No. 1: Elin Nordegren

Elin Nordegren was a golden girl, the sweet-faced Swedish blond enigma betrothed to golf’s dreamboat. Few knew who the beautiful Stockholm native really was until a tidal wave of sex scandal came crashing down around her little family.

We have sparse biographical info about most sports wives. Former model Nordegren appeared to fit the part seamlessly, trophy wife and world-class nurturer, visible only from afar, silently supporting her spouse from the sidelines. A former swimsuit model, she had been working as the au pair to Swedish golfer Jesper Parnevik and his wife Mia when she first caught Woods’s eye. For a year Woods asked to be introduced to her, something he had in common with other players on the circuit: <a href=”>”There was a big line of single golfers wanting to meet her,” Mia Parnevik later said. “They were gaga over her.” Once introduced, however, Nordegren was soon smitten: “I loved him, we had so much fun, and I felt safe with him,” she later told People. “Our wedding day was one of the happiest days of my life.”

Following her opulent, celebrity-studded 2004 wedding at Sandy Lane resort in Barbados, Nordegren discovered the downside of the public eye. Fake nude photographs made the rounds online, but she sued when Irish magazine the Dubliner published the photos and claimed they depicted her. She won the subsequent libel suit.

Scandal struck again, hard, in the early morning after Thanksgiving 2009. Woods crashed his Cadillac Escalade into a hydrant and a tree near his home in Windermere, Florida. According to the town’s police chief, an upset Nordegren had rescued Woods from the vehicle by breaking the windows of the SUV with a golf club. Later, it emerged that they had been arguing about reports of Woods’s infidelity; namely, a National Enquirer piece on an affair with nightclub promoter and hostess Rachel Uchitel.

Woods issued his first public apology before 2009 was out, but then women began to sally forth. The chances that the couple would repair their marriage faded into the distance like a long, well-hit golf drive. “I felt stupid as more things were revealed — how could I not have known anything?” Nordegren later told People in her only public interview on the subject. “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.”

After attempting a reconciliation for “months and months” and deciding that a union “without trust and love” wasn’t possible, Nordegren moved on, divorcing Woods on August 23, with an estimated $100 million settlement (thanks to the help of London law firm McGuire Woods, which employs Nordegren’s twin sister, Josefin Lonnborg). Woods and Nordegren agreed to share custody of daughter Sam Alexis, 3, and son Charlie Axel, 1, while Elin continued work on her bachelor’s degree in psychology. One lesson she’s applying directly to her own circumstances: the five stages of grief.

“It is hard to describe the emotional roller coaster I have been on, and it’s not over yet,” she explained to People. “I pretty much followed — and am following — the stages of grief that I have learned in my psychology studies: shock, bargaining, anger, depression — and I am still working on the last stage, forgiveness and/or acceptance.”

–Kimberly Chun

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