Golf great Tiger Woods and skiing sensation Lindsey Vonn were one of those celebrity couples
you wanted to root for. Both were top athletes, divorcees, and seemingly enjoyed a genuine
connection and real love. So what went wrong? Here's the real reason Tiger Woods and Lindsey
Vonn broke up.
Woods and Vonn met by chance at a charity event in Las Vegas in 2012, and according
to Vonn, they immediately connected. She told David Letterman in 2014,
"We're athletes, so I guess we have something in common there. We just kind of relate really
well to one another."
As their relationship deepened, they bonded by trying out each other's area of expertise.
Vonn told the late night host that she even nailed a hole-in-one during her first round
on the green. She also confessed that Woods is a decent skier, but of course, not the
"Compared to me, he's really not that good, but you know."
The divorcees ended up cementing their love as they healed together, quite literally.
Woods was rehabbing his often injured back and Vonn was recovering from a knee surgery
that kept her out of the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Vonn told the AP,
"Rehab is not a fun thing to do, it's very monotonous and tedious. But if you're going
through rehab, it's nice to have a partner to do this with."
Although their competitiveness was obviously a form of flirting for these super athletes,
Vonn said they kept the attraction "at bay" during their joint physical therapy sessions.
"It's about doing it right and taking the time [you need] to really heal properly."
"Everything happens for a reason, you just have to figure out what the reason is."
Vonn was the one who broke the news of the split. But not much can be gleaned from her
Facebook message, other than the fact that she's a well-handled celebrity who doesn't
get bent out of shape over a man. She wrote,
"Tiger and I have mutually decided to end our relationship. I will always cherish the
memories that we've created together…Unfortunately, we both lead incredibly hectic lives that
force us to spend a majority of our time apart."
But are we actually to believe they were too busy to date? If this were true, wouldn't
it have always been the case? Two cheers to Vonn PR for telling us absolutely nothing.
But there is certainly more to this tale.
The reason top athletes are absolute masters of saying nothing to the media is that, for
the most part, they don't have to. Corporate sponsors pay for winning, and looking great
doing it. Thus, shortly after Vonn broke the seal, Woods gave his own, nearly identical
take on the split via his elegantly designed personal website in a message titled "A personal
message from Tiger Woods." He wrote,
"Lindsey and I have mutually decided to stop dating…I have great admiration, respect
and love for Lindsey and I'll always cherish our time together…Unfortunately, we lead
very hectic lives and are both competing in demanding sports. It's difficult to spend
It all sounded like a coordinated PR effort. Even the phrase "hectic lives" is simply copy-pasted
from Vonn's statement to Woods'. Just like their physical therapy stint together, teamwork
makes the dream work. It's hard to hate.
Vonn and Woods were initially happy. Very happy. As Lindsay told Sports Illustrated,
"I mean…I was in love. I loved him and we're still friends."
"I wish him all the best, and you know, we stay in touch, but um, you know, we're both
just in different places in our lives."
However, relationships are also about compromise, and at a certain level of success, that can
be difficult. Vonn went on to admit,
"Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more but he's very stubborn
and he likes to go his own way."
But if Vonn was angry at all, she absolutely refused to admit it. She did, however, finish
with a subtle nod to Woods' well-publicized competitive decline following their split,
"I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments."
Woods would go on to win at least one more Masters tournament, golf's biggest prize.
He would not, however, go on to reclaim his absolute reign of dominance or his world number
There's an unspoken and delicate balance to all celebrity relationships. When two stars
agree to merge orbits, the combined gravity causes a media feedback loop that can spiral
wildly out of control. But a sudden reorientation of mass can also be uncomfortable for the
lesser star, who may want all planets revolving solely around them. Vonn told The New York
Times in 2013,
"Wherever he's around, we're living in a fishbowl. I didn't quite know what I was getting myself
into. It's weird. But it's just something I have to deal with. He has his job, and I
have mine. I just have to get used to it."
"It's a fine line between, you know, sharing your life and having people invade your privacy."
Yikes. That doesn't sound great. But wait, it gets worse. She went on to tell the outlet,
"Some people seem to forget that I'm not just Tiger's girlfriend. I'm actually a successful
athlete. I'm Lindsey. I have my own career and my own life."
After the dust had settled on their split, Vonn echoed a similar sentiment to E! News,
"Everyone's looking at you, and judging you and, you know, commenting on what they think
is right or wrong."
It looks like not everything revolves around Woods and his problems. Vonn took Woods on
this ride barely a year after her own divorce from trainer/husband Thomas Vonn, in 2011.
The Vonns were married only four years, but had been an inseparable team since 2003. Together
they achieved both Olympic success and multiple World Cup titles, per The New York Times.
So, in 2012, when Vonn met Woods, she was on the rebound from the only other serious
romantic relationship of her entire life. She told the Times,
"Jumping into a relationship right away after getting a divorce was probably not the smartest
move on my part. I don't regret anything. I loved Tiger, and I had an amazing three
years with him."
"From one athlete to another…"
"...it's just it's really nice to see after all his injuries and surgeries that he's come
Clearly, Vonn adored Woods, but she still saw the downside in real-time, telling Vogue
"Tiger's fame is obviously in the extreme, the amount of scrutiny that he's constantly
under. But that's the thing: It all comes back to being happy. It doesn't really matter
what anyone else thinks; do what you love to do and be happy and that's it."
"I'm very proud of what she's done and what she's continued to do."
It sounds like Vonn knew this relationship was a circus. And she went headlong into it
anyway. But can you blame her? This is a woman who plunges down the sheer side of icy mountains
at speeds of up to 95 miles-an-hour. She does it for glory. She does it for her country.
And also, it sounds like one hell of a ride.
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