Obligatory opening line: Don’t call it a comeback. LL Cool J lyrics aside, Tiger Woods return to competition at the Safeway Open will represent the most significant comeback in a career filled with returns to competitive play after long layoffs.
The one-time world No. 1 and seeming shoo-in for GOAT status, hasn’t teed up his Nike One on the PGA Tour since the Wyndham Championship in August of 2015, where he finished tied for 10th.
Woods had a pair of back surgeries in September and October of 2015, and spent the 2015-2016 PGA Tour season eating cereal, watching cartoons, rehabbing, practicing, and using Call of Duty as tactical inspiration for his role as Ryder Cup vice captain.
With Woods’ return on the horizon, we wanted to take a look at how he’s fared in other comebacks in his 20-year career.
Here are the most notable injury related interludes since 2007, when Woods’ body began to betray him in earnest, and how he finished in the first few starts after his return.
2008: Arthroscopic knee surgery
Woods had arthroscopic knee surgery to clean out cartilage two days after finishing second at the Masters. Recovery was slated to take four to six weeks, but Woods teed it up amid significant pain at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
- 6/15/2008: U.S. Open: 1
2008: ACL repair
Following Woods hasty return at the U.S. Open, he had reconstructive ACL surgery. It was also revealed that he played the U.S. Open with a double stress fracture of his left tibia. TW didn’t play again in 2008, making his return at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in March of 2009.
- 3/1/2009: WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship: T17
- 3/15/2009: WGC-CA Championship: T9
- 3/29/2009: Arnold Palmer Invitational: 1
April 26, 2011: Left MCL sprain, strained left Achilles tendon
Following the Masters, where he suffered a Grade 1 MCL sprain to his left knee and a strain to his left Achilles after a shot from under the Eisenhower tree (RIP), Woods shut it down.
He made an unsuccessful attempt to return at The Players Championship (May 12), but withdrew after an opening-nine 42. He said at the time: “The knee acted up, and then the Achilles followed after that, and then the calf started cramping up. Everything started getting tight.” He didn’t play again until WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August.
- 8/7/2011: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: T37
- 8/14/2011: PGA Championship: Cut
- 10/9/2011: Frys.com Open: T30
March 2014: Back issues
Woods withdrew during the final round of The Honda Classic. He didn’t play Arnold Palmer Invitational, citing lingering pain. And in what would have been a dark April Fool’s joke, Woods had back surgery for a pinched nerve. He didn’t play again until the Quicken Loans National in June.
- 6/29/2014: Quicken Loans National: Cut
- 7/20/2014: The Open Championship: 69
- 8/3/2014: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: W/D
February 2015: Glute activation
Most recently from the on-course injury timeline, Woods called it quits after 11 holes of his opening round at the 2015 Farmers Insurance Open and offered the infamous “glute activation” soundbyte. “My glutes are just shutting off,” Woods said. “Then they don’t activate and then, hence, it goes into my lower back.” He didn’t compete again until the Masters.
- 4/12/15: Masters: T17
- 5/10/15: The Players: T69
- 6/7/15: The Memorial Tournament: 71
Also worth noting from a non-injury layoff standpoint: Woods didn’t play between the Masters and the U.S. Open in 2006 due to his father’s death. He missed the cut at the U.S. Open in his return. Woods also missed the first portion of the 2010 season in the wake of his massive infidelity scandal. He tied for fourth at Augusta National in his first start that year.
Woods missed the cut in the final three majors of the year before shutting it down after the Wyndham Championship at the end of August. As mentioned here (and everywhere), he hasn’t played since.
How will Woods fare in Napa after a year on the shelf? Last month, Bovada set the odds of Woods winning in his return at 50-1, and gave the 14-time major champion 4-1 odds of a top-10 finish. Interestingly, he was listed at -175 to make the cut: an implied probability of 63.64%.
Not that the past is necessarily precedent here, but outside of his superhuman effort to win the 2008 U.S. Open, Woods hasn’t done better than a tie for 17th in a return from injury in the past decade.