Woods had back surgery on September 16, 2015. In late March 2016, he announced that he would miss the Masters while he recovered from the surgery; he had also missed the 2014 Masters due to a back problem. "I'm absolutely making progress, and I'm really happy with how far I've come," he explained in a statement. "But I still have no timetable to return to competitive golf." However, he did attend the Masters Champions Dinner on April 5, 2016. For the first time in his career, he missed all four majors in one year due to problems with his back. In October 2016, he told Charlie Rose on PBS that he still wanted to break Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major titles. Woods underwent back surgery in December 2016 and spent the next 15 months off the Tour. He made his return to competitive golf in the Hero World Challenge.
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Masters Tournament: Earned third Masters title, joining Nicklaus (1965-66) and Nick Faldo (1989-90) as the only consecutive winners at Augusta National. Only Nicklaus (six wins) and Arnold Palmer (four wins) have more Masters titles. Jimmy Demaret, Faldo, Gary Players and Sam Snead also won three Masters Tournaments. Was tied with Retief Goosen at 11-under entering the final round, birdied two of the first three holes en route to a three-stroke victory over Goosen. Win was his 31st on TOUR.
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A related effect was measured by University of California economist Jennifer Brown, who found that other golfers scored higher when competing against Woods than when he was not in the tournament. The scores of highly skilled golfers are nearly one stroke better when playing against Woods. This effect was larger when he was on winning streaks and disappeared during his well-publicized slump in 2003–04. Brown explains the results by noting that competitors of similar skill can hope to win by increasing their level of effort, but that, when facing a "superstar" competitor, extra exertion does not significantly raise one's level of winning while increasing risk of injury or exhaustion, leading to reduced effort.
Woods' back problems continued to hinder him in 2017. He missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open in January and pulled out of a European Tour event in Dubai on February 3. On March 31, Woods announced on his website that he would not be playing in the 2017 Masters Tournament despite being cleared to play by his doctors. Woods said that although he was happy with his rehabilitation, he did not feel "tournament ready." Woods subsequently told friends, “I’m done”. On April 20, Woods announced that he had undergone his fourth back surgery since 2014 to alleviate back and leg pain. Recovery time required up to six months, meaning that Woods would spend the rest of the year without playing any professional golf. Woods returned to competitive golf at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. He shot rounds of 69-68-75-68 and finished tied for 9th place. His world ranking went from 1,199th to 668th, which was the biggest jump in the world rankings in his career.
Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard: Birdied the 72nd hole to beat Sean O'Hair by one stroke and claim his sixth Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. Sank a 15-foot birdie putt on the final green, duplicating his last-putt heroics from two previous years (2001, 15-foot birdie putt to beat Phil Mickelson; 2008, 24-foot birdie putt to beat Bart Bryant). Matched his largest comeback after 54 holes (five strokes) with his victory. He also came back from five strokes behind after 54 holes to win the 2000 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (Mark Brooks and Matt Gogel). Out of 66 career wins, it was his 19th coming from behind. Became the first player to win six Arnold Palmer Invitational titles. The only other players with multiple victories at the event are Tom Kite (1982 and 1989) and Loren Roberts (1994-95).
World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship: Posted a final-round, 6-under 66 to finish T10 at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, his first top-10 of the season and best showing since a T4 at the 2010 U.S. Open. It marked the 11th time in as many starts that he has finished with a top-10 at the event and the eighth time in as many starts inside the top 10 at the TPC Blue Monster at Doral. The showing represented his best round on TOUR since a second-round, 6-under 65 at the 2010 Deutsche Bank Championship. Played the first three rounds with Phil Mickelson, the first time the two have been paired together for three rounds in a PGA TOUR-sanctioned event. The two have had 28 official pairings on TOUR and 29 counting the 2009 World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions.
Omega Dubai Desert Classic: After shooting an opening-round 77, withdrew from the Omega Dubai Desert Classic citing back spasms. "Tiger Woods went into a spasm in his lower back fairly late last night, got treatment done early this morning for three and a half hours, but can't get it out," his manager Mark Steinberg said. "He says it's not the nerve, but back spasm, and he can't get the spasms to calm down. He can move around, but he can't make a full rotation in his swing."
Buick Invitational: Won his first start of the season for the fourth time in 11 seasons on TOUR. Became the first player in Buick Invitational history to win the tournament four times (1999, 2003, 2005-06). Made an eight-foot birdie on 72nd hole to get into a three-man playoff with Jose Maria Olazabal and Nathan Green. Green was eliminated after first hole, Olazabal on the second.
The Open Championship: Finished T6 at the 147 Open Championship at Carnoustie, his first top-10 in a major since at T6 at the 2013 Open Championship. Week was highlighted by a third-round 66, his lowest round in a major since a 66 in the second round of the 2011 Masters. Was just his second made cut (2018 Masters Tournament/T32) in his last six major starts. Posted rounds of 71-71-66-71, the first time since the 2010 Masters Tournament (T4) he recorded four par-or-better rounds in a major. Paired with eventual-champion Francesco Molinari, entered the final round four shots off the lead. Took the solo-lead at 7-under after nine holes, one ahead of Molinari and Jordan Spieth, but his lead disappeared with a double bogey at No. 11. Bogeyed No. 12 and birdied No. 14 before closing with four pars to finish at 5-under. The finish moved him to No. 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking, returning to the top 50 for the first time since January 2015. The ranking also earned him a spot in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
Masters Tournament: Won the Masters Tournament by one stroke to claim his fifth tournament title, 15th major championship crown and 81st PGA TOUR victory at age 43 years, 3 months, 15 days. Moved within one of Sam Snead’s record for PGA TOUR wins. Became the second-oldest winner of the Masters (Jack Nicklaus/1986/46 years, 2 months, 23 days) and seventh player in his 40s to win the event. Entered the final round trailing Francesco Molinari by two strokes and had never previously come from behind after 54 holes to win a major. 11 years removed from his win at the 2008 U.S. Open, his most recent major championship, became the first player since Ben Crenshaw (1984 Masters, 1995 Masters) to go 11 years or more between wins at majors. Recorded the victory 14 years after winning most recently at Augusta National Golf Club, the longest such streak through 83 editions of the event (previous: Gary Player/13). Made the Masters the seventh PGA TOUR event at which he has collected five or more victories.
Masters Tournament: Claimed fourth Masters title at age 29 years, 3 months and 10 days with sudden-death playoff victory over Chris DiMarco. Tied Arnold Palmer for second-most Masters victories, with four, two behind Jack Nicklaus. Recovered from a first-round 2-over-par 74 and took the 54-hole lead by three over DiMarco with rounds of 66-65. During that stretch of the third round, posted seven straight birdies (Nos. 7-13), matching Steve Pate's 1999 record birdie streak at Augusta National. Final round included chip-in on par-3 16th hole from behind the green that extended lead to two strokes and bogeys on two closing holes for a 1-under-par 71, tied with DiMarco at 12-under-par 276 total. Rolled in 15-foot birdie putt on first playoff hole to earn green jacket and re-claim the No. 1 position in the Official World Golf Ranking.
World Golf Championships-American Express Championship: With victory at the World Golf Championships-American Express Championship, became the first player in TOUR history to win five times in five consecutive seasons. Captured his record fifth consecutive Byron Nelson Award and the PGA of America's Vardon Trophy, based on each player's adjusted scoring average. Finished the season with an adjusted scoring average of 68.41, the second-lowest in TOUR history.
Fluff Cowan served as Woods' caddie from the start of his professional career until Woods dismissed him in March 1999. He was replaced by Steve Williams, who became a close friend of Woods and is often credited with helping him with key shots and putts. In June 2011, Woods dismissed Williams after he caddied for Adam Scott in the U.S. Open and replaced him with friend Bryon Bell on an interim basis. Joe LaCava, a former caddie of both Fred Couples and Dustin Johnson, was hired by Woods shortly after and has remained Woods' caddie since then.
World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship: At 19-under 269, finished two strokes clear of Steve Stricker to win the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship and become the TOUR's first multiple winner of the season. His 76th career PGA TOUR win and 17th World Golf Championships victory came at age 37 years, 2 months, 10 days in his 297th (283rd professional) career TOUR start. After posting the most birdies of his career through 36 and 54 holes, finished with 27 for the week, just one shy of a career-high 28 at the 2007 TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola and 2006 Buick Open. Entered the final round with a four-stroke lead over Graeme McDowell, with his final-round, 1-under 71 leading to the victory (the 51st time in 55 attempts he has carried the third-round lead on to victory). Received putting tips from Stricker on Wednesday, with the two (Stricker finished No. 1) going on to finish as the top-two players in the field in Strokes Gained-Putting. Finished the week with a career-low 100 putts. The Cadillac Championship represents the fourth PGA TOUR event he has won seven times (World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, Arnold Palmer Invitational and Farmers Insurance Open). The Cadillac Championship win was his first World Golf Championships victory since the 2009 Bridgestone Invitational. From 1999-2009, he did not go an entire season without winning at least one World Golf Championships title.
Since 1996, the Tiger Woods Foundation has reached more than 10 million young people by delivering unique experiences and innovative educational opportunities for youth worldwide. For scholars grades 5-12, the Tiger Woods Learning Centers provide hands-on experiences in science, technology, engineering and math, coupled with college-preparation workshops to create an environment focused on college and careers. Since opening its flagship Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif., the Foundation has established campuses in Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania and Florida. Once kids are ready for college, the Foundation offers the Earl Woods Scholarship Program, a network providing college scholarships, mentors, internships and workshops.
Won seven times en route to capturing the inaugural FedExCup, cruising through the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup with two wins and a T2 in three starts. Captured 13th career major championship (second all-time to Jack Nicklaus' 18) and finished the year with 61 official PGA TOUR victories, fifth all-time. Adjusted scoring average was 67.79, matching own record set in 2000. With 60 official rounds, won his seventh career Vardon Trophy and also captured the Byron Nelson Award.