A new book claims that golf great Tiger Woods and President Bill Clinton clashed over Woods’ decision to skip a ceremony celebrating baseball hero Jackie Robinson.
A new biography of the golfer says that Clinton was unhappy with the young golfer when Woods skipped the Robinson ceremony in 1997 and that Woods discovered the president’s pique when he reached out to ask Clinton to attend the opening of the Tiger Woods Learning Center near Anaheim, California, The Comeback reported.
“The story, of course, involved Woods declining to attend a 1997 ceremony honoring the late Jackie Robinson, sparking a schism between Clinton and Woods that was later widened by a subsequent Ryder Cup incident in which Clinton walked into the U.S. team’s locker room only to see Tiger walk out,” Golf Digest wrote. “Later, Woods refused to have his picture taken with Clinton when the victorious American team visited the White House. For these reasons, Tiger was sure Clinton would never go for it. The ex-president, he insisted, hated him. Woods never let a slight go, and he assumed Clinton operated the same way.”
According to this account of the situation, Clinton told Woods’ people that he would attend the opening of the golfer’s center only if Woods personally invited him to do so and then agreed to play a round of golf with a foursome of Clinton’s choosing.
Apparently, Woods agreed to the conditions, but the resulting round of golf did not go very well. The account went on to claim that Woods was disrespectful to Clinton during their game and even broke golf etiquette.
For instance, when they first began playing, Woods seems to have found Clinton’s motormouth-style of conversation a bit tiresome:
The situation got even more awkward after Clinton arrived. Tiger’s behavior did nothing to bridge the gap between him and Clinton. At the outset, Clinton started carrying on, monopolizing the conversation, as he was known to do, before Woods interrupted and said, ‘How do you remember all that shit?’
Woods also seemed to have ignored the other players that day:
Once they got onto the course, Tiger acted completely indifferent to the entire group, mostly riding alone in his cart and spending an inordinate amount of time on his phone. After finishing a hole, he would routinely exit the green while others were still putting, a major breach of golf etiquette. When the president hit a wayward drive, Woods snickered. He also told a series of off-color jokes.
Speaking of the other players, Clinton invited Doug Band, sports agent Arn Tellum, and sports-industry executive Casey Wasserman to join them on the greens that day. But, Woods is said to have treated the three brusquely when he met them in the club house before Clinton arrived:
Tiger was having breakfast with McLaughlin in the clubhouse when Tellum and Wasserman approached. At that point, Woods had never met either man. Dispensing with introductions, Tiger wanted to know if the president had arrived. When told Clinton was on his way, Woods replied with a straight face, ‘I can’t wait to talk about pu**y.’
Then, in the weeks after the game ended, Woods dragged his feet in autographing and returning the photo of the two that the Clintons wanted to commemorate the meeting:
To make matters worse, about a week later, Clinton’s office sent a picture of Clinton and Woods on the course together and asked Tiger to personalize it and send it back to the president for framing. Whether Tiger forgot or simply ignored the request remains unclear. Many months later, a staffer for Clinton called Tiger’s office in exasperation and asked, essentially, what the f— was going on. At that point, Tiger scribbled his name on the photograph and sent it back. Years later, a longtime Clinton staffer had unpleasant memories of the entire situation. ‘Clinton hauled his ass out West, and you can’t sign a picture? The whole experience was a lot of ‘I’m Tiger Woods, king of the world, go f—yourself.'”
According to the book, with his attitude Woods clearly relayed that he didn’t want to be there and apparently continued to stick his finger in the president’s eye even afterward. It all added up to hard feelings. One staffer told the biographers that Woods was “obnoxious.”
“He was really obnoxious,” the staffer said. “It was so clear to me that day who Tiger really was. I’ve never seen the president more put off by a person than that experience.”
The book containing the account, simply titled Tiger Woods, was written by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian and will be released on March 27.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.