New York City nightclub where she was a VIP hostess. She said they had sex that night, according to Outkick.com. Ultimately, the undoing came when Woods brought Uchitel to the Australian Masters in mid-November. Woods wired the field on the way to victory, and the National Enquirer got wind of him being accompanied by someone other than his wife.

Uchitel told HBO that she accepts responsibility for her contribution to the scandal. However, not all the fault lies with her.

“I regret that he was married, and I regret the mistakes that I made. But people came at me like they wanted to blame me for the fact a married man cheated on his wife. Like I was the only one responsible for his actions.”

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