Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009

Tiger Woods

Few people plummeted further in 2009 than golf's biggest star, who began the year as the world's richest athlete and ended it as a punch line. A mysterious car accident on Thanksgiving night shattered Woods' meticulously crafted image and touched off a frenzy of speculation over his behavior beyond the green. For Woods, the story was a nightmare; for the tabloids, it was a feast served as quickly as we could gobble it, each dish juicier than the last. As Woods stonewalled investigators, rumors that a marital rift precipitated the crash were seemingly validated by the emergence of a succession of women all claiming to have bedded the golfer. After Woods issued a tepid apology that failed to quash the ballooning scandal — which included a rumored split with wife Elin Nordegren and a frightening hospital visit for his visiting mother-in-law — he announced on Dec. 11 that he would take an indefinite hiatus from the links to patch up his personal life. He'd better hurry back, though — on Dec. 13, the consulting firm Accenture became the first major sponsor to sever its ties with the beleaguered star.

— Alex Altman