A History of Tiger Woods' Incredible Highs & Unfortunate Lows
The golf star has been in the spotlight for more than two decades — with plenty of ups and downs along the way
Born in 1975, Woods (full name Eldrick Tont "Tiger" Woods) was a golf star from a young age. He first picked up a golf club before he hit his 2nd birthday, and was in the pages of Golf Digest by the time he was 5. He attended Stanford University on a golf scholarship, but after two years, he left school to compete in professional tournaments.
In 1996, he was named PGA Tour's Rookie of the Year as well as Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year and nabbed his first major sports endorsement deal, with Nike.
1997 to 1999
The late '90s were a string of wins for Woods on his rise to the top. In 1997, just one year after he was named Rookie of the Year, he won his first-ever major championship, the Masters — becoming the youngest person ever to wear the tournament's iconic green jacket. In 1998, he got the top spot in the Official World Golf Rankings. And then in 1999, he won his first U.S. PGA Championship.
Cementing his GOAT status in 2000 when he was just 24 years old, Woods became the youngest-ever golfer to win a Career Grand Slam — the four major golf championships. It would be his first of three career grand slams.
2003 to 2006
Though he hit a bit of a slump in 2003 and 2004, not winning any of the majors, Woods' dominance continued throughout the aughts. He set the world record for weeks at No. 1 — 264. And though 2006, which saw the death of his influential father, Earl Woods was personally difficult for Woods, by the end of that year, he had broken the records for total majors wins and total overall wins over his 11 seasons competing. In 2004, he had another personal high: Marrying Elin Nordegren, a Swedish former model.
Woods won the 2008 U.S. Open, which would turn out to be his last major championship for quite some time.
After the tournament, Woods had reconstructive surgery on his left knee, which led him to take an eight-month hiatus from the sport. Injuries were a lingering problem for Woods throughout his career (especially to his back) and would play a major part in coming years.
In 2009, things began to unravel. On Nov. 27, he left his home early in the morning in his Cadillac Escalade, but before he turned off his street, crashed into a tree and a fire hydrant. He only suffered minor facial lacerations in the accident, but there was much speculation about how the accident happened.
A few days later, outlets began to report on an alleged affair, which led Woods to release a statement admitting to "transgressions." In the days after, the number of women coming forward to say they had had an affair with Woods began to snowball, ultimately topping one dozen. He admitted to the affairs and said he'd be taking an "indefinite break from professional golf."
Many of his lucrative endorsement deals were dropped, like those with General Motors, AT&T, Gatorade and more. Nike stuck by him throughout the scandal.
On Feb. 5, Woods completed a rehabilitation program. Two weeks later he went on national television to deliver a public apology. "I knew my actions were wrong," said Woods. "But I convinced myself that normal rules didn't apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled."
Despite a strong performance at the Masters later that year, he failed to win a single event in 2010, losing his No. 1 ranking for the first time since 2005.
That August, Woods and Nordegren finalized their divorce and committed to co-parenting their two young children, daughter Charlie and son Sam. The terms of their settlement were never disclosed. Nordegren spoke to PEOPLE about the split, saying she was blindsided by the news of her husband's affairs.
After pulling out of the U.S. Open and Open Championship in 2011 due to a leg injury, things were looking up for Woods over the next two years — he won eight times on PGA Tour, regained his coveted No. 1 ranking and started up a romance with Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn. It seemed like he was back. But in 2013, Woods finished 13 over par in the US Open, recording his worst ever score as a professional.
In March, Woods pulled out of the Honda Classic and Arnold Palmer Invitational with back issues. And the next month, he underwent back surgery for a pinched nerve, missing the Masters and the US Open. He also parted ways with swing coach Sean Foley and dropped to No. 32 in the world.
In February, Woods withdrew just 12 holes into the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open due to back pain. A few months later, he underwent a second microdiscectomy surgery and a follow-up back procedure. Not only did he lose on the green in 2015 — Woods' rank dropped to No. 416 — his relationship with Vonn ended, too.
Woods missed all four majors for the first time in his career.
After undergoing another surgery for back and leg pain that April, Woods was arrested for a DUI in the early morning hours of May 29. He had no alcohol in his system when he was arrested, according to police reports; two breathalyzer tests registered a .000 blood alcohol content. The report, issued by the Jupiter Police Department (a copy was obtained by PEOPLE), stated that the 41-year-old golfer was found asleep at the wheel on the side of the road, and had to be woken up.
According to the report, Woods used several pain medications including Vicodin. He allegedly failed the sobriety test and was unable to put his finger on his nose, walk a straight line, or stand on one leg. He ultimately pled guilty to reckless driving.
Woods put on a tremendous showing at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in August. Though he didn't win, it was his best performance in years and a bright spot for fans to hold on to.
Weeks later, Woods won the Tour Championship, ending a five-year drought and giving everyone a reason to cheer for his comeback.
The event also marked the public debut of his new girlfriend, Erica Herman.
Though he pulled out of a spring invitational due to a neck injury, the year 2019 brought one of the biggest victories of all for Woods: another Masters win, his first major title in 11 years. He had extra-special VIPs watching him play, too — kids Charlie and Sam.
A source told PEOPLE that 10 years after his scandal, Woods was a "different man." "He is in the best place he's ever been," the source said.
Spending more time at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Woods played in a few tournaments throughout the year and popped up at the PNC Father Son Challenge with son Charlie, 11, who impressed fans with his golf skills.
The injury-plagued star — the topic of a January HBO documentary about his life — underwent another surgery in January, removing a disc fragment pinching a nerve in his back. His goal: to play in the Masters in the spring.
However, his plans were derailed on Feb. 23 when he was involved in a single-car crash in Southern California, requiring emergency surgery to repair breaks in his right leg, foot and ankle. The next day, his team released a statement saying the athlete, 45, was awake and recovering.
A source close to Woods told PEOPLE that the golfer will have some serious decisions to make about his future as he recovers from the crash.
"He doesn't want his career to end like this," said the insider. "So if there's any way at all that he can continue playing golf, he will."