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Hanging out with hard-partying former basketball stars Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley put Tiger Woods on the cartpath to debauchery, his former lawyer and adviser tells Vanity Fair in a bombshell interview hitting newsstands today.
In a 14-page spread that also includes steamy photos and interviews with the women Woods allegedly cheated on his wife with, John Merchant calls his ex-pal's fall from grace worse than "one of Shakespeare's tragedies."
"I told him, 'Stay away from that son of a b---- [Jordan], because he doesn't have anything to offer to the f---ing world in which he lives except playing basketball," Merchant told the magazine, which comes out today.
Quoting Merchant and self-professed Tiger ladies Jamie Jungers, Mindy Lawton and Loredana Jolie Ferriolo, the article paints a picture of the world's top golfer as a sex-crazed, high-stakes gambler who felt no remorse about the double life that shamed his family. Lawton, a waitress in a diner near Woods' home, claims the golfer hit on her after she served him and wife Elin Nordegren, then wasted no time putting the moves on her in his own home.
Michelle Braun, a "matchmaker" who claims to have procured girls for Woods, said she steered Ferriolo to Woods while he was at a Bahamas casino. Ferriolo said that Jordan, who was also there, sent a bodyguard to try to intercept her. "I walked over to him and he grabbed my hand. I walked away, and he kind of gave chase. He goes, 'I'm Michael Jordan. I will find you.'"
But Woods had plunked down $15,000 for the meeting with Ferriolo, according to Braun. Ferriolo, who claims to be writing a book about her affair with Woods, claims she fell hard for the golf superstar.
"He made me fall in love," Ferriolo said. "I couldn't believe that he would turn out to be such a playboy."
Woods, whose once pristine image has been in the deep rough since an ugly Thanksgiving night incident and subsequent revelations of philandering, is planning to make his big return to competitive golf at the Masters, from April 8-11. But while Woods can still swing a club better than anyone on the planet, the prestigious tournament comes as he battles to save his marriage.
Jungers said that after a 2005 assignation with Woods in Las Vegas, she asked him about his home life.
"How's your marriage?" Jungers said she asked Woods.
"Good," Woods allegedly replied, adding that Nordegren was in her native Sweden "with her sister."