One of the most colourful confrontations involving Tiger Woods occurred when Kathie Shearer asked him to front the media at the 1998 Johnnie Walker Classic in Phuket, Thailand. Fireworks ensued.

Few people take on Tiger Woods and come away with their reputation intact. Media matriarch Kathie Shearer is one exception.

Tiger Woods was the star attraction at the 1998 Johnnie Walker Classic, coming off a watershed year in 1997 when he became the youngest golfer and first non-white to win the Masters Tournament at Augusta National.

Having broken racial barriers and ascended to the world No.1 ranking, Tiger was almost untouchable as a poster child for multicultural America with his Cablinasian ancestry. He was already one of the most powerful figures in sport, which Fuzzy Zoeller learnt the hard way following the backlash from his poorly attempted humour about what Woods might serve at the Masters’ Champions Dinner (“fried chicken and collard greens”).

The Johnnie Walker at Blue Canyon Country Club on the island of Phuket was Tiger’s second tournament appearance in his mother’s homeland. The previous year at the Asian Honda Classic, Woods received a reported $US480,000 appearance fee, a royal decoration and was feted by the Prime Minister as ‘Tigermania’ erupted.

This time, understandably, the large media contingent in Phuket for the European Tour event wanted access to Woods. Unfortunately, Tiger wasn’t in the mood to entertain them after opening with rounds of 72-71 to trail Ernie Els by 11 strokes at the halfway mark.

Des McGain, an Irishman who was running the media centre that particular week, had seconded Kathie Shearer to Thailand as a ‘runner’. English-born Shearer had been steeled by years of dealing with golfing prima donnas during her time managing the media centre at Australian tournaments. And she needed to be steeled.

Even in January, the weather in Phuket is stifling hot with an average temperature high of 31°C. The walk up to the clubhouse from the 18th green has a very steep 1 in 10 gradient.

It was in this setting that Shearer approached Woods after a mediocre third round of 71 on the ‘Blue Monster’ left him tied for 18th and eight behind Els. Woods had already twice declined Shearer’s request for him to front the media.

Unbeknownst to Shearer at the time, McGain had made an arrangement with Tiger’s IMG minder Clarke Jones that Woods didn’t have to come into the media centre unless he was running in the top three. All bets were against Shearer getting her man.

After meeting at the clubhouse entrance, Shearer politely asked Woods if he would come to the media centre. “No,” said Woods as he continued walking into the men’s locker room.

Shearer followed him in and said, “Look, you really need to come in. You haven’t been in.”

Woods replied: “I don’t f—ing have to.”

To which Shearer replied: “But you f—ing do.”

Jones arrived on the scene and said, “He doesn’t have to come in.”

Quick as a flash, Shearer responded, “I’m speaking to the butcher not the block. You can f– off, too.”

With that, Woods followed Shearer out of the locker room and into a golf cart where she drove him over to the media centre. “It wasn’t my finest moment,” recalls Shearer. “But it was due to a case of upset tummy and standing in the sun for an hour waiting for him to come. And there was no way I wasn’t going to give it all I’ve got.”

All’s well that end’s well. Woods’ reigned in Els with a superb 65 on Sunday, beating the South African in a playoff.

That would’ve been the end of it. However, a distinguished British golf writer heard the encounter and wrote a letter to Tiger’s manager, expressing disgust at the unpleasant manner in which Woods spoke to a woman. That infuriated Shearer because she could stand up for herself. “I gave as good as I got. Didn’t need his help.”

To his credit, Woods didn’t carry a grudge. In fact, Shearer has left an indelible impression upon the 15-time Major winner. Following his media conference after winning the 2009 Australian Masters at Kingston Heath, Woods hugged Kathie and thanked her for her support during an event that received incredible media coverage. Twelve months later at Victoria Golf Club he gave her a TAG Heuer watch for her assistance after a scandal-ridden year.

However, the most affectionate tale concerns the time Kathie’s husband Bob Shearer – universally regarded as one of the nicest men in golf – bumped into Tiger while exiting the locker room [at Royal Melbourne – 1998 Presidents Cup].

After a brief introduction, Tiger asked, “Are you related to Kathie Shearer?”

“I’m married to her,” replied Bob.

“You’re a hell of a man,” deadpanned Tiger.