On Sunday, September 23, 2018, the sporting world caught a sight of something it thought it would never see again: Tiger Woods back in the winner’s circle. Although his win at the 2018 PGA Tour Championship truly completed his remarkable comeback… it still felt like there was unfinished business for a man with 80 career Tour wins. That all changed on Sunday, April 14, 2019, as the world witnessed perhaps the greatest comeback in the history of professional sports. With a minus-13 performance that helped Woods win his fifth green jacket, his win at The Masters truly culminated in a comeback of historic proportions. True to form on that Sunday, and in a fashion that only he could do, Tiger Woods put golf back at the forefront of pop culture. Through the back fusions and public falls from grace, the close calls and the almosts, let’s take a look back at the remarkable timeline of Tiger Woods’ comeback.
November 27, 2009
Woods (33 years old at the time) is admitted to the hospital after crashing his car in front of his home in Jupiter, Fla. His personal life unravels over the course of the coming months, revealing marital infidelity and allegedly 100+ separate affairs. Once untouchable in the public eye, Woods’ image was forever tarnished because of the incident on this day.
August 23, 2010
Tiger and his wife Elin Nordegren are officially divorced not even nine months after his car accident.
October 31, 2010
For the first time since June 11, 2005 (a record 281 weeks), Tiger is not the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer. Lee Westwood takes over the honors as top dog, a position he’d hold for 22 of the next 30 weeks. As 2010 wound down, Woods lost more than $20 million in endorsement money with AT&T and Gatorade distancing themselves from him.
October 3, 2011
Tiger drops out of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
March 25, 2012
Tiger, now 36, grabs his first TOUR win in a year and a half at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
July 2, 2012
Tiger’s strong 2012 continues, with his win at the AT&T National being his third of the year. The win helped him pass the legendary Jack Nicklaus for most PGA Tour wins in a career (74). He now trails only Sam Snead’s record of 82 Tour victories.
August 4, 2013
Tiger built on a successful 2012 with an even better 2013, collecting his fourth and final win of the year at the Bridgestone Invitational. He regained his World No. 1 status earlier in the year, but impending injuries and a rapidly deteriorating body made many feel like win No. 79 would ultimately be his last.
March 31, 2014
Not even a week before the Masters, the major he had won four times before, Tiger announces he needs back surgery for a pinched nerve and will be out for 2014’s inaugural major championship. Now 38, he’d only play in seven PGA Tour tournaments in 2014, with his best finish being a tie for 25th.
June 6, 2015
Back pain lingered from 2014 into 2015 for him. After going cut, WD, T17, T69 to start his 2015, Tiger hacks his way to a career-worst 85 (+13) in the third round of the Memorial Tournament. He’d finish the event in 71st.
June 19, 2015
Tiger implodes by going 80-76 to start his U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. At +16 he’d fail to make the cut, and didn’t play weekend golf in any of the year’s final three majors (went a combined 27 over par in six rounds).
August 23, 2015
Tiger finishes tied for 10th at the Wyndham Championship, his final tournament of 2015. He’d end his season as the world’s No. 257 golfer.
September 16, 2015
Tiger undergoes his second microdiscectomy surgery on his back, with a target return date set to early 2016.
October 28, 2015
Barely six weeks later, Tiger reveals he had undergone a separate follow-up procedure to alleviate discomfort in his back. His laundry list of surgeries can’t stop from getting longer.
December 1, 2015
Less than a month before his 40th birthday, Tiger admits he can barely walk and is yet to start rehabilitation. When asked when he expects to return to start swinging a golf club again, he’s only able to answer, “there is no timetable.” He’d miss the entire 2015-16 PGA Tour season.
December 1, 2016
Ranked 1,199th in the world, Tiger makes his return to golf at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. He’d finish alone in 15th at the WGC Hero World Challenge, with this result vaulting him up to No. 650 in the OWGR.
January 27, 2017
Tiger misses the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open. He’d withdraw from the following week’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic citing back spasms.
April 19, 2017
Tiger undergoes anterior lumbar interbody fusion surgery on his lower back, a procedure that fuses two vertebrae into one. Although the procedure brings him instant relief, golf is again put on hold.
May 29, 2017
Tiger is arrested on suspicion of a DUI not far from his Florida home. He claimed to have had an adverse and unexpected reaction to medications he had been prescribed. No alcohol was found in his system, but a combination of five drugs appear in a toxicology report. He’d ultimately plead guilty to reckless driving and be put on 12 months probation.
November 30, 2017
Tiger, now 41 years old, is back in the game following his fourth back surgery. He plays well at the Hero World Challenge, registering a T9 finish at -8. He’s ranked 668 in the world.
March 11, 2018
Whoa, Tiger almost got a win. He’d finish a shot off of Paul Casey’s winning -10 score, going T2 with Patrick Reed at the Valspar Championship. The swing was there, the smile was back, the Sunday red was in play. Momentum was on his side. He leaps up to 149th in the OWGR.
April 5, 2018
Marking his first Masters appearance since 2015, Tiger was unable to get in any kind of vintage “Tiger” groove, finishing in a tie for 32nd at Augusta. Don’t look now, but Tiger’s back in the top 100 at No. 88.
July 22, 2018
Tiger wows at Carnoustie, causing the golfing world to salivate over their answer of “is Tiger back?” Finishing T6, Tiger was right in the mix on Sunday, but a final round at even par had him three shots off the winner. Although Francesco Molinari took home the Open Championship, it was Tiger who stole the show. Tiger’s back in the OWGR top 50.
August 12, 2018
Firing his way to a six-under final round, Tiger roars up the PGA Championship leaderboards, but his -14 performance finishes two strokes shy of Brooks Koepka in the year’s final major. His solo second effort shoots him up to 26th in the OWGR.
September 4, 2018
U.S. captain Jim Furyk names Tiger to the Ryder Cup team with one of his captain’s picks. Tiger is galvanized by the news, and finishes T6 at next week’s BMW Championship, giving him an outside shot at a FedEx Cup championship.
September 23, 2018
1,876 days after his 79th win, Tiger Woods was back in the winner’s circle. He does just enough on Sunday to have his -11 total be good enough to make him a winner by two strokes over Billy Horschel at the Tour Championship: the PGA Tour’s final event of the year. He even came within one stroke of winning the FedEx Cup and $10 million (way to spoil the fun, Justin Rose). The scenes of him approaching the 18th green were pure insanity.
Donning the Sunday red, both arms victoriously raised above his head, Tiger did what we all had thought was impossible. In the span of less than two years, Tiger has gone from the world’s 1,199th best golfer… to No. 13 at the ripe young age of 42. Nothing short of remarkable.
Through a seemingly endless amount of valleys and a few scattered peaks, Tiger was able to traverse the unstable landscape of public disgrace and failing health to regain the form that made him a golfing immortal. The most extraordinary part of it was, as he came down that 18th fairway at East Lake with that vintage Tiger smile, it’s almost as if he had never left; like he hadn’t fallen completely off the face of the golfing earth for multiple years. The most dominant golfer of our time was finally able to answer the question of “is he back?” with a loud, resounding, and emphatic “yes.” But through all that, it still felt like there was unfinished business and work to be done. While we knew that the question of Tiger winning a major evolved from an “if” to a “when” after that victory, we just didn’t know it would be answered in his very next majora appearance.
April 14, 2019
22 years after capturing his first major championship at that very location, Tiger was back on top of the golfing world. In true Tiger fashion, his comeback officially, emphatically, and undeniably became complete at Augusta National as he clinched his fifth green jacket by finishing -13 for the tournament. Edging out hard-charging studs like Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, and Xander Schauffele by a single stroke, Tiger Woods made 5 on 18 to grab his first Masters win since 2005. The GOAT was back and the scene at the 18th green was unlike anything the sport had ever seen.
The raw emotion. The “Tiger! Tiger!” chants from the crowd. The embraces with his kids. The golfers lining up to congratulate HIM for beating them that week. And when he made that victorious walk to the clubhouse dressed in that fearsome red mock turtleneck, it’s as if the 11-year gap between majors disappeared from our memory. We were reminded that he still is somebody truly larger than the game itself.
Now that he’s just a single win away from tying Sam Snead’s record of 82 career PGA Tour wins, what’s next for the 15-time major champion? I think we all know the answer to that one. With Jack’s record of 18 majors back in his crosshairs, we get the feeling that nothing’s going to stop Tiger from getting there.