Key year looms for Tiger Woods

A week that began with the 38th birthday of world No.1 Tiger Woods will see the US PGA Tour’s first 2014 event tee off without him on Friday in Hawaii.

But make no mistake, the 14-time major champion and his quest to rewrite the sport’s record books will be a major theme in golf in 2014 long after the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua is over.

Since he was a child, Woods has dreamed of breaking the record of 18 career major titles won by Jack Nicklaus.

But Woods has not won a major since the 2008 US Open.

He overcame injuries and the emotional aftermath of his infamous sex scandal to win five titles last year, giving him 79 career US PGA Tour triumphs, three shy of Sam Snead’s all-time record.

“I’m really looking forward to next year,” Woods said. “I played well at the end of this year, so it’s nice to have some momentum heading into 2014. I think my body of work overall for the whole year was pretty good.”

Woods has reason for optimism in the majors in 2014 beyond having completed swing changes that put less stress on his surgically repaired knees.

Three of the courses being used for major events in 2014 – Augusta National for the Masters, Valhalla for the PGA Championship and Royal Liverpool for the British Open – are courses where Woods has won major titles previously in his career.

Woods won the Masters in 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2005 and captured the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla and the 2006 British Open at Royal Liverpool.

And the other major, the US Open, is being played at Pinehurst, where Woods finished second in 2005 and shared third in 1999.

Woods will need a major title in 2014 to remain on Nicklaus’ pace.

Woods has made 64 professional major starts. Nicklaus won his 15th major title in his 67th such start at age 38, then won two more at age 40 and his last at 46 at the 1986 Masters.

Woods is also supporting his girlfriend, US ski star Lindsey Vonn, as she tries to recover from a knee injury and defend her Olympic downhill title at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

“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,” Woods said.

Woods possibly attending the Winter Olympics could alter his normal early season schedule, which typically includes a stop at Torrey Pines in Janaury.

Last season, Woods won at Torrey Pines, Doral, Bay Hill, the Players Championship and at Firestone.

He became the first player in US PGA history to win a title on the same course eight times when he won last season at Torrey Pines, site of his 2008 US Open triumph and seven PGA Tour victories.

Woods also matched Snead as the only players to win the same PGA event eight times when he won the 2013 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

At the 2013 Players Championship, he converted a 54-hole lead into a victory for the 53rd time in 57 attempts.

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