The year’s first major will be minus the game’s biggest star.
Tiger Woods ended months of speculation Friday, announcing via his website that he will not compete in next week’s Masters as his back rehabilitation didn’t give him enough time to get tournament ready.
Woods competing at Augusta National had been in doubt ever since early February, when he withdrew ahead of the second round at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic due to a lower back spasm.
The signs thereafter didn’t point toward Woods playing. A glimmer of hope seemed to emerge two weeks ago when Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, refuted a report that his client was unlikely to play the Masters. Steinberg noted that Woods was “progressing and hoping he can do it” in regards to playing the Masters.
Days later, on Monday, March 20, Woods was present in New York City for a signing session for his new book, The 1997 Masters: My Story, after appearing on “Good Morning America,” earlier that day. On the show, Woods took part in a putting contest with Michael Strahan and told the host, “I’m trying everything I can do to get back and play.”
But the progress ultimately didn’t develop quick enough for Woods to tee it up at Augusta National.
“Unfortunately, I won’t be competing in this year’s Masters,” Woods said in a post on his website. “I did about everything I could to play, but my back rehabilitation didn’t allow me the time to get tournament ready. I’m especially upset because it’s a special anniversary for me that’s filled with a lot of great memories. I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since I won my first green jacket.”
This marks the second straight year Woods is absent from the Masters, which will take place this year from April 6-9. The 41-year-old skipped out last year as he was still recovering from multiple back surgeries. He previously missed the event in 2014 after undergoing back surgery for a pinched nerve weeks before the event.
The 14-time major champion brought hope that he could make a valiant revival with a promising performance in December at the Hero World Challenge – his first start after a 16-month absence from competitive golf due to those two back surgeries he underwent in the fall of 2015.
But Woods struggled in his PGA Tour return the following month, missing the cut comfortably at the Farmers Insurance Open after rounds of 76 and 72. The following week brought the disaster in Dubai, where Woods opened in a dismal, birdie-less 77 before his early exit.
An ambitious plan for February was scrapped, as Woods withdrew from scheduled starts at the Genesis Open and the Honda Classic. He also cancelled a press conference set for Genesis Open week as doctors advised him to “just stay horizontal.” Woods would also skip the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tournament he’s won eight times, in mid-March.
This is yet another setback after so much intrigue just three months ago.
The back issues that ultimately kept Woods out of this year’s Masters certainly don’t bode well for his future. After 16 months out due to back issues, Woods is now missing the action at Augusta after a back spasm (rather than debilitating nerve pain) knocked him out of Dubai two months ago.
Woods was already scheduled to attend Tuesday’s annual Champions Dinner and confirmed he will still attend that event. Woods was on the interview schedule for 1 p.m. ET that same day at Augusta National, but he did not mention that presser in his post.
Where and when Woods returns to competition is unclear, as he said his timetable for return is murky.
“I have no timetable for my return, but I will continue my diligent effort to recover, and want to get back out there as soon as possible,” Woods said.
Woods is a four-time Masters champion. He hasn’t won the event since 2005, but in nine starts since, he has produced seven top-six finishes (including two runner-up showings). His last showing at the Masters, in 2015, produced a T-17 finish. This year marks the 20-year anniversary of his first Masters win.
Woods’ comeback in 2017 has already been quite rocky, and this news is yet another bit of doom and gloom.