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

Tiger Woods
USA Today Sports Images
In late January, Tiger Woods missed the cut at Torrey Pines for the first time in his career.
By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
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Series: PGA Tour

Published: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 | 4:37 p.m.

Friday, Tiger Woods withdrew from the Dubai Desert Classic with back spasms after shooting an opening-round 77.

Just one week earlier, after a 17-month hiatus, Woods shot a 76, 72 in the Farmers Insurance Open and missed the cut at Torrey Pines for the first time in his career. 

"Playing tournament golf is a little bit different than playing with your buddies at home in a cart,'' he said then, according to ESPN. "I need to get more rounds under my belt, more playing time, and that's what I'm trying to do.''

For now, here's a look at Tiger's history when returning to the PGA Tour after an injury:

2008

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.

2010

Tiger Woods at the 2010 Ryder CupInjury: 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.

2011

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 Frys.com Open after missing out on the FedExCup Playoffs.

2012

Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell at DoralInjury: 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.

2013

Tiger Woods at the Bridgestone InvitationalInjury: 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.

2014

Tiger Woods at the 2014 Honda ClassicInjury: 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.

2015

Tiger Woods at the 2015 Farmers Insurance OpenInjury: 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.

2016

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.

2017

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: Woods has not yet returned to tournament golf, but just short of six months after surgery, he has begun taking full swings again.

MORE: Tiger Woods is back to full swings — and club twirls

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.