It’s hard to believe that little more than a year ago it wasn’t clear if Tiger Woods would ever again tee up in a Tour event, much less win one. But eight months after a back surgery that fused two discs, he returned at the 2017 Hero World Challenge, tied for ninth, and effectively kicked off his comeback tour. After several injury-marred seasons that featured back woes, chip yips and gruesome scores, in 2018 Woods returned not just as a Tour player, but as one of the best in the world. Here’s a look back at the highs and lows (and tweets!) from Woods’s dizzying, electrifying and absolutely shocking comeback year.
Woods kicked off 2018 at the Farmers Insurance Open. He never dented the leaderboard (thanks mostly to an erratic week off the tee), but he made the cut, shooting 72-71-70-72 to finish 23rd. His year was off and running.
The more Tiger changes, the more he stays the same. He only had winning on his mind entering play today: "I really wanted to shoot something around 65. I thought that might be a playoff number." pic.twitter.com/jciwWqLbgz
— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) January 28, 2018
Woods missed the cut at the Genesis Open, but rebounded with a solid 12-place finish at the Honda. A prelude of things to come.
The. Place. To. Be. ??
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 23, 2018
Suddenly, Woods arrived as a threat to win. He had a great shot at a title on Sunday at the Valspar but couldn’t quite get enough putts to drop. He finished tied for second, one shot behind Paul Casey. The hype machine began to spin…
Did Tiger contending propel more people to watch Valspar Championship than Selection Show?
Wasn’t even close.
Via Sports Media Watch, Tiger’s final round drew 5.1 rating, Selection Show 1.6.
In fact, Valspar final round outdrew final rounds of 2017 PGA, British, and US Opens. pic.twitter.com/iQeOisdrXH
— Keith Murphy (@MurphyKeith) March 13, 2018
…And Tigermania engulfed fans of all ages.
An autograph from @TigerWoods?
A dream come true. ❤️? pic.twitter.com/e2Sovcttd9
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 9, 2018
One week later he contended again at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. For a few moments on the back nine it looked like Woods just might pull out a breakthrough victory, but then but he launched a shot OB on the par-5 16th to end his chance.
Watching Tiger go OB on 16. pic.twitter.com/Oio3MUWN47
— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) March 18, 2018
He finished T5, eight shots behind Rory McIlroy, who closed with a 64. Still, with back-to-back top 5s, Woods ascended to a familiar spot: the betting favorite to win the Masters. Annoying talking heads could hardly contain their excitement.
Was Tiger's performance at the Arnold Palmer more impressive than…Rory's win? pic.twitter.com/Zjgi87WMV5
— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) March 19, 2018
On March 22, an unauthorized biography on Woods’s life hit the shelves. Written by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian, the book received a fair amount of buzz while revealing new details about Woods’s past. But the book did nothing to derail Woods’s comeback, even if he wasn’t happy about it.
Two of Tiger Woods's top representatives have challenged the reporting in a new Tiger biography, alleging that the book is "littered with egregious errors." https://t.co/uUU2icaj9I
— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) March 28, 2018
He entered the Masters riding a tidal wave of hype, but Woods never threatened at Augusta. He finished 32nd.
Tiger ended his return to Augusta on a high note. https://t.co/AO2MCoOW8x
— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) April 8, 2018
Woods made the cut but didn’t threaten at the Wells Fargo. One week later at the Players, he placed 11th. He rinsed his shot on the iconic par-3 17th on Sunday, which took him out of the top 10.
Tiger Woods has found the water at the par-3 17th. pic.twitter.com/Var1WP92hN
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 13, 2018
Woods tied for 23rd at the Memorial and entered the U.S. Open at Shinnecock among the favorites (even though he still didn’t have a win in his comeback.) Shinny would mark the low point of his season. He shot an ugly opening-round 78 en route to a missed cut.
Tiger, head down, trudged along the knolls Friday morning, moving closer with each step to the players' parking lot and life beyond the gates of Shinnecock. https://t.co/uVeKo55XBz
— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) June 15, 2018
Woods returned from the U.S. Open galvanized. He tied for fourth at the Quicken Loans, and three weeks later he put a charge into the entire sport when he took the solo lead on Sunday at the British Open at Carnoustie. His best shot was this full-throttle escape from a fairway bunker.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 22, 2018
Woods faded on the back nine and finished T6, but it was clear his game was on the rise – and the world was watching.
And here is the worldwide heat map just after noon in the east coast, showing Tiger Twitter activity when he was squarely in the hunt. Just amazing. #Tiger #TheOpen @TigerWoods pic.twitter.com/Ri5zjHExoY
— Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) July 22, 2018
Also this month, GOLF.com broke the news that a Tiger-Phil match was in the works for the fall. More on that shortly.
"No matter how much money you have, this amount will take both of us out of our comfort zone." – Phil https://t.co/odiTaBMhYV
— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) July 6, 2018
The PGA Championship at Bellerive proved to be the most exciting major-championship Sunday of the season. Woods had become the biggest story of the summer, and he separated himself from a group of challengers early in the final round. He spent the day chasing Brooks Koepka, who was playing two groups behind him. Woods split fairways and knocked down flagsticks most of the day, eliciting roars on top of roars from the overflow crowd. He shot a 64, his career-best on a major-championship Sunday. But it wasn’t enough to catch Koepka, who shot 66 to clip by Tiger by two.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 12, 2018
Woods’s best month of the year began on the 2nd, when he was selected to his eighth U.S. Ryder Cup team by captain Jim Furyk. He also played all four legs of the FedEx Cup and got back in contention at BMW Championship Aronimink, where he shot an opening-round 62. He finished three shots back, tied for sixth.
And it was all prelude to the Tour Championship at East Lake, which Woods won for his first title since the 2013 TK. Thousands of fans poured onto the 18th fairway to follow Woods on the home hole. Quite a scene to cap the Tour season.
Wow. ? pic.twitter.com/klf7PLfVv9
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 23, 2018
One week after the high point of his season, Woods appeared physically drained at the Ryder Cup outside Paris. He went 0-4 for the week, capped by a Sunday singles loss to Jon Rahm, and his U.S. team was routed by the Europeans. The press center (where most journalists will tell you there should be no cheering) turned out to be quite partisan that particular afternoon.
Jon Rahm beats Tiger Woods. pic.twitter.com/qolk66e23p
— Sean Zak (@Sean_Zak) September 30, 2018
Woods faced off with Mickelson in “The Match,” live on pay-per-view. It featured mics on the course and real-time betting stats, among other bells and whistles. It was an odd broadcast, to say the least.
what were the odds on tiger and phil both using the word "apropos" on the broadcast? because we've hit paydirt on the front nine
— Dylan Dethier (@dylan_dethier) November 23, 2018
The PPV feature ultimately malfunctioned, but Shadow Creek CC looked sweet, even if the golf was at times sloppy.
What was in Tiger's wallet is now in Phil's after winning the closest to the pin challenge on No. 5 for $100K
— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) November 23, 2018
Woods chipped in for birdie on 17, and it took four extra holes before Phil beat Tiger with a birdie on a makeshift 93-yard par 3 under the lights.
Woods returned to the dual role of player-host at the Hero World Challenge. Unlike 2017, when his competitive finish surprised doubters and foreshadowed his comeback season, this time Woods still looked gassed while finishing 17th in the 18-man field.
It wasn’t the week Tiger was hoping for. https://t.co/X58YdtxFRx
— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) December 2, 2018
But Woods by almost any measure had a great year. He played 18 official events, plus a Ryder Cup, a head-to-head Match with Phil and another Hero World Challenge, and he emerged from all of it without any serious injury setbacks. For more proof of his season’s success, check his world ranking: in January he was No. 656. Here at year’s end he’s 13th. It was some ride.