eBay believed him enough to take the item off its website Tuesday.
Steve Mata, a former Titleist representative who worked with Woods when he swept the majors, said Woods gave him the irons during the 2001 Buick Classic in New York when it was time to change out the grooves.
“He may have my set of irons, but they’re not from those tournaments,” Woods said Tuesday at The Players Championship. “They’re in my garage.”
Woods said he used two sets of irons for his “Tiger Slam,” which began with his 15-shot victory in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and ended 294 days later with his victory in the 2001 Masters. Players often change irons when the grooves get worn. Woods said both sets are in his garage.
Woods switched to Nike irons in October 2004. The only club he uses not made by Nike is his Scotty Cameron putter.
Mata, whom Titleist dismissed after the 2008 season, used a friend to put the irons up for bid on Monday. He said after Woods’ press conference, the item was removed. An eBay representative said only that the irons were taken down because of an apparent violation.
Mata stands by his claim.
“I did all his work for him on Tour when he was at Titleist,” Mata said in a telephone interview. “We made up two sets of irons because no two sets are ever identical. I wanted to give him an option. He was in the pro-am at Westchester and I gave him the irons.”
Mata said Woods took the new set and gave him the irons he had been using.
“He said, ‘Keep them, they’re yours.’ And I said, ‘What? Are you kidding me?”’ Mata said. “I turned to another Titleist employee and said, ‘Does he know what they are?’ And Tiger said he knew exactly what they are.”
Mata declined to name the other Titleist employee whom he described as his witness. He said several people in the industry know the story of Woods giving him the irons from the four straight majors. He said a few years later, he reminded Woods that he had the irons and Woods told him that he used two sets of Titleist irons in winning the four majors.
Woods said he switches irons every eight or nine months because of the grooves. The U.S. Open and Masters are 10 months apart.
Mata said he asked Woods about donating them to the World Golf Hall of Fame and Woods was opposed to the idea.
“He knows I have them,” Mata said. “I’m backing my story 100 percent.”
Mata said he is trying to sell them because he has been out of work for 17 months and “I’ve got to take care of my family.”
“Plus, it’s a shame to have something of this nature stay in a basement or an attic,” he said. “The public needs to see them.”
Mata said he wasn’t surprised that Woods denied those were the irons. He said he spoke to Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, to see if Woods was interested in buying them back. In the last few weeks, he said he was getting signals that Woods wasn’t happy with his plans to sell the irons.
Mata said eBay took the irons off the website after the news conference at the TPC Sawgrass, but that he was told eBay was going to reinstate them. He said no one had offered the minimum bid, although the item received 50,000 hits in 36 hours.
He also said he would offer for sale flags from the four successive majors that Woods won.
“I’m sure Tiger will never give me another autograph,” Mata said. “But I also need to eat.”