Elin Nordegren said she never had an inkling.
She said she never hit her famous husband with a golf club.
She said she’s never felt so sad and devastated, and hopes she never will again.
All this and more from the woman the world has waited to hear from since that Thanksgiving night in November that shattered her marriage and the carefully crafted image of Tiger Woods.
“I’ve been through hell,” Nordegren said in an interview with People magazine released Wednesday, two days after she and Woods were officially divorced. “It’s hard to think you have this life, and then all of a sudden – was it a lie? You’re struggling because it wasn’t real. But I survived. It was hard, but it didn’t kill me.”
She and the couple’s children, 3-year-old daughter Sam and 18-month-old son Charlie, have settled a mile from her ex-husband in a rented, five-bedroom house in a gated community in Windermere, Fla. – where Woods needs her permission to get past the guard. The two are sharing custody of their children.
She credits therapy and long runs with helping her deal with the last nine months, and she also kept a journal of her thoughts and emotions. “I haven’t gone back to read what I wrote in December and January; I’m afraid to,” she said.
She has not watched “one minute of golf.” But she can laugh at things now, calling those “Saturday Night Live” and “South Park” parodies of her “pretty hysterical” (though totally untrue).
“She’s been amazing,” said Mia Parnevik, for whom Nordegren was working as a nanny when she met Woods more than a decade ago. “She has held her head high. To go through a divorce is not easy for anybody. To go through what she’s gone through is not humane.”
She is not, however, without scars. In the days before the divorce was finalized, Nordegren’s long, blonde hair began falling out.
“She’s held her head high. She has not caved in,” said Parnevik, wife of pro golfer Jesper Parnevik. “She’s not said bad things about him, and that’s kind of an easy game to get into.”
The Swedish-born Nordegren has always guarded her privacy as fiercely as Woods, if not more so. Even in happier times she was rarely quoted. She kept to herself at golf tournaments, staying well beyond the ropes and once turning away when she noticed photographers taking her picture.
Years ago, a reporter mentioned that he had never seen her on the 18th green after Woods won a tournament.
“That’s just not my personality,” she said.
But the car crash outside the couple’s Florida home shattered any hopes she had of a normal life for her and her children.
The world knew the tawdry details of Woods’ philandering, and many wondered if Nordegren had a hand in the accident, perhaps going after him in a fit of rage when she caught him.
“This was one of the things I had the hardest time with people thinking,” Nordegren said. “There was never any violence inside or outside our home. The speculation that I would have used a golf club to hit him is just truly ridiculous.”
The interview with People, conducted at her home over four visits lasting a total of 19 hours, will be her only one, she said.
Nordegren approached People, and magazine spokeswoman Claudia DiRomualdo said no one was paid for the story. Nordegren would not disclose the amount of the divorce settlement but did say “money can’t buy happiness or put my family back together.”
Nordegren said she had never suspected Woods of cheating. She hadn’t traveled as much the last few years, busy with the couple’s children and her psychology classes at Rollins College.
“I felt stupid as more things were revealed – how could I not have known anything?” Nordegren said. “The word betrayal isn’t strong enough. I felt like my whole world had fallen apart. It seemed that my world as I thought it was had never existed. I felt embarrassed for having been so deceived. I felt betrayed by many people around me.”
Still, Nordegren said the couple tried for months to reconcile. Woods even spent two months in therapy at a Mississippi clinic in hopes of saving the marriage. The child of divorced parents herself, Nordegren said she wanted her children to have a “core family,” a happily married mother and father.
Nordegren leaned heavily on her family during the turmoil. Twin sister Josefin, a London-based attorney, was part of her legal team, and her mother, Barbro Holmberg, traveled to Florida to be with her daughter.
But even that was not without drama. Holmberg, who has very low blood pressure, collapsed and had to be taken to the hospital during a December visit after the flu swept through Nordegren’s house.
In the end, Nordegren said she decided that a marriage “without trust and love” wasn’t good for anyone.
“I am now going to do my very best to show them that alone and happy is better than being in a relationship where there is no trust,” she said.
Asked about his ex-wife’s interview, Woods said Wednesday, “I wish her the best in everything.”
“You don’t ever go into a marriage looking to get divorced. That’s the thing,” Woods said from The Barclays golf tournament in New Jersey. “That’s why it is sad.”
Nordegren wasn’t even interested in Woods when she was first introduced to him. But she eventually fell in love with him because they had “so much fun, and I felt safe with him.” She called their Oct. 5, 2004, wedding in Barbados “one of the happiest days of my life” and told People she still has her Vera Wang wedding dress.
Now she is on her own, just her and the children.
Woods’ golf game has suffered amid his personal turmoil, and he said Wednesday that his children’s well-being remains his priority. But Nordegren said she still believes he’ll wind up as the “best golfer that ever lived.”
Just don’t expect her to be watching. “Forgiveness takes time,” and she’s still working on it, Nordegren said.
“She should get a lot of credit for how she portrayed herself,” Parnevik said. “The integrity and respect, that’s her – not him.”
– AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report from Paramus, N.J.
Some excerpts from Elin Nordegren’s interview with People magazine. Nordegren’s divorce from Tiger Woods was finalized Monday.
• • •
On Woods’ infidelities: “I’m so embarrassed that I never suspected – not a one. For the past 3 1/2 years, when all this was going on, I was home a lot more with pregnancies, then the children and my school.”
• • •
On her feelings when she first learned Woods was unfaithful: “Absolute shock and disbelief. I felt stupid as more things were revealed – how could I not have known anything? The word betrayal isn’t strong enough.”
• • •
On the last nine months, since Woods’ infidelities were revealed: “I’ve been through hell. It’s hard to think you have this life, and then all of a sudden – was it a lie? You’re struggling because it wasn’t real. But I survived. It was hard, but it didn’t kill me.”
• • •
On speculation she hit Woods the night of his accident that triggered the revelations about his behavior: “There was never any violence inside or outside our home. The speculation that I would have used a golf club to hit him is just truly ridiculous. Tiger left the house that night, and after a while when he didn’t return, I got worried and decided to go 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.”
• • •
On why she is speaking out now: “Before today I haven’t felt ready, but now I see it as a step toward putting it behind me. … I have no intention of addressing these matters again after this interview.”
• • •
On whether she’ll be able to forgive Woods: “Forgiveness takes time. It is the last step of the grieving process. I am going to be completely honest and tell you that I am working on it. I know I will have to come to forgiveness and acceptance of what has happened for me to go on and be happy in the future. And I know I will get there eventually.”