Previously Known For: Swedish Model and Wife of Professional Golfer Tiger Woods
|Currently Known For: Extensive Media Coverage Surrounding Woods’ Infidelity and Divorce|
“Money can’t buy happiness or put my family back together.” Although she held her own opinions about celebrities, Elin Nordegren found herself completely enamored with a young golfer she met on the PGA Tour named Tiger Woods. Little did she realize that one tiny spark from across the greens would ignite a whirlwind romance that would lead to marriage, two children and her own level of celebrity. Until, of course, the world as Nordegren knew it came tumbling down in 2009 when her husband of five years was outed for his infidelity. In the media frenzy that followed, the extremely private Nordegren found herself in the media’s crosshairs as her marriage disintegrated leaving she and her two children to build a life of their own. But, how exactly did the Swedish model end up in the United States and at the PGA Tour in the first place? We thought you’d never ask!
Elin Maria Pernilla Nordegren was born on January 1, 1980 alongside her twin sister in Stockholm, Sweden where her mother was a politician and the former Governor of Gāvleborg County while her father worked as a radio journalist and bureau chief in Washington, D.C. Enjoying a typical childhood in Sweden, Nordegren spent her summers alongside her sister working as a cashier in the local supermarket before she realized that her natural beauty could open even bigger horizons for her and, perhaps, even one day take her to the United States. That’s what inspired her to start modeling at 20 years old.
Within weeks, Nordegren graced the cover of Café Sport magazine and accepted a job at a local clothing store called Champagne where a young woman named Mia Parnevik loved to frequent. The wife of Swedish golfer Jesper Parnevik, Mia quickly took up with Nordegren and hired her to work as her children’s nanny, which required Nordegren to move to the United States. Lured by her own American dream, Nordegren accepted the offer and moved to America where she had plenty of professional golfers just waiting to take her on a date. Tiger Woods, believe it or not, was at the top of that list as he waited a year for Nordegren to become single again before asking her on a date. “She had no interest in Tiger and he was OK with that,” Mia Parnevik recalled. “There was a big line of single golfers wanting to meet her. They were gaga over her.”
Still working as a nanny and pursuing her interests in child psychiatry, Nordegren officially met Woods on the PGA Tour and later attended the 2003 Presidents Cup tournament in South Africa. “I had my opinion about celebrities,” Nordegren admitted after shying away from dating a high-profile golfer like Woods. However, she couldn’t deny their chemistry and quickly fell in love as the two announced their engagement at the Shamwari Game Reserve. The following year, Woods spent $2 million and reserved the Sandy Lane resort in Barbados where the couple exchanged vows on the 19th hole in October 2004.
Despite her husband’s incredible fame, Nordegren kept a tight lid on her privacy, which is why it was such a huge ordeal when The Dubliner published nude photographs of her in their Irish publication. With the photos established as fakes, Nordegren filed suit against the magazine and received a hefty settlement shortly before she and Woods announced even bigger news—that they were expecting their first child. In 2007, Nordegren and Woods welcomed their daughter, Sam Alexis, into the world and, in September 2008, they added to their family with the birth of their son, Charlie Axel. However, the media frenzy had only just begun.
As the family of four settled into their Florida mansion, media headlines went wild after Woods was involved in a car accident near his home. Rumors of his infidelity came to light as the media reported numerous women claiming he’d had affairs with them over the last four years. Nordegren was humiliated and never suspected anything as the paparazzi accused her of lashing out at Woods with a golf club and then chasing him through the neighborhood by car. “I never suspected, not a one. For the last three-and-a-half years, when all this was going on, I was home a lot more with pregnancies, then the children, and my school,” Nordegren said. “I felt stupid as more things were revealed—how could I not have known anything? The word ‘betrayal’ isn’t strong enough. I felt embarrassed for having been so deceived. I felt betrayed by many people around me.”
Initially thinking they could rebuild their marriage, Nordegren put her best foot forward for the sake of her children as Woods struggled with his own demons on the golf course and saw his career tank, which led to his hiatus from December 2009 to April 2010. By then, Nordegren knew things wouldn’t work and, on August 23, 2010, the couple finalized their divorce with Nordegren receiving $100 million in the settlement. She then purchased a $12 million mansion in Florida, which she demolished after donating the existing structure and its salvageable contents to Habitat for Humanity.
Over the next four years, Nordegren stayed out of the spotlight as she rebuilt her life and provided stability for her children while repairing her relationship, at least as friends, with Woods. Then, in 2014, she granted a rare interview to address the endless rumors around her marriage. “My plan was to just stay the way I was,” she said. “For my kids, I felt that remaining private was the only normalcy I could give them, since they have a very famous dad. But after everything happened and everything that was written and speculated—what I did or didn’t do—I felt like setting some things straight.”
Nordegren started by addressing the accident that ignited the frenzy and confirmed that there was never any violence inside or outside their home. “The speculation that I would have used a golf club to hit him is just truly ridiculous,” she said. “Tiger left the house that night, and after a while when he didn’t return, I got worried and decided to look for him. That’s when I found him in the car. I did everything I could to get him out of the locked car. To think anything else is absolutely wrong.”
As for her relationship with Woods, the 38-year-old Nordegren has done her best to mend fences. “I have moved on and I am in a good place,” she says. “My relationship with Tiger is centered around our children and we are doing really good—we really are—and I am so happy that is the case. He is a great father… I’m not going to deny that I went through the wringer, but I don’t think I doubted we’d end up here. That was always my dream, that the kids can have two loving parents that show respect for each other. And I feel that’s what they have.”