Tiger Woods Opens Up About Divorce, Vonn Breakup and Injury in Rare Interview

December 3, 2015

What’s gotten into Tiger Woods?

Two days after he was uncharacteristically candid about his chances of rebounding after his third back surgery, the 14-time major champion has opened up about aspects of his personal life that he has rarely, if ever, spoken about publicly.

In a lengthy interview with TIME conducted by Canadian golf writer Lorne Rubenstein, Woods discussed his relationships with his ex-wife Elin Nordegren and ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn, plus how he explained his much-publicized divorce to his two children, Sam, 8, and Charlie, 6.

“I’ve taken the initiative with the kids, and told them upfront, ‘Guys, the reason why we’re not in the same house, why we don’t live under the same roof, mommy and daddy, is because daddy made some mistakes,'” Woods said in the interview, which Time.com published Thursday morning. “I just want them to understand before they get to Internet age and they log on to something, or have their friends tell them something.

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“I want it to come from me so that when they come of age, I’ll just tell them the real story.”

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Woods said Nordegren is still “one of my best friends,” and that “when it comes down to it” he should have had an “open, honest relationship with my ex-wife when we were married.”

Woods began courting Vonn in 2012. The couple dated for three years. Ultimately, Woods said, their demanding schedules drove them apart.

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“What was hard is we never had time together,” Woods said. “We’re texting each other. It was a great relationship, but it was so hard … It just could not work. It was doing an injustice to both of us.”

(Vonn told CNN last month: “I loved him and I still love him. I had an amazing three years with him but, you know, sometimes things just don’t work out and unfortunately it didn’t work out for us. I don’t have any regrets and I think we’re both in a pretty good place.”)

In the TIME interview, Woods also reflected on his golf career, beginning with his prodigious start on the California junior circuit. As a youngster, Woods said, he might have been at his most dominant.

“I peaked at 11, to be honest with you,” he said. “I went 36-and-0 that year, never lost a tournament.”

Young Tiger also had something else going for him that year.

“I probably had the cutest girlfriend all of sixth grade,” he joked.

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Woods would go on to forge a professional career highlighted by 79 PGA Tour wins, but a string of injuries and surgeries have derailed the late stages of his career in recent years. His last win Tour win came at the 2013 Bridgestone Invitational. He hasn’t won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open.

“I had never seen myself going through a spell that bad,” Woods said in the interview.

He added that he’s also fed up with surgeries.

“Let’s just not go down that road ever again,” he said. “Seven’s enough. Four knees, three backs, that’s enough.”

You can read the full interview here.