Tiger Woods’s run of featuring in every Masters since 1995 is over after confirmation that the world No1 will not play at Augusta next week.
Woods, who has been plagued by back trouble since the latter half of last year, underwent surgery on a pinched nerve in Utah on Monday. He has set his sights on a return to action this summer and insists his career is far from over. This withdrawal, however, still marks a highly significant point in the American’s career.
“After attempting to get ready for the Masters, and failing to make the necessary progress, I decided, in consultation with my doctors, to have this procedure done,” Woods said. “I’d like to express my disappointment to the Augusta National membership, staff, volunteers and patrons that I will not be at the Masters. It’s a week that’s very special to me. It also looks like I’ll be forced to miss several upcoming tournaments to focus on my rehabilitation and getting healthy.
“I’d also like to thank the fans for their support and concern. It’s very kind and greatly appreciated. This is frustrating but it’s something my doctors advised me to do for my immediate and long-term health.”
A herniated disc was pressing against a nerve, causing pain and spasms. The problem came to light during the Barclays Championship at Liberty National eight months ago, where Woods doubled up in pain on the course.
Woods last appeared in March at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in Doral, where he was clearly in trouble. He had withdrawn during the final round of the Honda Classic and also pulled out of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. With all that in mind, his Masters participation was in obvious doubt but news of Woods’s surgery comes as more of a surprise.
It now remains to be seen where and when Woods reappears. The US Open, which was the last of the 14 majors he won in 2008, looks a highly optimistic target in mid-June. The following month, the Open takes place at Royal Liverpool, where Woods triumphed in 2006.
A statement on the world No1’s website said: “Woods will begin intensive rehabilitation and soft-tissue treatment within a week. Healing and recovery times differ for each individual based on many physiological factors but Woods could begin chipping and putting, after assessment by his doctors, in three weeks.”
A headline on the PGA Tour’s website more ominously claimed Woods would be absent “indefinitely”. Sponsors and television companies will be disappointed by the problems of Woods, given his continued appeal.
The Tour’s commissioner, Tim Finchem, said: “We’re disappointed to hear that Tiger will be out of competition for a few months and will miss several big tournaments but I’m sure no one is more disappointed than Tiger. I was pleased to hear that Tiger’s procedure to alleviate a pinched nerve was successful and that the long-term prognosis for his recovery is positive. We wish him the best as he rests and rehabs his back, and we look forward to welcoming him back to the Tour this summer.”
Woods is chasing Jack Nicklaus’s haul of 18 major titles and the PGA Tour victory record of Sam Snead. He is within three of Snead’s total of 82.
“It’s tough right now but I’m absolutely optimistic about the future,” the 38-year-old Woods said. “There are a couple [of] records by two outstanding individuals and players that I hope one day to break. As I’ve said many times, Sam and Jack reached their milestones over an entire career. I plan to have a lot of years left in mine.”