How Tiger Woods' girlfriend Erica Herman put him on the path to redemption – despite once being branded a 'gold digger' after pursuing him for ten years

TIGER Woods couldn’t stop grinning as he was crowned winner of the 2019 Masters this weekend – but it wasn't just the trophy that put a smile on his face.

The golfing champion was seen giving his restaurant manager girlfriend Erica Herman  – who he has dated for 18 months – a huge embrace after the tournament, showing her off in front of the world's cameras.

After eleven years without a major title, the couple’s public kiss cemented Erica as troubled Tiger's 'saviour'.

The pair's PDA comes just months after Tiger mouthed “I love you” at Erica after winning the Ryder Cup last September.

It marked a change in the player, who has been dogged by scandal after he reportedly slept with around 120 women during his marriage to Elin Nordegren, who hit him with a golf club when she discovered his infidelities.

As well as being arrested for having five different drug types in his system and falling asleep at the wheel, Woods underwent surgery to fuse two vertebrae in his lower back last year.

So who is the woman who’s tamed the Tiger?

The party girl who ‘chased Tiger like a puppy’

Erica announced the couple’s official status by wearing a "player spouse" badge, normally reserved for WAGs at the President’s Cup in October 2017.

It’s believed that the golf star met his first brunette girlfriend in more than a decade through his pop-up restaurant, The Woods Jupiter, in Florida, where she worked as a general manager for several months in 2017.

When their romance was made public US site Radar Online reported that Erica was known as ‘a gold-digger’ and a ‘big partier’ within her inner circle.

Insiders also said that Erica, who has a background in the hospitality trade, had been hoping to date the pro golfer for a decade.

Speaking to Sun Online in September, they claimed: “Erica’s been chasing Tiger around like a puppy for close to ten years. I’m not sure if his wife knew, but I’m not sure how she couldn’t know.

“I can’t believe Tiger is out in public with her now”.

From clearing messy tables to dating a multi-millionaire

It’s not clear whether Tiger personally hired Erica to work at his restaurant or not, but they will have crossed paths on several occasions during her time there.

The super-luxe sports bar, where staff wear Nike trainers and classy sportswear while providing guests with hot towels after their finger food, is said to have a tight-knit staff team.

But Erica stopped working at The Woods in February 2018.

Family ties

Just two months after they made their relationship official in October 2017, Erica accompanied Tiger and his two children with Elin – daughter Sam, 11, and nine-year-old Charlie – to the Bahamas.

The restaurant manager was also spotted sat next to the children at the US Open in September 2017, although she and Tiger had not made their relationship public.

There were rumours at the time that Tiger had cheated on his Texan stylist ex, Kristin Smith, with Erica.

It was reported that Tiger was dating Kristen in November 2016, although the pair are said to have split just nine months later in August 2017 – a month before he was spotted with Erica.

At the time a source told Radar Online: “Kristen suspected it, but he would always deny it by belittling Erica.”

Courtroom companion

Just two days after making their relationship public, Erica accompanied him to court in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, where he pleaded guilty to reckless driving being found asleep in his car in May 2017.

She later joined him in the Royal box at Wimbledon in July 2018 – putting on a united front once more.

Could Erica be the first woman he’s faithful to?

When his six year marriage to Elin was breaking down in 2009, there were numerous reports he’d spent thousands on escorts while on golf tours.

The final straw for Elin came when his alleged affair with New York nightclub boss Rachel Uchitel was uncovered.

Elin left their marriage with a £72m settlement, and Tiger started sex addiction therapy.

Tiger then went on to date Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn for three years from 2012 to May 2015, when Lindsey revealed they had parted ways due to spending “the majority of our time apart.”

But a friend of the golfer later claimed he had been unfaithful again with a “nameless, faceless woman”.

“Lindsey found out about women again, always while he’s on the road. Just like when he was with Elin.

Yet this time around, it seems Tiger is willing himself not to fall in to same trap, with Erica being seen been by his side at all major tournaments.

And judging by the PDA we witnessed at the Masters yesterday, she’s likely to be spotted at far more.

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