Straight after sinking the winning putt in the Masters at Augusta on Sunday (US time), Tiger Woods pulled daughter Sam, 11, and son Charlie, 10, in close for a hug.
The kids had arrived in Georgia the night before, joining the devoted inner circle Woods travels with, including his personal chef, bodyguard, manager and spokesman, as well as dogs Taz, Yogi and Bugs.
Their “infectious happiness”, the new champ said after being presented with his first green jacket in 14 years (“It fits!”), was what spurred him to the come-from-behind victory: “Having my family by my side is something I will never forget.”
Facing the world as a proud, calm family man has been hard won for Woods, who lost his marriage and reputation after what CBS Sports called “the fateful Thanksgiving holiday of 2009”.
“He still thinks about his sex scandal every day,” a source close to the golfer told People after the Masters.
“It’s always there, in the back of his mind. He doesn’t like to talk about it — or even anything that was happening at that time of his life. It’s painful.”
Nearly 10 years ago, Woods and then-wife Elin Nordegren were hosting his mother at their luxury mansion near Orlando, Florida.
The month before, Woods had been named the first athlete to earn $US1 billion, including around $110 million in endorsements, thanks to his wholesome family image.
So it was out of left field when, the day before the annual US holiday, the National Enquirer claimed in a colourful story that Woods had an affair with Rachel Uchitel, a hostess at a New York nightclub.
Nordegren had Woods put her on the phone to Uchitel, who said the story was false, according to The Daily Beast. But she wasn’t convinced.
Around 2.30am that night, with insomniac Woods asleep thanks to an Ambien pill, Nordegren scrolled through his phone and found texts suggesting her husband was a philanderer, reported The New York Post in a 2013 retelling of the story.
Nordegren’s screaming woke Woods, who locked himself in the bathroom. When he came out, his wife threw his phone at him and chipped his tooth. Then she chased him with a golf club.
A barefoot Woods jumped into his car, pursued by Nordegren in a golf cart. But before he could get far, he hit a kerb, fire hydrant and tree and wound up unconscious in the street, two windows in his car broken, said the Post.
Nordegren told police she smashed the windows to rescue her incoherent husband but despite the attempts to hose things down, the genie was out of the bottle.
Dozens of women including porn stars, escorts and strippers soon came forward, alleging sexual relationships with Woods.
The claims were a mix of innocent and lewd. Exotic dancer Cori Rist said Woods loved watching cartoons while eating Froot Loops. Mindy Lawton, a diner waitress, said she had sex with the golfer in a church car park. Another said she’d gotten pregnant to Woods more than once.
He lost sponsorship deals including Nike, Gatorade and Gillette and checked into rehab for sex addiction. By April 2010, Nordegren, now 39, filed for divorce.
“He lost everything,” the source told People. “And it was really rough for a really long time. He’s been left with a lot of scars.”
In the years after his life imploded, Woods’ repeated back surgeries led to an addiction to painkillers. In 2017, he was found dazed at the wheel of his car with the motor running and checked into rehab again.
In constant pain and with his game in ruins, Woods thought about giving up golf. A successful spinal fusion surgery changed his mind in a decision that has now given him a fifth Masters title.
“It’s unreal for me to experience this,’’ the 43-year-old said in a TV interview after his win.
“It was one of the hardest I’ve ever had to win just because of what’s transpired the last couple of years.”
Woods now lives with Erica Herman, a former manager at his Florida restaurant, but amicably shares custody of the kids with Nordegren.
“There is no real friction,” the Woods insider said.
“They went through a very dark time as a family, and although the family looks different, it is happy and functional and thriving.”