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.
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.
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…
…And Tigermania engulfed fans of all ages.
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.
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.
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.
He entered the Masters riding a tidal wave of hype, but Woods never threatened at Augusta. He finished 32nd.
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.
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.
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.
Woods faded on the back nine and finished T6, but it was clear his game was on the rise – and the world was watching.
Also this month, GOLF.com broke the news that a Tiger-Phil match was in the works for the fall. More on that shortly.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The PPV feature ultimately malfunctioned, but Shadow Creek CC looked sweet, even if the golf was at times sloppy.
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.
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.