Former world No 1 Tiger Woods, a 15-time major champion, was recovering from his fifth back surgery when he was involved in a car crash in California resulting in a lengthy recuperation; five-time Masters champion has suffered numerous injuries during his lengthy PGA Tour career
From multiple back surgeries to winning a major with stress fractures and a torn ACL and then his latest return following his car crash, we look at how injury has affected Tiger Woods’ career.
April 2008: Tiger Woods was forced to take a two month lay-off between a runner-up finish at the Masters and the US Open to undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair the cartilage in his left knee.
The injury had caused him issues since the Open Championship the previous summer, while Woods was later told he had two stress fractures in his left tibia and should have a further six weeks’ rest.
June 2008: Even with the damage to his left tibia and severe pain in his left knee, Woods battled through to claim victory at the US Open.
Victory at Torrey Pines would be Woods’ last start for nearly nine months, as the world No 1 recovered from reconstructive surgery on his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) as well as having cartilage damage repaired.
May 2010: Having played with a bad neck “for quite a while” and a missed cut seven days earlier at the Wells Fargo Championship, Woods had to end his Players Championship prematurely by withdrawing during the final round.
Tiger reportedly believed it to be a bulging disc in his neck, but it was later confirmed as an inflamed facet joint. Woods did not stay away for long, playing the Memorial Tournament the following month.
April 2011: Woods said he suffered a re-occurrence of his left knee injury at the Masters, with a ‘minor’ knock to that and his Achilles tendon seeing him withdraw from the Wells Fargo Championship as a ‘precaution’.
May 2011: Although Woods’ agent claimed he was “not at all concerned” with the previous injury, it became clear it was something more serious when he had to pull out of the Players Championship – his next start – after just nine holes.
A sprained Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) ligament in his left knee and strained left Achilles tendon saw Woods miss the next three months, including the middle two majors of the year, eventually coming back at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
March 2012: Despite changing shoes to try and manage the problem, Woods withdrew with seven holes remaining at the WGC-Cadillac Championship with an injury to his Achilles tendon.
Reluctant to finish the round and risk further damage, Woods said he did “what I thought was necessary”, but would go on to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational just a fortnight later.
June 2013: An elbow strain that Woods first sustained at the Players Championship ruled him out of the AT&T National, giving him several weeks off to rest between a tied-32nd finish at the US Open and featuring at the Open Championship.
August 2013: Woods narrowly missed out on Barclays victory as he finished one stroke adrift of Adam Scott, but suffered a series of back spasms which left him hunched on all fours during his final round.
The then world No 1 needed to use his putter for support to pick his ball out of the hole during the closing stretch, but Woods was still fit to feature at the Deutsche Bank Championship just a few days later.
March 2014: Injury problems returned for Woods during the final round of the Honda Classic, with the American playing his first six holes in five-over par before withdrawing at the 13th green due to spasms in his lower back.
In a statement after the round, Woods said the pains had first surfaced during the warm-up and were similar to those suffered at the Barclays during the previous summer. He pulled out of his scheduled appearance at the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks later.
April 2014: Woods announced he would not feature at the Masters for the first time in his professional career, after having back surgery for a pinched nerve that had troubled him for “several months”.
He said he had hoped to return to to the PGA Tour “sometime in the summer” and featured four months later at the Quicken Loans National.
August 2014: Looking to defend his WGC-Bridgestone Invitational title, Woods jarred his back early in his final round and played the first eight holes in three over before being driven off the course in considerable pain.
Woods played on through the pain to feature again at the PGA Championship the following week, grimacing on a couple of occasions as he slumped to only his fourth major missed cut of his professional career. A lengthy break from the game followed, not playing again until December.
February 2015: A week on from missing the cut with a then career-worst round at the Phoenix Open, Woods completed 11 holes at the Farmers Insurance Open before withdrawing with a back injury.
“My glutes are just shutting off” was Woods’ reason for walking off the course, with the American not making another competitive appearance until the Masters some two months later.
September 2015: After failing to qualify for the PGA Tour’s FedExCup play-offs, Woods confirmed he had undergone microdiscectomy surgery for a second time and announced he would miss the remaining events in 2015 – including his own Hero World Challenge.
The surgery removed a disc fragment that had been pinching his nerve, with the 39-year-old then targeting a return to action “early in 2016”.
October 2015: Six weeks on from his initial surgery, Woods was forced to undergo a follow-up procedure aiming to relieve discomfort in his back.
Woods’ neurosurgeon deemed the work a success, although the former world No 1 suggested his return may take longer than initially planned when he posted on his website that he would be back playing “as soon as I can”.
December 2015: Ahead of hosting the Hero World Challenge, supported by his foundation, Woods cast his future into doubt by telling reporters he had not swung a club for more than two months and was expecting a “long and tedious” recovery from his injury.
Woods also revealed he had not started any kind of rehab and that “there’s nothing to look forward to”, with no timetable in place to get back playing.
February 2016: Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg was forced to deny reports that the now world No 445 had suffered a serious setback to his back surgery, calling the speculation “completely false”.
Reports had suggested Woods had scrapped plans for a potential return at May’s Players Championship, but Steinberg released a statement to say Woods is “continuing to work on his rehabilitation”.
April 2016: Woods announced on his website that he would sit out of the Masters for the second time in three years, saying that he “wasn’t physically ready” to feature at Augusta.
Despite releasing video footage on social media a few weeks earlier showing him swinging a club in his home golf simulator, Woods said he still has “no timetable to return to competitive golf”.
September 2016: The world No 711 confirms plans to make a return to golf at the Safeway Open on October 13, with further appearances lined up at the Turkish Airlines Open and his own Hero World Challenge.
“My rehabilitation is to the point where I’m comfortable making plans, but I still have work to do,” Tiger said. He did not feature in either tournament.
February 2017: A week on from a missed cut at the Farmers Insurance Open, Woods posted an opening-round 77 at the Dubai Desert Classic. The world No 666 then withdrew ahead of his second round, citing back spasms.
April 2017: Woods reveals he has undergone a fourth back operation, with the latest procedure looking to alleviate pain in his back and leg.
The world No 788 says the surgery to remove a damaged disc was a success, although he is likely to miss the remainder of the PGA Tour season.
“When healed, I look forward to getting back to a normal life, playing with my kids, competing in professional golf and living without the pain I have been battling so long,” he said.
May 2017: Woods was arrested in Jupiter, Florida, on suspicion of driving under the influence. Woods later says alcohol was not involved and he had “an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications.”
September 2017: Doctors cleared Woods to begin swinging a club again although he admits it is possible that he may not play competitive golf again in his career.
“I don’t know what my future holds for me,” he said as he prepared for his role as a non-playing assistant captain for USA at the Presidents Cup. “I’m still training, I’m getting stronger. But I certainly don’t have my golf muscles trained, because obviously I’m not doing anything golf-related.”
October 2017: Woods starts the month by releasing a slow-motion video of himself hitting an iron shot as he continues to rebuild his fitness.
He ends the month by announcing that he will make his return to competitive golf at the Hero World Challenge at the end of November.
“I am excited to return to competitive golf at the Hero World Challenge,” he said. “Albany is the perfect setting and it will be great to join this outstanding field. I would also like to thank the fans for their unwavering support during my injury.”
March 2019 – After starting the year with three consecutive top-20s on the PGA Tour, Woods skipped the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a neck strain that had been affecting him “for a few weeks”.
Tiger Woods returned to action at The Players the following week and played the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play later that month, before claiming a historic 15th major title at The Masters in April.
August 2019 – Making his first start since a missed cut at The Open the previous month, Woods was limited to chipping and putting during a pre-tournament pro-am at The Northern Trust due to stiffness in his back.
Woods posted an opening-round 75 to leave him 13 strokes off the pace, before withdrawing ahead of his second round due to a “mild oblique strain”.
August 2019 – After failing to qualify for his title defence at the Tour Championship, Woods underwent a procedure to repair minor cartilage damage in his left knee.
Woods said he was “right on schedule” when he returned from the arthroscopic procedure at the Zozo Championship, where he registered a three-stroke victory and record-equalling 82nd PGA Tour title.
March 2020 – Back stiffness caused Woods to sit out of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, with the same injury ruling him out of the Players Championship – the last tournament before the coronavirus shutdown – the following week.
December 2020 – Woods experienced nerve pain while playing in the PNC Championship alongside his son, Charlie, leading him to undergo a microdiscectomy procedure on December 23 to remove a pressurised disc fragment in his back.
News about the surgery – the fifth on his back – was only made public the following month, where Woods said in a statement that he looked “forward to begin training” and was “focused on getting back out on Tour”.
February 2021 – Speaking as tournament host of the Genesis Invitational on February 21, Woods revealed there was “no timetable” for a competitive return and that he had yet to get back out on the golf course since his surgery.
Two days later, on February 23, Woods suffered “multiple leg injuries” in a car crash in California, as his vehicle rolled and crashed into a ditch.
April 2021 – Woods shared the first image of his recovery from the car crash when he posted a picture of himself standing on crutches in a leg brace alongside his dog, appearing to be in high spirits with a big smile on his face.
He later described his rehabilitation as the toughest of his career, admitting that his initial goal was “just looking forward to getting outside” after being immobile for several months. He was initially wheelchair-bound before slowly transitioning to crutches and then walking unaided.
November 2021 – Nearly nine months after the crash, Woods posts a video on social media of him hitting a golf ball on a driving range for the first time. The three-second clip included the caption: “Making progress.”
December 2021 – Woods plays with his 12-year-old son, Charlie, in the PNC Championship in Orlando, finishing in second place. In the final round, the pair rattled off 11 consecutive birdies at one point en route to a 57.
“The fact that I’m able to have this opportunity this year, even a couple weeks ago we didn’t really know whether or not I would be doing this, but here we are,” he said.
March 2022 – After winning the PGA Tour’s inaugural Player Impact Program bonus and its $8m first prize earlier in the month – despite not playing – Woods flew to Augusta and played a round with his son, Charlie, and Justin Thomas, sparking speculation about a Masters comeback.
April 2022 – Woods flew to Augusta National for more practice and said it would be a “game-time decision” if he played in the tournament. He subsequently played in The Masters and finished 47th in his comeback, carding an opening 71 and making the cut before fading badly over the weekend with consecutive rounds of 78.