In April, he had a fourth back operation, which was expected to keep him off the course for six months. Last week, he wrote on his website that he intended to play professionally again and that he “could no longer live with the pain” he had before the surgery.
“It is hard to express how much better I feel,” he wrote. “It was instant nerve relief. I haven’t felt this good in years.”
Woods’s public image was clean until the fall of 2009, when he was cited with careless driving after he crashed his car into a fire hydrant and a tree outside his home in late November. There was no evidence that alcohol had been a factor in the crash.
“I’m human, and I’m not perfect,” he said at the time.
The episode led to the surfacing of marital infidelities, for which he apologized in February 2010. He went to rehabilitation after the accident, reportedly for sex addiction. He and his wife, Elin Nordegren, divorced later that year. They have two children.
Woods did not return to the PGA Tour until April 2010 for the Masters, where he tied for fourth. He did not win a tournament that year, then struggled with leg injuries in 2011.
But he had three titles among nine top-10 finishes in 2012, and the following year, Woods won five tournaments, returned to No. 1, and was the leading money winner and the tour player of the year. With 79 PGA Tour titles, Woods passed Jack Nicklaus for second on the career list.
Woods’s back problems set in early in the 2014 season. He had his first back operation in April and fared poorly in the four tournaments he managed to play that summer. He was a shell of his former self in 2015, with three rounds of 80 or worse. He had a second back operation that September, beginning his 16-month layoff.
From 1998 to 2010, Woods spent nearly every week at No. 1. He is now ranked 876th.
His influence is largely felt off the golf course these days. He has inspired a generation of golfers now at the top of the game, including Jordan Spieth and Jason Day. He played an important role as an assistant captain for the winning American team at the 2016 Ryder Cup. Woods’s golf-course design business has landed several high-profile jobs, including one at Trump World Golf Club in Dubai and on the South Side of Chicago.
In his statement last week, Woods said he remained committed to returning to competitive golf.
“All I can do is take it day by day,” he wrote. “There’s no hurry. But, I want to say unequivocally, I want to play professional golf again.”