History of how sport’s most iconic friendship between Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan unravelled – Daily Mail

Sport-starved viewers will soon be able to look forward to the lid being lifted on Tiger Woods‘ crazy life both on and off the golf course.

After the success of ‘The Last Dance’ on ESPN and Netflix, which covered the incredible rise of Michael Jordan, it’s time for golfing great Woods to face the same treatment later this year.  

HBO will air a four-hour docuseries on Woods’ extraordinary life and career, possibly coinciding with the rescheduled Masters at Augusta National in November. 

And as we prepare to find out some fascinating revelations, Sportsmail has taken an in-depth look at sport’s most iconic friendship between Woods and Jordan, and how everything quickly unravelled between the pair…

Sporting icons Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan forged a brilliant friendship back in the day

The pair share a laugh during the Pro-Am at the Wachovia Championship back in 2007

Woods and Jordan had enjoyed arguably the most high-profile friendship in the celebrity sphere, for years the two absolute sporting greats were inseparable.

And it all started off when golfing icon and 15-time major winner Woods was 14 years of age, harbouring huge ambitions to reach the top echelons of sporting superiority.   

How their friendship blossomed was a huge testament to Woods’ self belief from such a young age.

At 14, Woods compared himself in an interview to Jordan – where he also suggested he could be greater than Jack Nicklaus, the man he would look to surpass in terms of major triumphs.

‘I might be sort of like a Michael Jordan in basketball, something like that,’ a young Woods told TransWorld Sport in 1990. That was some foresight from Tiger – especially considering Jordan wasn’t even at the peak of his powers within basketball.

And as Woods rose to fame on the golf course, that level of attention attracted huge interest from the world’s biggest stars, and none more so than Jordan himself – the man he grew up idolising.

But Woods had been warned off becoming close friends with the NBA great when he was on the cusp of re-writing the history books in golf.  

In an biography titled Tiger Woods, written by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian, the American was reportedly warned to stay away from the Chicago Bulls star in 1996 by John Merchant – a lawyer that helped Woods’ family while he was at Stanford University.

‘Michael can play basketball as well as anyone who’s ever played the game,’ Merchant said as per Yahoo Sports. ‘There isn’t anything else that Michael is good at doing. Nothing! And he’s had too many years of being out there in public. So he’s going to try to use you.’

But despite the word of warning, the golfing prodigy refused to listen and instead struck up a huge bond with Jordan. When Woods turned professional in 1996, he immediately had something in common with his idol – both being sponsored by sportswear giants Nike, which would open the door for their friendship to blossom.

Woods would reach out to Jordan, believing that their sporting careers were following a similar trajectory.

Speaking during a sitdown with interview with Oprah Winfrey back in the day, Woods explained: ‘I guess my association with Nike did help that. But Mike’s in position where I think my life is going. 

‘And I went through some problems, I didn’t know how to handle certain situations. Like dealing with visibility, loss of privacy, articles, just people in general, and Mike helped me out because Mike has already been there.

‘He’s established himself as probably the best basketball player that’s ever lived, and he’s so well-known that what better person to relate to me than not a movie star, celebrity or anything like that but a guy who’s down to earth, who’s an athlete, who can relate to another athlete. And Mike is almost like my big brother right now.’ 

Jordan would regularly attend professional golf competitions, including US team events

Jordan watches on closely while Woods is in the heat of the battle at the 2004 Ryder Cup

Their huge admiration for each other was reciprocated, with Jordan singing the praises of his great friend in an article from ESPN The Magazine back in 2001.  

Jordan wrote: ‘The ability to perform in the clutch comes from having the confidence to know that you can. Where does that confidence come from? From having done it in the past. Of course, you have to do it that first time, but after that, you’ve got a model you can always relate back to. It gives you comfort doing something you’ve done before.

‘The athlete today with more of that kind of confidence than anyone is Tiger Woods. Look at his record. If he’s got a lead, he keeps it. If he needs a big shot, he makes it. And the more he does it—the more he comes through when he has to—the more confident he is he can do it again.’

Speaking about Woods’ winning mentality, Jordan added: ‘Tiger’s confidence is so high because of his work ethic and his past success. And he performs the way he does in the clutch today because he has such confidence. If he wants to hook it around the damn tree, he’ll do it. The rest of us don’t have that confidence, or that past success, so when we hook the stupid ball, it hits the tree.’ 

Woods and Jordan regularly hung out together privately and occasionally at joint appearances, most notably at the 2007 Wachovia Championship (now called the Wells Fargo Championship).

As their friendship continued to go from strength-to-strength, Jordan became increasingly involved in the world of professional golf, regularly turning up to charity events and almost every United States team event.

‘We can relate on so many different levels,’ Woods said after they played together in 2007. ‘Not too many people have gone through the same things we’ve had to go through, and he actually did it first. So because of that, I’ve been able to basically cherry-pick all the knowledge that he’s accumulated over the years.’

But not long after, Woods’ world would come crumbling down, which in turn signalled the end of his great friendship with Jordan.

Woods watches on while his close friend Jordan plays for the Chicago Bulls in 1997

After his marital infidelities came to light in 2009, Woods distanced himself from the public eye and those closest to him. 

For the world’s most recognisable sportsman, the incident during the early hours of November 27, 2009, marked a hugely scandalous moment.

It ended with him taking an indefinite break from the sport as his personal life fell apart and marriage collapsed amid a string of alleged infidelities.

Two days after the first claims of an extramarital affair came to light, Woods shocked the world when he lost control of his SUV outside his Florida mansion, crashing into a fire hydrant and tree after he pulled out of his driveway. His wife at the time, Elin Nordegren, had to smash a rear window with a golf club to force him out of the car. 

‘To this day, I don’t have any idea what happened,’ Charles Barkley, another former close friend to Woods, said. ‘After that … thing, he just stopped talking to us. That’s all I know.’

Jordan would somewhat re-establish a friendship with Woods more than seven years after the public meltdown of the latter’s private life. But their relationship hasn’t quite been the same since. 

And in 2016, Jordan spoke quite frankly about his former great friend in Wright Thompson’s article for ESPN – offering some unique insight into the guilt Woods felt.

‘That bothers him more than anything,’ Jordan said. ‘It looms. It’s in his mind. It’s a ship he can’t right and he’s never going to. What can you do? The thing is about T-Dub, he cannot erase. That’s what he really wants. He wants to erase the things that happened.’ 

While their friendship fell apart in 2009, the pair remain amicable – Jordan pictured here at the 2018 Ryder Cup following Woods

Jordan also offered a depressing prediction for the rest of Woods’ playing career back in 2016 after everything he had been through. ‘The thing is, I love him so much that I can’t tell him, “You’re not gonna be great again”.’

The article also provided some more revelations into Woods’ private life. Before he destroyed his golden boy image in 2009, he was seen as ‘socially awkward’ to close friends while he was said to have often hid his awkwardness around women.

According to the ESPN article, Woods walked up to Jordan and Derek Jeter in a New York nightclub while on a night out in 1999 and asked how to talk to women.

With a confused look, Jordan and Jeter reportedly looked at each other before telling him: ‘Go tell ’em you’re Tiger Woods.’

Following the article coming to light and Jordan’s rare candor, sources close to the pair reportedly claim that Woods hasn’t called the basketball icon since. But even then, the friendship was never as tight as it had been before 2009. 

However, while the pair don’t speak much anymore, Jordan still clearly respects Woods and was full of praise for his former friend after completing arguably the greatest ever comeback in sporting history, winning the Masters in 2019.

Speaking to The Athletic last year, Jordan said: ‘I never thought he’d get back physically. He didn’t think he’d get back physically. But he did it. No one expected him to be back the way he is now. 

‘He’s probably the only person who believed he could get back. To me, that’s a major accomplishment. To me, it’s unbelievable. Mentally, you always think you can. But you can’t answer to what your body has to deal with.’ 

Jordan was at Le Golf National to support Woods as US were convincingly beaten by Europe

Jordan then added: ‘You rely so much on the mental toughness. Until you know what you’re capable of doing, you’re going to exert your will when you think you need to do so. But the biggest task is always going to be mental. You’re going against guys who are more gifted physically. 

‘But your advantage is mental. You have so many things you can draw upon, and the other guys don’t have the same. They don’t have the experience. You think about (Francesco) Molinari hitting it in the water on 12, (Tony) Finau hitting in the water, Brooks (Koepka) hitting in the water on 12. Mentally, (Woods) had to sustain it. From then on it was him trying to figure it out.’ 

So while the pair are not on the best terms, it appears they are amicable with each other and Jordan has been spotted of late at events Woods has appeared in – most notably the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le National in France.

Woods was just one of many who tuned in for Jordan’s ‘The Last Dance’ on Netflix – a 10-part documentary series on Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls.

Not many in the world can relate to Jordan’s competitive nature but Woods certainly can, highlighting this in an interview with Golf Digest.

‘He’s more, I think, outwardly competitive than I am. But I have my tendencies to be a little competitive at times,’ Woods admitted.

Things may not be the same between the pair after a tumultuous time of late, but they clearly have plenty of respect for each other. 

And that will always be the case for the two sporting giants.

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