Tiger Woods knows better than most, except perhaps Lindsey Vonn, what it takes to rebound from catastrophic knee trauma and the oft-injured world No. 1 is taking time off from prepping for next year’s majors to help his Olympic golf medalist flame mend and train for the 2014 games.
"I'm going to put my clubs away for a while to spend more time with my kids and support my girlfriend Lindsey Vonn as she tries to prepare for the Sochi Olympics," Woods said in his annual holiday letter posted on his website on Thursday. "Having experienced reconstructive surgery on my knee and the ensuing rehab, and the amount of pain associated with it, it's really hard to explain to anybody unless you've been through it. And then coming back on it athletically, to trust that it's going to be there, that's a whole different ballgame."
Sharing his vast experiences with bad knees -- he had his first surgery while a student at Stanford -- is useful as Vonn deals with her wobbly right wheel.
"I think it helps her in a sense because she can bounce ideas off me about what to expect," Woods said. "It is a frustrating process and really difficult to go through.
Woods, who acknowledged in March that he and Vonn were an item, did not confirm whether he’ll be in Sochi in February to cheer Vonn on in person but he did share with his fans some of the reasons the two superstars make a good team. Both athletes approach their sports with hard work, prepare for their respective seasons, and "give it everything we possibly have and there's no holding back," Woods wrote. "I think that's some of our commonalities."
The PGA Tour Player of the Year with five wins but no majors in 2013 conceded that speeding down a mountain "at 80-plus mph" required more "adrenaline and ... aggressiveness" than he brings to his game. In fact, his sport requires him "to tone everything down mentally ... So that part of it is way different."
What each appreciates in the other, Woods said, was the ability to excel "time and time again ... for a long period of time." Woods, with stints on the DL for rehabbing various physical and psychic wounds, has dominated men’s golf since he won his first major, the Masters, in 1997. Vonn has similar longevity on the slopes.
"It's not a flash in the pan, and you just don't do it for one year," explained Woods. "She's done it for 13 years, and I've done it for 18 years."
Whether Vonn can make it all the way back to Sochi after her own reconstructive procedure in February, followed by a minor setback when she re-injured the same knee in November, remained to be seen.
"We're very hopeful," said Woods. "It all depends on how that knee is."
As for Woods’ quest to nab that elusive 15th major championship, he repeated his belief that the 2014 venues set up well for him.
"I'm really excited about the major championships next year. I've won at three of the four venues -- Augusta National, Valhalla Golf Club and Royal Liverpool -- and on Pinehurst No. 2 [site of the U.S. Open in June] I'm trending the right way, having finished third and second," he said. "But I still need to practice, work, grind and prepare, and have my game come together those four times a year, and I hope that will happen."