Does Tiger Woods' Past Hold Clues to Explain His Philandering?

Despite lifelong spotlight, golfer Tiger Woods kept secrets in the shadows.

December 15, 2009, 8:17 PM

Dec. 16, 2009— -- From the time a 9-month-old Tiger Woods first picked up a golf club, to the time he won his 12th major at age 30, he and his father Earl Woods were virtually inseparable -- each man describing the other as his "best friend."

They were, however, not together early on the morning of May 2, 2006 when Earl, 74, died in a hospice in California. Tiger reportedly spent that evening in the bed of one of his many purported paramours, a lingerie model named Jamie Jungers.

In light of Woods' recent troubles -- a career, marriage and legacy marred by allegations of affairs with more than a dozen different women – many observers have wondered if anything in the golfer's early life hinted at his future "infidelities."

A source close to Woods' wife Elin Nordegren, told ABC that a "divorce is 100 percent on."

"She's not rushing to divorce, however," said the source. "She's going to take her sweet time. She wants all the dirty laundry to be out on the table before she signs anything."

People magazine has also reported that the couple now plans to split.

In numerous interviews Woods, 34, has praised his parents for encouraging his interest in golf, honing a naturally competitive drive, and helping him focus his concentration.

Some have suggested that Woods had a difficult time coping with his father's death and began cheating on wife Elin Nordegren as a result, perhaps seeking to fill that void in his life.

In a statement following Earl's death Woods called his father "an amazing dad, coach, mentor, soldier, husband and friend," adding, "I wouldn't be where I am today without him."

But many of the women who have admitted to affairs with the golfer – including Jungers – say their dalliances began well before Earl's death.

"Tiger and Earl were incredibly close and his father's death must have been a severe emotional blow, but there is little to suggest that his father's death participated in his philandering," said Larry Londino, a broadcasting professor at Montclair University and author of "Tiger Woods: A Biography."

"If anything it appears he was doing it before Earl's death," he said.

As a teenager, Woods dated one girl, Dina Gravell, for three years, through high school and into his freshman year at Stanford.

In an interview with the New York Post, the now married Dina Parr described Tiger on their first date as "shy and awkward" and said he broke up with her when his parents pressured him to focus more on his golf game.

Parr recently told E! that Woods confided in her that Earl was cheating on the golfer's mother.

"He would just call crying and say, 'My dad is with another woman,' and that would be all he could say," Parr said. "He would be so upset, so I just tried to be there for him and listen to him."

"He loved his father," Parr said. "And I know that was the one thing about his dad that he could never get over. So yeah, it's interesting that it's turned out that he's doing the same thing."

In an interview with Esquire magazine, when Woods was 21 – the year he became the first person of color to win a major, and one year after he dropped out of college, turned pro and signed a $40 million endorsement deal with Nike – he no longer seemed as awkward. Instead Woods comes across in the interview as a cocky, self-confident professional sportsman fond of dirty jokes and flirting with the women applying his makeup at a photo shoot.

Though his parents could agree to unconditionally support Woods from the sidelines at his tournaments, they were not in accord when it came to their own marriage.

Never legally separated, Earl and Kultida, who goes by "Tida" lived in separate homes across the country from each other -- his father remained in Tiger's boyhood home in Cypress, Calif., and his mother moved to Florida to be closer to her son.

Of his mother Kultida, a native of Thailand, Woods told "60 Minutes" in 2006: "You have no idea how competitive she is."

Woods grew up under a fair amount of pressure, spending his childhood in the spotlight – at age 3 he appeared on TV putting balls on "The Mike Douglas Show" – and bore the burden of having to be a role model for people not just of one ethnicity but of two or three.

He jokingly described himself as "blasian," a mashup of black and Asian, but Earl saw his son's success as the beginning of a new postracial era, even comparing Woods to Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.

If Woods felt pressure to live up to an impossible ideal, he was never pressured by his parents to play golf, his biographer said.

"Earl and Kultida were not hovering, helicopter parents. They weren't forcing him to go and practice golf. The opposite was almost true. They punished him by saying: 'You can't go out and practice golf,'" said Londino.

Earl demanded from Woods an adherence to the arcane traditions of golf and all its courtesies and rules of sportsmanship.

A retired Army lieutenant colonel, Earl served two tours of duty as a green beret in Vietnam. He gave his son, the middle name Tiger (his first name is Eldric) in honor of a South Vietnamese officer, Col. Vuong Dang Phong, nicknamed "Tiger," who saved his life.

If in his professional life Earl lived by a defined code of honor and propriety, but one person says he – apparently like his son – played by a different set of rules in his personal life.

Barbara Hart married her Manhattan, Kan., high school sweetheart in 1954, a young soldier named Earl Woods.

Eighteen years later Earl, after meeting Tida in Thailand while serving in Southeast Asia, secretly divorced his wife and mother of three children in Mexico.

Now Barbara Woods Gray -- she remarried after Earl left her -- believes Tida was not the first woman with whom Earl had an affair.

"I don't have my doubts there were others," said Gray who still smarts from Earl leaving her with three young children.

"I don't doubt he had his attractions, but I never went looking for it. I had three children, I was too busy," she said.

Gray who has self-published a memoir about her marriage and divorce, "At All Costs (My Life With The Man Behind The Tiger)," said Tiger Woods was close to her three children growing up, visiting her daughter's home when he was in college to do his laundry or have dinner.

But once Woods went pro, she said, "he got famous and super busy and didn't keep in touch as much."

"He made his bed," Earl's former wife said of her ex-husband's son, "now he has to sleep in it."

Some of Woods's famous friends say they have been unable to contact the golfer to offer him advice or consolation.

"He's insulated," Spike Lee told cable news network HLN. "If Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan can't get to him, and those are his boys, then other people are making bad moves."

Calls to Woods' lawyer Mark NeJame for comment were not immediately returned.

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