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Sources tell PEOPLE the golfer learned from his mistakes after his high-profile scandal derailed his life

By Steve Helling
January 20, 2021 03:00 PM
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tiger woods
Tiger Woods

In 2009, Tiger Woods — then the world's No. 1-ranked golfer — almost lost it all.

Woods crashed his Cadillac Escalade outside of his Florida mansion on the day after Thanksgiving. Elin Nordegren, his wife at the time, used two golf clubs to break the rear windows of the vehicle. Though Nordegren told police that she had broken the windows to help rescue an incoherent Woods from the vehicle, there was widespread speculation that she had shattered the glass following an argument.

For more on Tiger Woods, listen below to the episode of PEOPLE Every Day.

That accident was the beginning of a public spiral for Woods, whose life and career are explored in HBO's new two-part documentary Tiger. Dozens of women soon came forward, alleging that they had sexual relationships with the married golfer.

Within months, Woods had lost most of his sponsors, and his golf game began to suffer — both due to his physical ailments and a loss of focus on the course. In August of 2010, Nordegren filed for divorce, and received a reported $100 million settlement.

For more on Woods and the latest developments in his life and career, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday.

Even now, the scandal is a painful memory for Woods.

"He hates anything to do with the scandal," a source close to the golfer tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "It brings back such painful memories of a really embarrassing, awful, harrowing time in his life. There are no good times he can remember from 2009 and 2010. None. He lost it all, publicly, and had to rebuild."

By all accounts, Woods, 45, has worked very hard to fix his life — and has been successful.

For one thing, Woods' repaired his career, and won the 2019 Masters Tournament.

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Still, there have been setbacks. This week, Woods' team announced that the golfer had undergone yet another back surgery, this time "a microdiscectomy procedure to remove a pressurized disc fragment that was pinching his nerve after experiencing discomfort following the PNC Championship."

A message shared on Woods' Twitter said doctors believe the operation was a success and "expect him to make a full recovery."

No matter what life throws at Woods, his friends say that he's overcome worse odds in the past.

"He rebuilt his entire life," the source says. "He became a better person and a much better dad than he was before. It put him on the right track. He's more compassionate and forgiving. He treats people like his equals now. And he is such a good dad."

According to the source, Woods' two kids — son Charlie, 11, and daughter Sam, 13 — are very close to both parents.

"They're fantastic with the kids," says the source. "They communicate. The kids still see them as a parenting team, even though they're not together anymore. It's remarkable."