Woods turned pro at age 20 in August 1996 and immediately signed advertising deals with Nike, Inc. and Titleist that ranked as the most lucrative endorsement contracts in golf history at that time. Woods was named Sports Illustrated's 1996 Sportsman of the Year and PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. On April 13, 1997, he won his first major, the Masters, in record-breaking fashion and became the tournament's youngest winner at age 21. Two months later, he set the record for the fastest ascent to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings. After a lackluster 1998, Woods finished the 1999 season with eight wins, including the PGA Championship, a feat not achieved since Johnny Miller did it in 1974.
AT&T National: Won his own tournament, the AT&T National hosted by Tiger Woods, with a late birdie at Congressional CC. Was tied for the lead with Anthony Kim entering the final round and was tied at 12-under with Hunter Mahan late in the back nine. Made a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-5 16th hole and fired a closing 67 to get past Mahan and capture the title by one stroke. Mahan tied the course record with a 62 earlier in the day. The win was the third of the season, the 68th of his PGA TOUR career and moved him to the top of the FedExCup standings for the first time in 2009.
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."
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PGA Championship: In head-to-head battle with fellow California junior star Bob May, won PGA in three-hole playoff. Became first player since Denny Shute in 1936-37 to defend PGA title. Both players played the final-round back nine in 31, and he birdied the final two holes to force the three-hole playoff with May. He went birdie-par-par to beat May. He finished 18-under, giving him a share of the PGA most under-par record with May.
Masters Tournament: On Tuesday, April 15, two days after finishing second at the Masters, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in Park City, Utah, to repair cartilage damage. Expected to miss 4-6 weeks. It was the same knee operated on in 1994 for a benign tumor, followed by arthroscopic surgery in 2002. Began experiencing pain in mid-2007 when he injured his anterior cruciate ligament while running at home in Orlando following The Open Championship but opted not to have surgery at that time.
Many courses in the PGA Tour rotation (including major championship sites like Augusta National) have added yardage to their tees in an effort to reduce the advantage of long hitters like Woods; this is a strategy that became known as "Tiger-Proofing". Woods said he welcomed the change, in that adding yardage to courses did not affect his ability to win.
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).
The foundation benefits from the annual Chevron World Challenge and AT&T National golf tournaments hosted by Woods. In October 2011, the foundation hosted the first Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach. Other annual fundraisers have included the concert events Block Party, last held in 2009 in Anaheim, and Tiger Jam, last held in 2011 in Las Vegas after a one-year hiatus.
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In 1997, Woods and fellow golfer Arnold Palmer initiated a civil case against Bruce Matthews (the owner of Gotta Have It Golf, Inc.) and others in the effort to stop the unauthorized sale of their images and alleged signatures in the memorabilia market. Matthews and associated parties counterclaimed that Woods and his company, ETW Corporation, committed several acts including breach of contract, breach of implied duty of good faith, and violations of Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. Palmer also was named in the counter-suit, accused of violating the same licensing agreement in conjunction with his company Arnold Palmer Enterprises.
Surgery: Pulled out of next two PGA TOUR starts, the Genesis Open and The Honda Classic. Released statement: "My doctors have advised me not to play the next two weeks, to continue my treatment and to let my back calm down. This is not what I was hoping for or expecting. I am extremely disappointed to miss the Genesis Open, a tournament that benefits my foundation, and The Honda Classic, my hometown event. I would like to thank Genesis for their support, and I know we will have an outstanding week." In April, announced on his website he had undergone further back surgery. The operation was performed by Dr. Richard Guyer of the Center for Disc Replacement at the Texas Back Institute.