WINDERMERE, Dec 9 – The Tiger Woods scandal took an unexpected turn on Tuesday as his mother-in-law was rushed to hospital in the dead of night after collapsing at his Florida mansion.The world’s number one golfer received no respite from the media firestorm engulfing him due to a string of alleged affairs as fire brigade medics were called to his home at around 2:30 am (0730 GMT).
Television pictures showed Barbro Holmberg, a 57-year-old Swedish politician and one-time migration minister, being stretchered into hospital. She was released 11 hours later in "good condition," a hospital spokesman said.
In the 911 recording released by police, either Woods’ wife Elin Nordegren or her twin sister can be heard saying in a panicked voice: "Hurry up, my mom just collapsed."
The emergency operator responds: "Calm down, okay? What is the address? Is she breathing? They’re coming, okay? Calm down for a minute so I can understand what’s happening."
Elin, or her sister, explains that Holmberg fainted and fell and then tries to reassure the operator that she is now "fine" and that there is no need to send the paramedics.
"We’d rather come check her and check her vitals to make sure everything is okay," the caller is told before relenting and agreeing to the dispatch of an ambulance to the 2.6-million-dollar Woods home near Orlando.
Authorities at the Health Central Hospital in the nearby town of Ocoee said Holmberg had been admitted complaining of stomach discomfort. "She’s at her home, Tiger’s home, resting and is recovering nicely," a spokesman said.
The Woods residence in the exclusive golfing community of Isleworth, Windermere has been in the eye of the media storm since the 14-time major winner crashed his car nearby on November 27.
Woods would not give a statement to police about the crash and failed to dampen subsequent media speculation that it was caused by an argument with Elin over a reported affair with New York night club hostess Rachel Uchitel.
He apologized last Wednesday for "personal sins" and "transgressions" in his family life as a magazine posted what it said was evidence of a 31-month affair between him and a second woman, a cocktail waitress named Jaimee Grubbs.
Woods is yet to be seen in public 11 days after the crash, having pulled out of his own charity golf tournament in California.
Uchitel was first linked to Woods in a report in the National Enquirer tabloid two days before he drove his car into a fire hydrant and then a tree, sustaining facial injuries that were also treated at Health Central.
Uchitel denied the affair but as a steady stream of new alleged mistresses emerged, media reports accused her of seeking a massive payout from Woods to prevent her from publishing a horde of damaging emails and messages.
After the crash, celebrity gossip websites speculated that Elin chased Woods with a golf club and smashed the rear windows of his vehicle, causing him to lose control. Woods has denied those reports.
In a sign of the potential financial fallout for the first billionaire sportsman — who gets an estimated 90 percent of his income from endorsements — it was reported that Woods had lost his contract with Gatorade in the wake of the scandal.
The sports drink maker told AFP the decision to end the two-year-old contract had been taken several months ago, but that could not be confirmed.
Tiger’s biggest sponsor Nike last week issued a statement saying it was standing by the sports star, but the number of his alleged mistresses has since soared into the double digits.
Woods also faces new questions about the crash after the Orlando Sentinel reported that a failed police request for a subpoena to obtain hospital blood test results cited a witness who claimed the golfer had been drinking and was taking Ambien, a sedative, and the pain-killer Vicodin.
Police slapped Woods with a careless driving citation and a 164-dollar fine, but ended their investigation into the crash saying they did not believe alcohol was involved.
Online fascination with Woods’ apparent infidelities meanwhile has been a boon for Yahoo!, the firm’s blunt-talking chief executive Carol Bartz said.
"God bless Tiger," Bartz said while discussing Yahoo! user traffic and display advertising at UBS Investment Bank’s annual Global Media and Communications Conference here.
"This week we got a huge uplift: front page, news, sports, gossip. He just filtered through the whole place," she said, referring to the company’s various web pages.
"It is better than Michael Jackson dying; it is kind of hard to put an ad next to a funeral."