Tiger’s 40 Biggest Moments: No. 12 – Charles Pierce’s GQ Cover Story

December 19, 2015

Over 40 days, GOLF.com is rolling out Tiger Woods’ 40 biggest moments. Our ranking started on Nov. 21 and will culminate on Dec. 30, which is Tiger’s 40th birthday. That’s 40 Tiger moments. In 40 days. Ranked. Click here to learn more about our list.

Tiger’s 40 Biggest Moments: No. 12 – Charles Pierce’s GQ Cover Story

Earl Woods taught his son Tiger to answer only what was asked, to treat every interview as if it were a death match and never give away a hole. With writer Charles Pierce’s April 1997 GQ story, in which Tiger was quoted telling jokes that were widely construed as both sexist and racist, Woods nonetheless ended up on the wrong end of a rare 9-and-8 rout.

The Woods camp said he’d been set up, going as far as to claim his limo driver was wearing a wire; veteran Pierce insisted he’d done nothing wrong, later writing for Esquire, “Me and Gordon Liddy!”  Beyond that the event was a tempest in a teapot. Woods wouldn’t lose endorsements, only face. When Fuzzy Zoeller subsequently had to apologize for his racially insensitive remarks at the Masters, longtime New York Times sportswriter Dave Anderson called on Woods to apologize for his puerile jokes in GQ.

None of it really stuck, but Woods’s relationship with those on the golf beat (and other reporters) went from guarded to worse. Put on lockdown for one-on-one interviews, he was made available only for tightly controlled press conferences orchestrated by the Tour. He perfected the art of saying little to nothing at all during his 20- to 30-minute sessions with the media, where follow-up questions were rare and Woods could control the message.

Then he went and crushed the competition on the course, where his absolute dominion over the narrative was itself something of a joke.

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Check back on GOLF.com every day until Tiger’s birthday on Dec. 30 for a new moment in our TIGER@40 countdown.

No. 13: Battling Sergio Garcia at 1999 PGA

No. 14: – Outdueling Sergio and Phil at 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage

No. 15: Seven Straight Tour Wins in 2006-07

No. 16: Hello, World

No. 17: ‘Better Than Most’ at 2001 Players Championship

No. 18: Winning the 2000 British Open at St. Andrews by 8

No. 19: Winning SI Sportsman of the Year in 1996

No. 20: Return from Scandal at 2010 Masters

No. 21: Winning Third Straight U.S. Amateur Title

No. 22: The Apology Press Conference

No. 23: Shot from Fairway Bunker at 2000 Canadian Open

No. 24: Passes Nicklaus in Career PGA Tour Wins

No. 25: Signs First Deal With Nike

No. 26: Knee Surgery After 2008 U.S. Open

No. 27: Winning Back-to-Back Masters

No. 28: Launching the Tiger Woods Foundation

No. 29: Becoming a Father for the First Time

No. 30: Ugly Breakup With Steve Williams

No. 31: First U.S. Amateur Win at TPC Sawgrass

No. 32: Wire-to-Wire British Open Win at St. Andrews in 2005

No. 33: Relationship With Lindsey Vonn

No. 34: Third Straight U.S. Junior Am Title

No. 35: A Shot in the Dark at Firestone

No. 36: Television Debut at Age 2

No. 37: Breakup with Hank Haney After Six Years

No. 38: Disastrous 2004 Ryder Cup Pairing with Phil Mickelson

No. 39: Beats Stephen Ames 9&8 in 2006 Cadillac Match Play

No. 40: Wins 2008 Arnold Palmer Invitational with Dramatic Putt