Tiger Woods' comebacks: A history of fighting his way back to the top

By T.J. Auclair
Published on
Tiger Woods' comebacks: A history of fighting his way back to the top

Tiger Woods' comeback from injury after injury culminated in a memorable 2018. For the first time in five years, Tiger won on the PGA Tour, winning the TOUR Championship at East Lake in September.

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Here's a look at Tiger's history when returning to the PGA Tour after an injury:


Injury: After three wins in five starts before the Masters, Woods finishes as runner-up at Augusta National to South Africa’s Trevor Immelman and then undergoes arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage damage to his left knee. Weeks later, it’s disclosed Woods also has a pair of stress fractures in his left tibia. Ever the competitor, Woods makes his next start in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines … and wins his 14th major.

Right after the U.S. Open, Woods undergoes reconstructive surgery on the ACL in his left knee.

Return: When he finally returns the following February at the WGC-Match Play Championship, Woods is ousted in the second round by Tim Clark. Two starts later, Woods wins the Arnold Palmer Invitational. It is the first of six wins on the season for Tiger, who goes on to win the FedExCup.


Tiger Woods at the 2010 Ryder Cup

Injury: Woods misses the cut in the Wells Fargo Championship. A week later, he withdraws during the final round of the Players Championship. He's diagnosed with an inflamed facet joint in his neck.

Return: Woods makes his next scheduled start a month later in the Memorial, tying for 19th. A tie for fourth two weeks later at the U.S. Open proves to be his best finish of the season. Even though he finishes 112th in the FedExCup standings for the year, Woods is added to the 2010 Ryder Cup USA team by then Captain Corey Pavin as a Captain's Pick.


Injury: A month after a tie for fourth in the Masters, Woods withdraws from the Wells Fargo Championship as a precautionary measure due to what was described as a "minor" injury to his left knee and Achilles' tendon in the Masters.

In his next start -- the Players Championship -- Woods plays just nine holes before withdrawing. The injury is diagnosed as a sprain of the MCL ligament in his left knee and a strain to the left Achilles' tendon, causing Woods to miss three months of action.

Return: Woods comes back in August. He ties for 37th in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, misses the cut for the first time in his career at the PGA Championship and then ends his season with a tie for 30th in the Open after missing out on the FedExCup Playoffs.

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Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell at Doral

Injury: Seven holes into the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral, Woods withdraws after experiencing discomfort in his left Achilles' tendon.

Return: He wins the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks later. It is the first of three victories on the season. He finishes third in the FedExCup.


Tiger Woods at the Bridgestone Invitational

Injury: Woods does not play between the U.S. Open and Open Championship -- he withdraws from the AT&T National -- because of a left elbow strain.

Return: Already a four-time winner in 2013 before the elbow injury, Woods finishes tied for sixth at the Open Championship and then wins for the fifth and final time of the year at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational (above). He finishes the year second in the FedExCup.


Tiger Woods at the 2014 Honda Classic

Injury: Lower back spasms force Woods to withdraw on the 13th green in the final round of the Honda Classic in March. Woods ties for 25th the following week in the WGC-Cadillac Championship, but does not play again until nearly four months later. In April, Woods reveals he had surgery for a pinched nerve in his back.

Return: Woods misses the cut at the AT&T National at the end of June. His last three starts of the year are a 69th at the Open Championship, a withdrawal at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and a missed cut at the PGA Championship at Valhalla, where he doesn’t play a practice round until the day before the tournament tees off.


Tiger Woods at the 2015 Farmers Insurance Open

Injury: Woods withdraws from the Farmers Insurance Open -- his second start of the season -- after nine holes in the first round, citing a back injury. He doesn't play again until two months later at the Masters.

Return: Woods ties for 17th at the Masters -- the first of just three PGA Tour starts in three months. Post-Masters, Woods plays in eight more events. His best finish is a tie for 10th at the Wyndham Championship.

Woods announces on Sept. 18 that he underwent a second micro-discectomy surgery two days earlier to remove a disc fragment that was pinching his nerve. He says he hopes to return in "early 2016." In October, Woods has a procedure to "relieve discomfort" in his back and sets no timetable for his return to the PGA Tour.

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Injury: Woods misses the entire 2015-16 PGA Tour season while recovering from the surgeries in 2015. 

Return: Woods announces his intention to play the Safeway Open on the PGA Tour in October, the Turkish Open on the European Tour in November and the Hero World Challenge in December. Ultimately, Woods withdraws from the Safeway Open just three days after committing. In a statement, he says, "My health is good, and I feel strong, but my game is vulnerable and not where it needs to be." Woods also misses the Turkish Open.

In December, for the first time in 15 months, Woods plays competitively in the 18-player Hero World Challenge (the field was reduced to 17 after Justin Rose withdrew). Tiger finishes 15th, but shows encouraging signs with a bogey-free, 7-under 65 in Round 2. 


Injury: Woods announces in a statement via his website on April 20, that he has undergone a fourth back surgery. The surgery, labeled "a success" was to alleviate pain he had been experiencing in his back and leg. Woods made one PGA Tour start at the Farmers Insurance Open, missing the cut in February. The following week, Woods withdrew from the Dubai Desert Classic following the first round due to back spasms. He did not play between Dubai and the most recent surgery.

For the most recent procedure, the recovery time was said to be six months.

Return: On October 30, 2017, Woods announced he would play in the Hero World Challenge. The 14-time major champion has been active on social media throughout his return to the course, showcasing his progress as doctors cleared him to take full swings again.

During his four rounds at the Hero World Challenge, he showed flashes of the old Tiger as well as some rust. He finished tied for ninth at 8-under par. In January 2018, Woods announced he would play again at Torrey Pines and the Farmers Insurance Open as well as the Genesis Open at Riveria.


Woods' return led to a busy 2018. He played in 18 PGA Tour events, the most since 2012. Along with winning the TOUR Championship for his first win in five years, Woods also came in second at the PGA Championship and played on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.


Injury: Woods withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a neck strain.

Return: Woods took home his fifth green jacket at the 2019 Masters, edging the likes of Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau and Francesco Molinari.