01.24.10

Tiger's Thanksgiving Mystery — Solved

From pills to Elin impersonating her husband on a text, two inside sources provide Gerald Posner a full account of what happened the night Tiger crashed his SUV—and triggered a scandal.

While the Tiger Woods drama has played out in an extraordinarily public way, the details from before and after the golfer’s Thanksgiving night car crash—the trigger for one of the costliest sports-related scandals ever—have remained shrouded in mystery. Two sources who know Tiger’s wife, Elin Nordegren, and have discussed various details of the story with her, have corroborated a minute-by-minute account that answers the majority of the questions surrounding what might be the most expensive car crash in history.

Among their revelations:

  • Just before Tiger’s affair with Rachel Uchitel was reported in the National Enquirer, he put Uchitel on the phone with his wife for a half-hour, so she could convince Elin the relationship was platonic.
  • Elin confirmed her lingering suspicions about Tiger’s affair with Uchitel by impersonating her husband in text messages with Uchitel, prompting the rage that led to Woods fleeing his house.
  • Tiger had taken the sedative Ambien that night, and was in a stupor when Elin woke him following her sting operation on Uchitel.
  • After his wife’s wakeup, Tiger sent Uchitel a panicky text warning her that Elin had discovered the affair and implying that divorce was imminent. Elin quickly found this text as well, which precipitated her chasing him out of the house with a golf club.
  • Tiger did not immediately return home when he was released from the hospital, likely explaining why Elin did not accede to much-publicized requests from visiting police officers to chat with Woods.

Both sources spoke on the condition of anonymity, because Elin Nordegren did not give them permission to discuss her conversations with them.

Shortly after 1 a.m. in Florida, Elin began texting Uchitel, pretending to be Tiger, according to both sources. Elin wrote, “I miss you,” and asked, “When are we seeing each other again?” 

Gerald Posner: Rachel Uchitel—Mob Princess? During the run-up to Thanksgiving, these sources say that Tiger gave Elin advance warning that the National Enquirer was about to run a story claiming that he had an affair with Rachel Uchitel, a New York- and Las Vegas-based nightlife entrepreneur, who had just reportedly finished a torrid affair a few months earlier with married actor David Boreanaz. Woods swore to Elin that the Enquirer story was false and that he had only met Uchitel once or twice at social outings. 

Elin remained suspicious, according to one of the sources. On November 25, the day before Thanksgiving, as Internet rumors spread of the about-to-be-released Enquirer story, Tiger convinced Uchitel to talk to Elin. The two women spoke by phone for about half an hour, and after the conversation, according to this source, she was satisfied that the relationship was platonic.

The next day, Thanksgiving, Elin learned some of the Enquirer’s specifics about the purported affair, including a recent rendezvous in Australia. That evening, the two argued. Tiger decided to end the bickering , both sources confirm, by taking Ambien and going to sleep. (According to what Elin has told one of the sources, Woods regularly had trouble sleeping, and Ambien was his primary sleep aid.)

After Woods fell asleep, Elin looked through his cellphone, both sources confirmed. There she found text messages to Uchitel’s number—Uchitel was apparently listed in Tiger’s cellphone under her real name—and among them she discovered one that said, “You are the only one I’ve loved.” 

Shortly after 1 a.m. in Florida, Elin began texting Uchitel, pretending to be Tiger, according to both sources. Elin wrote, “I miss you,” and asked, “When are we seeing each other again?” 

Uchitel texted back, seemingly surprised that Woods was awake. Elin specifically felt, one source told me, that this response indicated that the two of them spoke earlier that night, before Tiger took his Ambien. At that point, Elin called Uchitel, who answered thinking it was Tiger calling. Both sources said that Elin said something approximating, “I knew it was you.”

Uchitel’s surprised reply, according to what Elin told one source: “Oh f--k.” She immediately hung up.

Normally quiet and controlled, Elin later told one source she became enraged and woke Tiger by screaming at him. He seemed disoriented, still in a stupor from the Ambien. The fight ratcheted up quickly.

But then chaos ensued when she grabbed his cellphone when he came out after locking himself in the bathroom for several minutes. Both sources confirm that Tiger had apparently, shortly after waking up, sent another short text to Uchitel warning that Elin had uncovered the affair, that he was about to pack, and that a divorce might be imminent. 

Elin didn’t tell Woods what she’d seen, one source says. She simply exploded, trying to hit him on the chest and arms with her fists, and then finally chasing him from the house while she wielded a golf club. Shoeless, he ran into the car and barreled out of the driveway before careening off a fire hydrant and then smashing into a tree. Neither source said they knew the details of how the rear windows in the Escalade were knocked out, though one source says that the story Tiger told police at the accident scene about Elin smashing them in an attempt to free him from the wreck was a lie designed to protect his wife.

When he was released later from the hospital, Tiger was whisked off to an undisclosed location, Elin too furious to allow him back that afternoon. This likely explains why Elin told police who arrived at their mansion outside Orlando that Woods did not care to speak with them then, once saying he was asleep and couldn’t even see them.

Woods’ representatives did not reply to multiple requests for comment. Sorrel Trope, the 82-year-old dean of Los Angeles celebrity divorce lawyers, who has been advising Elin, also did not answer a request for comment. Gloria Allred, the attorney for Rachel Uchitel, wrote by email, “We have no comment on this.”

According to one friend, Elin remains furious about the events on Thanksgiving, but will wait for the golfer to finish any rehab treatment he’s undergoing before making a final decision on whether to pursue a divorce.

Gerald Posner is The Daily Beast's chief investigative reporter. He's the award-winning author of 10 investigative nonfiction bestsellers, on topics ranging from political assassinations, to Nazi war criminals, to 9/11, to terrorism. His latest book, Miami Babylon: Crime, Wealth and Power—A Dispatch from the Beach, was published in October. He lives in Miami Beach with his wife, the author Trisha Posner.