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Tiger Woods is no stranger to injuries – he won the 2008 U.S. Open with a twice-fractured left leg, for example. His back problems have derailed his career for the better part of a decade, and in 2017 Woods was unsure if he would ever be able to play again. There have been surgeries on top of surgeries, mostly to his knees and back.
It’s entirely premature to speculate exactly how his severely broken leg and crushed ankle after Tuesday’s car crash in California will impact any hopes that he returns to golf, but it is worth looking back at the obstacles Woods has overcome.
Also worth noting, Woods plays his cards very close to the vest, and at times he has been coy about providing private information on injuries or medical procedures. These injuries listed below – compiled from past Golfweek reporting and media reports such as this one on PGA.com – are just those that are known.
Two benign tumors and scar tissue are removed from his left knee. Woods turned 20 at the end of the month.
Woods has surgery in December to remove fluid inside and outside the ACL and to remove benign cysts from his left knee. He missed a few weeks of competition to start 2003, then won three of his first four events after returning from surgery.
Champion Tiger Woods posing with the Wanamaker trophy on the 18th green at the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America via Getty Images)
In August, Woods ruptures the ACL in his left knee while running on a golf course at the British Open, but he is able to continue playing in the following weeks and won five of the last six tournaments which he played that season, including the PGA Championship.
Tiger Woods holds on to his left knee after teeing off on the second hole during the fourth round of the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. (AP/Charlie Riedel)
In April after the Masters, Woods has surgery on his left knee to repair cartilage damage. In May, doctors tell him he has two stress fractures in his left tibia. In June, he wins the U.S. Open on the injured leg – showing noticeable pain – before undergoing surgery to repair his left ACL using a tendon from his right thigh. He then misses eight months of competition. In December, he injures his right Achilles tendon while jogging. He plays the 2009 season in frequent pain from the continuous injury.
Tiger Woods withdraws after hitting his shot on the seventh hole during the final round of the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. (Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports)
In May he withdraws from the Players Championship, telling reporters he has a bulging disk in his back. Later he said the problem was in his neck and that he had tingling sensations in his right side. It turned out to be an inflamed facet joint in his neck.
Tiger Woods plays his second shot on the 17th hole from under the Eisenhower Tree during the third round of the 2011 Masters. (Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images for Golfweek)
In April, Woods injures his left Achilles while taking a stooped swing from under the Eisenhower Tree on No. 17 at Augusta National Golf Club during the Masters. In May, Woods withdraws from the Players Championship again because of an MCL sprain in his left knee. He’s out two months after this injury.
In March, he withdraws from the Cadillac Championship because of tightness in his left Achilles. In August, he attributes back pain to a soft mattress in his hotel room and is seen moving stiffly at The Barclays.
Tiger Woods battles through back pain to finish his final round of The Barclays. He is able to finish the 2013 PGA Tour season. (Chris Condon/PGA Tour)
In June, an elbow strain knocks him out of two tournaments. In August, back spasms send him to his knees at The Barclays.
Tiger Woods grabs his back after his drive on the ninth hole and would later withdraw in the final round of the Honda Classic at PGA National Golf Club. (Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports)
In March, he withdraws from the Honda Classic with back pain and spasms. The pain continues at the Cadillac Championship, and he withdraws from the Arnold Palmer Invitational. At the end of the month, he has surgery on a pinched nerve, which forces him out of the Masters and stops his tournament schedule. In August, two months after his return to competition, Woods withdraws from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with more lower back pain. He returned the next week at the PGA Championship and missed the cut.
Tiger Woods reacts after striking a tree root during the final round of the 2015 Masters. (Getty Images)
In February, Woods withdraws from the Farmers Insurance Open with a back injury. He returns in April for the Masters and finishes T-17. In April at the Masters, Woods strikes a tree root on a swing, jarring his right arm. “A bone kind of popped out and the joint kind of went out of place, but I put it back in," Woods said. In September, Woods has two microdiscectomy surgeries on his back to remove bone fragments that were pinching a nerve. In October, he has another back surgery with the goal of relieving discomfort, and his golf career is stalled. After nearly 16 months away, Woods completes 72 holes at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016.
Tiger Woods hits his tee shot on the first hole during the first round of the 2017 Hero World Challenge at Albany in the Bahamas in his return to competitive golf after spinal fusion. (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
In April he has a spinal fusion, his fourth back surgery. This surgery was such a success that he was able to return to golf within a year and start his march back to the top of leaderboards, culminating with his 2019 Masters title.
In March, Woods withdraws from the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a neck strain that was not serious enough to keep him out of the Masters, which he won the following month.
In January, Woods undergoes another back surgery, again a microdiscectomy to remove a bone fragment that was pinching a nerve.
Tiger Woods' vehicle after he was involved in a rollover accident in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, on Feb. 23, 2021. Woods had to be extricated from the wreck by Los Angeles County firefighters. (USA TODAY syndication)
On February 23, the SUV Woods is driving rolls over in California. He is trapped inside before being freed by emergency crews who use an ax to get him out of the vehicle. His right leg and ankle are severely broken, requiring emergency surgery. “Comminuted open fractures affecting both the upper and lower portion of the tibia and fibula bones were stabilized by inserting a rod into the tibia,” said Dr. Anish Mahajan, Chief Medical Officer and Interim CEO at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. “Additional injuries to the bones of the foot and ankle were stabilized with a combination of screws and pins. Trauma to the muscle and soft-tissue of the leg required surgical release of the covering of the muscles to relieve pressure due to swelling.”