IT'S a well-known fact that the higher a star climbs, the harder and more spectacular the fall. Nowhere is this more accurate than in the case of the world's top golfer Tiger Woods. This week, he's back in action for the Ryder Cup, courtesy of a wild-card entry.
It's a world away from his last Ryder Cup appearance four years ago in Ireland. Back then, the golfing dynamo needed no wild card, such was his blistering form at the time. Much of his visit was dominated by the controversy surrounding a magazine article which contained offensive remarks about his wife Elin. Tiger hit back ferociously, presenting an image of a protective and devoted family man.
Little did we know then that it was all a charade, and that behind his carefully cultivated persona Tiger was enjoying life in the rough.
The first name to hit the headlines was that of Rachel Uchitel, a privileged New Yorker who achieved unwanted fame in the aftermath of the 9/11 atrocities. Her fiance had been working in the World Trade Centre during the attacks and a shot of Rachel tearfully holding his photograph made news around the world. Fast forward a few years and she packed in her job as a television producer and began running VIP services at New York nightclubs. This was the scene of her first meeting with Woods.
When news of her fling with the golfer broke, Rachel immediately contacted lawyer Gloria Allred, suggesting she was seeking a pay-off in exchange for her silence. Rumours abounded that she had Woods's email messages to prove that this was indeed a love affair.
If Uchitel was horrified to see her name in print, it paled in comparison to the reaction of Jamie Grubbs. She met Tiger in April 2007, when she was just 21. A night partying with her friends led to a trip back to Tiger's suite, but she insisted nothing happened until a later date.
Following their second night together, she described Tiger saying: "wake up sleeping beauty", having arranged breakfast in the suite.
Grubbs later said she and Tiger had 20 sexual encounters. Finally, on November 24 last year, she received a panicked voicemail from him.
It said: "Can you please take your name off your phone. My wife went through my phone and may be calling you. If you can, please take your name off and just have it as a number on the voice mail. You've got to do this for me. Huge. Quickly. All right. Bye."
By then, the jig was up for Tiger and his woes were compounded by a mysterious car crash outside his Orlando home. But it came as a massive shock to Jamie Grubbs to discover that she wasn't his only mistress.
"I thought the car crash could have been because of me," she said. "His wife had gone through his phone and found out he was seeing me . . . I thought I was the only person he was dating.
"I was angry," she says. "I was sad. I felt betrayed. I felt kind of tossed aside." She got her own back by releasing the messages Tiger had sent her.
While he was certainly indiscreet, Tiger definitely played too close to home when he set his eyes on Mindy Lawton, the hostess in his local restaurant.
Tiger and his wife were regular customers, according to Mindy, who said it appeared that the couple had a strained relationship.
"One of them would read the paper, just very cold. I didn't see any signs of affection . . . I figured he was in a loveless relationship with his wife."
One evening, she received a phone call from Tiger inviting her to party with his friends that night. She went along and afterwards Woods invited her back to his home where they had sex. They settled into a routine of short meetings, often in his house, or in the garage and once in a church car park. It was the car park that would topple Tiger, as they were followed by reporters from the National Enquirer.
Tiger, explained Mindy "was very passionate and very rough". She recalled one occasion where they'd had sex by the wall of the garage, describing the golfer as "so strong".
He was also quite tight, it seems, as he never once spent money on her. He did buy dinner once -- a chicken wrap from Subway.
Money also became an issue for 21-year-old Jamie Jungers. She first met Tiger in the summer of 2005 while partying at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. A VIP hostess approached and told her Tiger wanted to meet her. A night of drinking followed before Tiger invited her to his suite.
Jungers claimed that after having sex, she asked Woods about his marriage and he responded that it was "good". His wife, he said, was in Sweden with her sister. He later organised for Jungers to be flown to meet him and she claims to have been with Tiger on the day he received the news of his father's death.
Jungers explained: "We were at his house in California, and we're sitting there watching a movie. But that was before he knew his dad died. At about three o'clock in the morning we got a phone call, and I knew it wasn't going to be a good call. That was when his mom called to say his dad passed away.
"He really didn't say anything. He was real quiet. I think he kind of tried to hide his emotion a little bit. You could just see it in his face.
"And I didn't know what to say. All I said was, 'I'm sorry.'"
The next time she saw Woods, Jungers felt it was time for a little reward, having been sleeping with him for 18 months. She told him: "'I feel like we're at a point in our relationship where you wouldn't mind helping me.' I didn't say, 'I need this much' or 'I need you to buy me a house'. I just said, 'Can you please help me?' And he said, 'I can't.'"
"I kind of thought he was kidding at first. That's when I told him, 'I can't do this any more. You've never done anything for me, never. Holidays, you never bought me cards, flowers -- nothing."
Tiger wasn't about to part with any cash for his mistress so the relationship ended swiftly.
However, he had no problem parting with cash when it came to the beautiful Loredana Jolie, an escort who charged $15,000 a night. It is claimed that Jolie was introduced to Woods at a pre-arranged meeting at Butter, a plush Manhattan club. Loredana later revealed that Woods didn't use his real name that first night.
She described the golfer as "really shy", and said they didn't sleep together on the first date.
"He kept calling me and requesting me, and that's how we became really close."
Despite his many off-course liaisons, Tiger was still winning. He notched up the titles and retained his status as the world's number one golfer. In June 2007, his first child Sam Alexis was born, followed by a son in February 2009, named Charlie Axel.
Yet, somewhere along the line, he began to develop an addiction to the thrill of seeing other women, and found himself unable to stop. Among those to catch his eye was Cori Rist, the woman who was later labelled Mistress Number Six.
The New Yorker revealed that she met Woods while clubbing in 2006, in the same Manhattan club where the golfer met Jolie. She certainly fell for him, describing him as "a really nice person, other than what he was doing is completely wrong. So you fall in love with that charm".
Rist said their meeting was arranged when a man who identified himself as Tiger's trainer invited her to meet him. They ended up at an apartment owned by a star baseball player, where Tiger had his own room.
Yet she said Tiger "was weird about me sleeping in his bed. Maybe it was a wife thing. Maybe if she called or someone came in, they'd see us together."
A sense of the man behind the golfer unfolded, as she spoke of a guy who liked eating Froot Loop cereal and watching cartoons. However, he also had a possessive side and constantly phoned to ask where she was and to seek reassurance as to her feelings for him.
By this time, Tiger appeared to have descended into sex addiction. Adult-film star Joslyn James, another conquest, doesn't seem so sure.
"I think he's a lying addict," she explained. "I don't know if it's not being able to tell the truth or not being able to accept the truth. He's just living in a fantasy bubble of Mr All-American, Mr Act-So- Perfect. You know, 'I can do no wrong'. That's not him. Everybody's got flaws. We all mess up."
James met Woods while working as "eye candy" at a golf tournament and immediately considered him to be "a d**khead, really full of himself".
Later, working as a dancer in nightclubs, she bumped into him again. On one occasion, Tiger asked to speak to her, and while she initially refused, they eventually got talking. One thing led to another until she, too, was being squired around his hotel suite.
By November last year, the charade became too difficult to maintain, and Tiger's wife Elin discovered the first of the infidelities. Late at night, Tiger got into his new Cadillac and drove from the house, hitting off a fire hydrant before crashing into a tree. The incident was hushed up, but the first whispers of mistresses had surfaced.
It was devastating for Elin Woods, who would later explain: "I felt stupid as more things were revealed -- how could I not have known anything? The word 'betrayal' isn't strong enough. I felt like my whole world . . . as I thought it was had never existed. I felt embarrassed for having been so deceived. I felt betrayed by many people."
Tiger immediately went to ground, only to resurface in an obscure addiction clinic in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The venue was besieged by the press, but Tiger remained inside for 45 days, supposedly receiving treatment for sex addiction.
Yet, his return hasn't worked out as he planned. Despite receiving the usual adulation from fans, his game has suffered a ferocious slump.
Three months after his return to golf, he crossed the water at the behest of his friend JP McManus for the Invitational Pro-Am. Yet he remained silent and chose not to take part in any of the festivities surrounding the event.
When his divorce from Elin was finalised in August, he kept his comments to a minimum, telling reporters that it has been "a long year".
Yesterday, he got his first taste of post-marriage troubles when the US team arrived in Wales, and Tiger found himself without a partner on the steps of the plane for the obligatory photograph. This weekend, he'll take to the course at Celtic Manor in a bid to make a real difference to the US's chances.
The question is, following a horrendous year of scandal in which his image has been irreparably dented, can the great showman of golf finally get his act together?