Rusty, or ready? Tiger's back cuts Masters prep

Tiger Woods withdrew, citing a back injury that has plagued him during the PGA Tour's Florida Swing, from the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill -- creating questions about his preparation for the 2014 Masters.

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Missing the Arnold Palmer Invitational for just the second time since turning professional, Tiger Woods is in a precarious position regarding his Masters prep work.

Should he sit out the Valero Texas Open and Shell Houston Open, as expected, in the next two weeks, he would have only 14 competitive rounds under his belt headed into Augusta. Woods withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando, Fla., two days before it began.

Not what he would have planned, but for the Woods of this era – the version who, at 38, is older and more cautious of injury – it’s part of a game plan that doesn’t push too much. He played just 19 rounds before Augusta a year ago, 21 in 2012, 17 in 2011, none in 2010 (the comeback from the infamous personal-life crash) and 10 in 2009 when he was rebounding from knee surgery.

Those numbers are in stark contrast to the Woods of vintage form. In the years when he won the Masters (1997, 2001, '02, '05) he played an average of 29.75 rounds before Augusta.

Which isn’t to say that he is lost when he shows up at Augusta without a lot of work. He has tied for fourth in three of the last four years – including 2010, when he hadn’t played competitively in months.

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