Swedish model Elin Nordegren was working as a nanny for golfer Jesper Parnevik when she was introduced to at the 2001 British Open. “I knew that she was the one for me,” Woods later told PEOPLE. “It’s great when you see people who’ve been married for 20, 30, 40 years and they’re still in love. That’s what I want for us.”
Fiercely private, Woods took a public step, bringing then-girlfriend Nordegren to the Golf Writers Association of America Awards 2002 dinner in April. “I knew that Elin was a special woman pretty soon after I met her,” he told PEOPLE.
After two years together, Woods popped the question to Nordegren during a trip to the Shamwari Game Reserve in South Africa – but the couple’s happiness was tempered when news of the engagement leaked. “The only positive out of the whole trip is that Elin didn’t say no,” said Woods (here, just three weeks before his top-secret nuptials).
On Oct. 5, 2004, Woods and Nordegren tied the knot – where else? – at a golf resort in Barbados before guests including Michael Jordan and . While some speculated that marriage could influence his game, Woods rebuffed those rumors, writing on his Web site, “I just hope I can get the ball in the hole a little faster.”
Hold that Tiger! After winning his fourth Masters in 2005 in a sudden death playoff, Nordegren congratulated her husband with a big smooch on the green in Augusta, Ga. The golfer had dedicated the tournament to his ailing father Earl Woods, and first hugged his caddie before embracing his mother and then his wife.
After winning a reported $1.26 million at the Masters, Woods and Nordegren celebrated with a Cayman Islands trip on their $22 million, three-story yacht – named Privacy. By 2005, Woods’s estate was estimated to be worth around $600 million. Included in that: a waterfront Jupiter Island, Fla., compound, estimated at $38 million, a $2.4 million home in Windermere, Fla., and a $2.3 million retreat outside Stockholm.
Less than two months after his father’s death on May 3, a tearful Woods embraced Nordegren after winning the 2006 British Open by five shots. “I’m kind of one who bottles things up a little bit and moves on, tries to deal with things in my own way,” he told reporters. “But at that moment it all came pouring out and all the things my father has meant to me and the game of golf.”
“My life is great,” the happy dad said. “I’m just enjoying the moment.” Like this family outing to a football match at his alma mater, Stanford, on Nov. 21, 2009 – less than a week before the fateful Thanksgiving night car crash that would trigger the unraveling of the exalted star’s persona.