Op ed

Just who is Elin Nordegren Woods, anyway?

As Tiger Wreck Watch 2009 lurches into its fourth day with little new information, fans and media are combing over every element of this case like symbologists in a Dan Brown thriller. There’s brick wall after brick wall in this story, but one of the largest and most well-fortified is this: just who is Elin Nordegren Woods, anyway?

If you were to design the perfect wife for a privacy-hungry superstar like Tiger Woods, she’d look a whole lot like Elin — low-key, accustomed to celebrity, and, from all appearances on the golf course, totally devoted to her husband’s career.

Which is what makes the current questions about her recent behavior — why did she smash a window in Tiger’s Escalade? Is she responsible for his injuries? Why did she change her story to police? — so challenging. We’d like to think the best of her, but we simply don’t know much about her.

As the Daily Beast notes today in a story entitled “The Mysterious Mrs. Woods,” there’s only been one major story written about Elin Nordegren Woods — a 2004 Sports Illustrated profile — and even that story centered on how little anyone outside of her inner circle knows about her.

The facts: She grew up in Stockholm, and while she did some modeling in her teens, the idea that she was a “Swedish supermodel” is one of those urban legends that grows in the retelling. “She wasn’t a high-profile model,” as the Beast quotes a source from a New York modeling agency, and, to be fair, she didn’t seem to be particularly interested in modeling as a career.

But she was around the world of golf long before she met Woods, serving as the nanny to golfer Jesper Parnevik. She met Tiger at the 2001 British Open, and it wasn’t exactly a romantic introduction for the ages.

According to SI, Tiger was so nervous about asking her out that he had a friend do it for him. Initially, she declined. But Woods persisted, she relented, and they married in a lavish $1.5 million ceremony in Barbados. That wedding was the stuff of tabloid heaven, with Hootie and the Blowfish as the house band and Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley in attendance.

Being married to the world’s richest athlete apparently has done little to change Elin’s public persona. We don’t see her doing reality shows, we don’t see her on the covers of magazines every month, and aside from releasing some photos, she doesn’t parade around her children – two-year-old Sam and nine-month-old Charlie – seeking publicity. It’s refreshing, really, to see someone in the limelight who’s so apparently unconcerned with the fame-hungry world of modern celebrity.

And this brings up the question of obligation. Is Elin Woods obligated to share anything about herself with the world just because of the man she married? Of course not.  Their private life is just that: private. Anything that goes on behind closed doors is their business, and theirs alone … as long as no crimes have been committed. Without speculating on the Woods case, any time there is a reasonable suspicion of domestic violence, it does indeed become a public matter.

What’s definitive is that some of the events of recent days haven’t been behind closed doors, they’ve taken place on public streets. And because Tiger Woods is a worldwide celebrity, anything he does in public, from hitting a golf ball to hitting a fire hydrant, draws worldwide notice. Combine the events of Friday morning with the allegations published last Wednesday that Woods had been pursuing an affair with another woman, and you’ve got a case that police simply cannot ignore.

In the world of celebrity culture, curiosity fills in the gaps in a vacuum of information. Was it the wisest idea for Elin Woods to share absolutely nothing about herself for all these years? Perhaps, perhaps not; that’s a decision everyone watching this case has to make for themselves. 

What’s certain is that the Woods camp would love a mulligan on many elements of this case, and the image that’s been created — or, more accurately, not created — of Elin up until Nov. 27 may very well be at the top of that list.

The Mysterious Mrs. Woods [Daily Beast]

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