From 1996 to his highly-publicized downfall in 2009, there wasn't a figure in sports more popular than Tiger Woods, let alone anybody in the PGA. During that time, Woods won PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, PGA Player of the Year a remarkable 10 times, and won an impressive 14 major championships. He was a legend of the sport while still in his prime and there was nothing more exciting than watching him chase after victories on the final day of tournaments in his Sunday red golf shirt. He seemed to finally overcome the cheating scandal that ruined his marriage in 2013 as he won PGA Player of the Year for the 11th time, but a string of successive back injuries and other injuries have kept him from competing at a high level in recent years.
However, his most recent comeback has fans excited about Tiger's championship prospects in the near future. He has two top-five finishes this year and is even considered a favorite heading into this weekend's Masters. Things are finally turning around for the former world-ranked No. 1 golfer, but some things haven't changed. Woods has had a number of public feuds and friendships throughout his career and unfortunately his actions, as well as the actions of others, have hurt some of those friendships. There's also a tight circle of friends with whom he maintains contact.
16 Still Close: Fred Couples
A 58 year old native of Seattle, Washington, Fred Couples is a 15-time PGA Tour champion whose most notable win is the 1992 Masters, which was his only win at a major championship. He was PGA Tour Player of the Year in back-to-back years (1991 and 1992), but his star faded with the emergence of Woods in 1996. However, the two quickly formed a friendship with the elder Couples serving as sort of a mentor to the younger Woods - not that Tiger needed it.
Despite all that has happened in Woods' life, he has managed to maintain his friendship with Couples, who spoke of his pre-Masters plans with Golf.com, noting how he was going to play a "few practice rounds with my buddy Tiger." Couples' former caddie, Joey LaCava, is currently working for Tiger, so there's an obvious connection there. Couples also noted he was confident in Tiger's ability heading into the Masters: "But I tell him, you know, I'm proud of you, you're playing great. It's fun to watch."
15 Doesn't Talk: Brandel Chamblee
While Tiger remains close to Fred Couples, he isn't going to be playing any practice rounds with Brandel Chamblee any time soon, not that he ever did to begin with. Chamblee is a 55 year old former professional golfer who primarily works as a commentator and writer and he definitely doesn't pull any punches when discussing the play of players on tour, especially Tiger Woods. He has been a little more positive regarding Woods lately, but back in 2013, gave him an 'F' rating in a column for Sports Illustrated Plus - Remember, Tiger won Player of the Year that year.
Woods briefly responded to the grade after fans of his attacked Chamblee on Twitter: "The whole issue has been very disappointing as he didn't really apologize and he sort of reignited the whole situation. So the ball really is in the court of the Golf Channel and what they are prepared to do." Chamblee has since confessed to having to block upwards of 20,000 people.
14 Still Close: Elin Nordegren
This one might be considered the biggest shock on the list but last we heard, Tiger himself made the claim that he and his ex remain on good terms and apparently, close with one another as they share the time of their children. Of course, Elin got a huge settlement from the divorce which likely minimized her hatred for the golfer. She’s also selling her mansion, if you have $50 million sitting in the bank the home can be yours!
He hasn’t kept close with his other female partners from the past, though judging by Vonn’s recent comments, it appears as though the two left things off on good terms. She made the claim the relationship failed because of the pressures from the media. She was also sympathetic with Tiger issuing a positive statement in his defense following his latest arrest.
13 Doesn't Talk: Rachel Uchitel
Contrary to popular belief, Tiger Woods still maintains a relationship with his ex-wife, Elin Nordegren. We can only assume it isn't a romantic relationship given the golfer's past indiscretions, but he has said the two are friends, which is probably essential given they had two children together. Whether or not that's entirely accurate is up for debate, but it's what Woods claims. One woman he definitely isn't stupid enough to rekindle a relationship with his Rachel Uchitel, the most popular of his alleged mistresses.
The 43 year old nightclub manager and hostess was one of the first to be linked to Woods by The National Enquirer in 2009. She subsequently capitalized on her short-lived fame by appearing on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew and now runs a children's boutique in New York.
12 Still Close: Michael Jordan
In Charles Barkley's 2017 interview with The Undefeated, the NBA on TNT analyst spoke of how both he and Michael Jordan haven't heard from Woods in a long time. However, that isn't exactly the case. Woods and Jordan have actually remained friends and even recently enjoyed a round of golf with President Barack Obama. If that isn't a threesome you wan't to get in on, you're either crazy or clueless as to how the word threesome applies to golf.
Jordan has even continued to defend his good friend in interviews. He mentioned in one interview with Cigar Aficionado how he wouldn't have been able to survive in the social media age: "Tiger played in his peak somewhere towards the end of my career. And the what changed between that time frame to now — social media, Twitter, all those types of things that has invaded their personality and their personal times as individuals. I don't know if I could have survived in this Twitter time where you don’t have the privacy that you would want."
11 Doesn't Talk: Charles Barkley
At the height of his career, Tiger Woods was friends with some of the most dominant and successful athletes across all sports. In particular, he was close friends with both Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, both of which also had a bit of an affinity for gambling and, in one famous story, along with Derek Jeter, helped the quiet and eccentric Woods talk to women.
Woods has maintained his relationship with Jordan, but Barkley confirmed he hadn't spoken to Woods in a long time last year in a story with The Undefeated. "To this day, I don't have any idea what happened," Barkley acknowledged. "After that ... thing, he just stopped talking to us. That's all I know." Of course, he's referring to Woods' highly-publicized affairs and divorce. Woods' longtime friend and former Stanford teammate, Notah Begay, believed he just needed a lifestyle change. Probably a not-so "turrable" idea.
10 Still Close: Arjun Atwal
Chances are without his affiliation to Tiger Woods, you might not have heard of Arjun Atwal, despite the fact he holds the distinction of being the first Indian-born player to win a PGA Tour event. He's enjoyed most of his success on the Asian and European Tour, but won the 2010 Wyndham Championship ahead of David Toms with a four-round score of -20.
Given his relative lack of success on the PGA Tour, you might expect he doesn't often run into Woods, but the two are actually neighbors in Florida and often practice together. Even despite all the negative times in Woods' life, the two have remained close and quite often turn to each other for advice. "I pretty much picked Tiger's brain a little bit because we are really close," Atwal told The Indian Express this past January in preparation for his captaining debut for Team Asia at the EurAsia Cup.
9 Doesn't Talk: Rory Sabbatini
Rory Sabbatini is a 42 year old native of South Africa and alumnus of the University of Arizona who has six PGA Tour victories and finished a career-best second-place at the 2007 Masters. He's obviously talented, but in comparison to Woods he's no more than an average golfer, and the latter made that perfectly clear following the Wachovia Championship in 2007. Sabbatini held a one-stroke lead over Woods after three rounds, but Woods stormed back to beat him easily by four strokes.
Despite that, Sabbatini claimed Woods was more beatable than ever and, a month later, had a fan removed from the Bridgestone Invitation for heckling him about the situation. Later that year in Decemeber, he became the first golfer in history to withdraw from Woods' Target World Challenge.
8 Still Close: Steve Stricker
Steve Stricker is one of Tiger Woods' closest friends. The 51 year old native of Wisconsin has won 12 PGA Tour events and finished second at the 1998 PGA Championship. He also earned PGA Tour Comeback Player of the Year in both 2006 and 2007. Although he's currently competing on the PGA Champions Tour, which is the re-branded Senior PGA, he remains close with Woods, often sharing advice and strategy with the former world number one.
In particular, Woods and Stricker help each other with putting. "We played together a lot in the (FedEx Cup) playoffs last year, and spent hours on the putting green. He wasn't putting well and we worked on it just about every day. That's nothing new between he and I. We've been doing this for years," Woods said on an ESPN radio show in 2013. Both players were recently named vice captains for the 2018 Ryder Cup.
7 Doesn't Talk: Sergio Garcia
The Tiger Woods-Sergio Garcia feud is perhaps one of the most intense ones in all of golf. The sport isn't like others where genuine hatred can be brought about through physicality and emotion, but Woods and Garcia have hated each other for nearly two decades. One of the most ugly aspects of the feud came in 2013, when Garcia stated he would serve fried chicken at a dinner with his longtime rival, an obvious stereotype. He later apologized, but it didn't help much.
Earlier that week, Garcia said the following to a group of reporters: "He called me a whiner. That's probably right. It's also probably the first thing he's told you guys that's true in 15 years. I know what he is like. You guys are finding out." Apparently, the feud started, at least publicly, with Garcia staring down Woods after draining a birdie putt during the final round of the 1999 PGA Championship.
6 Still Close: Mark O'Meara
Sixty one year old Mark O'Meara has 16 PGA Tour wins, including two majors, during the course of his career. He had the best year of his career in 1998, when he won the Masters, the Open Championship, and finished tied for fourth at the PGA Championship. He hasn't been very relevant since then, other than when he's asked about the play and or condition of Woods, of whom he is a close friend.
"If you think [Woods' ex-coach Hank Haney's] book's bad, wait 'till I come out with my book," O'Meara claimed to have joked to Woods once in a text message. Over the years, Tiger has shared plenty of secrets with O'Meara and is confident in his ability to keep those secrets. Their relationship was forged early in Woods' career, when O'Meara mentored him as both were members of the Isleworth Golf and Country Club.
5 Doesn't Talk: Bill Clinton
Tiger Woods and Bill Clinton were both major newsmakers in the late 1990s. The 42nd President of the United States, as is somewhat customary, enjoyed a round of golf with Woods back in 2006 as part of a fund-raiser for the Tiger Woods Learning Center, a facility dedicated to providing STEM educational opportunities to underprivileged children.
Little was known about the event, other than the fact it was successful, until the recent release of a Tiger Woods biography, which details the golfer being rude and unfriendly with the former president. Previously, Woods declined a 1997 ceremony honoring Jackie Robinson and declined to have his picture taken with Clinton after the American team won the Ryder Cup and visited the White House. If only they knew they had more in common than they thought...
4 Still Close: Notah Begay III
Few people know Tiger Woods as well as Notah Begay III. While others on this list have become close friends of his in recent years and even earned trusted confidant status, Begay III is one of Woods' longest-lasting friends. The two were college roommates at Stanford University and have both undergone their fair share of personal trials and tribulations only to come out on the other side. Begay III only has four career PGA Tour wins and a majors-best finish of eighth at the 2000 PGA Championship, but he's always genuine in his joy for Woods' success.
Begay III came to Woods' defense following his 2017 DUI. "I have the experience so I am able to speak from a position of knowledge versus speculation. Unless you've been there and you've done that you don't know some of the things that goes through a person's head and some of the issues that they have to process."
3 Doesn't Talk: Hank Haney
Remember the book we briefly mentioned written by Woods' ex-coach Hank Haney? Let's just say, despite the fact it was a commercial success, it didn't go over well with Woods, who has since cut off all ties with his former coach. In fact, if not for authoring the book, we might have forgotten the name Hank Haney. Instead, he's forever linked to Woods for all the wrong reasons.
In the book, titled Big Miss, Haney describes Woods as cheap, reckless, narcissistic, selfish, immature, and entitled, among other negative adjectives. He also dished on other topics including Tiger's hatred of intercourse-addiction therapy and how he would dangerously train with Navy SEALS. Tiger has made up with some former enemies as of late (more on that later), but there's no chance he ever makes amends with Haney.
2 Still Close: Phil Mickelson
"Still" might not be the appropriate word to use given Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson had one of the best and longest rivalries in modern golf history as the two fought for years to secure the world number one ranking. There was genuine hatred between the two earlier in their careers as they were polar opposite in regard to playing stay and personality, but as they have aged they have become closer, particularly as they try to remain competitive in a field of emerging young talent.
The best evidence of this is an October 2017 story on Golf.com which has the once-unlikely headline of "Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods: Golf's newest bromance?" The two shared smiles and a huge after Mickelson helped the United States win the Presidents Cup last year, following which Mickelson confirmed the hatred has died down. "Tiger and I have been good friends and have gotten along very well in these team events for many years now."
1 Doesn't Talk: Steve Williams
Hank Haney was the first former Tiger Woods coach/caddie to express how he truly feels about the legendary golfer, but his former caddie Steve Williams took it a step further in 2015 with the release of his autobiography, Out of the Rough. Williams was Woods' caddie for 13 of his 14 major championship wins, but grew tired with his disrespect towards the game and how he was treated.
"Tiger would flippantly toss a club in the general direction of the bag, expecting me to go over and pick it up. I felt uneasy about bending down to pick up his discarded club - it was like I was his slave," Williams wrote in the autobiography. It didn't help their relationship when Williams joined rival Adam Scott as a caddie in 2013 and helped him win the Masters that year.