(Editor's note: GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 newsmakers of 2016. Take a look at why each item made our list, along with a collection of their top stories from the year. Click here for the full list and release dates.)
For a man accustomed to living his high-profile life in the most intense punchbowl, 2016 was a study in relative ambiguity for Tiger Woods.
Look no further than this list, GolfChannel.com’s annual top-10 newsmakers, for proof of this vastly new reality. In 2013, when he won five times on the PGA Tour, he was second on the list, and he came in third in ’14. Even last year, he was the second-most influential headline producer, and that was without a Tour victory or even a top-10 finish in a major championship.
But for Woods and those who follow his every move, 2016 was a void of conflicting facts and uncertainty after he began the year on the DL following multiple back procedures.
He first surfaced virally in February when he posted a video on Twitter swinging a 9-iron in a simulator with the caption, “Progressing nicely.”
In March at a golf course opening in Houston he was promptly upstaged, and upset according to various reports, by Taylor Crozier. The 11-year-old made the first hole-in-one at Bluejack National’s par-3 Playground loop and beat the 14-time major champion 32 to 35 in a 10-hole match.
Two months later, things became even more surreal when Woods took three swings during a charity event at Congressional Golf Club and put three balls, from 102 yards no less, into a water hazard and promptly broke the internet.
At September’s Ryder Cup, he embraced a new role as vice captain of the U.S. team, leading the pod that included newfound kindred spirit Patrick Reed. He also successfully assumed the role of bit player, safely staying out of the spotlight for the vast majority of the week.
A week later, he committed to play the Safeway Open, the Tour’s wraparound lid-lifter. Three days later he withdrew from the event, saying in a statement his game was “vulnerable.” He also passed on a trip to Turkey to play a European Tour event, leading to rampant speculation that he’d suffered a set back in his recovery.
But those rumors of demise proved to be greatly exaggerated when he finally returned to competition at last week’s Hero World Challenge. Although his results were mixed, rounds of 65 and 70 sandwiched between a 73 and 76, he sounded upbeat after finishing 15th out of 17 players.
As comebacks go it wasn’t Woods’ best, but there were plenty of signs of progress.
“It feels good to be back out here playing again, competing and trying to beat these, the best players in the world. I missed it,” Woods said. “I’ve had some very, very difficult times, and have some great friends that have helped me over the times to get me to this point, and I’m just so thankful to be back here playing again.”
After 11 months of obscurity, Woods was finally back in the spotlight.
Stops and Starts: Tiger's Long Road Back
Announces Return Then WDs From Safeway
Assistant Captain at Ryder Cup
Woods Returns at Hero World Challenge