News & ToursMay 4, 2010

Woods and seller differ on validity of irons

The eBay auction for a set of Tiger Woods irons and wedges that may or may not have been used during Woods' "Tiger Slam" in 2000-2001 has quickly turned into a "He said, he said," situation.

During his pre-tournament press conference at the Players, Woods was asked about the clubs, which were put up for sale by Steve Mata, former director of tour operations for Titleist at an asking price of $250,000.

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"He may have my set of irons, but they are not from those tournaments. They are in my garage. ... The sets that I won all four major championships with are in my house," Woods said.

Woods said he used two sets of irons during that run and that he is in possession of both sets.

Contacted moments after Woods' statement, Mata had a different take.

"At Westchester in 2001 I brought back two sets of irons to Woods that I had worked on and he used them in a practice round," said Mata. "After nine holes, I asked Tiger if he liked them and he said, "Yeah--I like these [one specific set]." When Mata asked Woods, who used Titleist irons from 1996 until switching to Nike in 2002, what he wanted him to do with the other set, Mata says Woods told him, "That's fine--you keep them."

Mata said there was another employee from Titleist with him when he received the clubs from Woods. The two men looked at each other as Mata said, "Are you kidding me? He just gave these to me? You know what these are, right?" Mata, who has not been with Titleist for 17 months and has been unemployed in the interim, would not identify the person since he still works for Titleist.

Mata said that a couple of years after receiving the clubs he spoke with Woods about the irons and mentioned again to him that they were the clubs Woods had won the Tiger Slam with. Mata said Woods replied, "No, they only won two of them," although Mata maintains they won all four. When asked why Woods would deny that he has the clubs, Mata simply said, "I have no idea. I don't understand. But a lot of people inside the industry have known for a long time that I have these clubs and know what they are."

Stay tuned.

Update: Shortly after Woods' statement Tuesday afternoon that he was in possession of the two sets of irons he used during the "Tiger Slam" in 2000-2001, the listing for the irons for sale on eBay that were supposedly used  during the Slam was taken down by the internet auction site. Mata said that he is in discussions with eBay to restore the auction to the site.

-- *E. Michael Johnson

(Photo by Getty Images)

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