Tiger Woods, still recovering from a pair of operations on his back, said Friday that he will sit out the Masters for the second time in three years.
A four-time winner of the green jacket, Woods, 40, has been inactive on Tour since finishing 10th at the Wyndham Championship last August. He has dropped to 472nd in the world, and while he wrote on his blog March 2 that he had begun putting and chipping in his backyard, he has declared himself unfit for the Masters.
In a blog post on his website, Woods said, "After assessing the present condition of my back, and consulting with my medical team, I've decided it's prudent to miss this year's Masters. I've been hitting balls and training daily, but I'm not physically ready." He also expressed his regret to Billy Payne and the rest of the Augusta National staff and patronage.
After undergoing a pair of operations on his back last fall, Woods hasn't been playing golf as much as he has been playing host, first at his Hero World Challenge tournament, in December, and then at the opening of a short course he designed at Bluejack National outside Houston, in March. He posted on his blog on March 2, the day of the course opening, that there is “no timetable on my return to competitive golf.”
Speculation about Woods’s career has run rampant. It wasn’t long ago, 2013, when he won five times on Tour. But he sounded glum and possibly even ready to retire at his press conference at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas in December. His decision to skip this year’s Masters could signal a hard-won maturity from the 79-time Tour winner.
Woods went under the knife to address tightness and back spasms for the first time March 31, 2014, and has admitted he came back too soon from the procedure—at the Quicken Loans National on June 26. He missed the cut.
Things soon went from bad to worse. He started chunking and blading chips at the Hero; shot 82 to miss the cut at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open; withdrew from the Farmers; announced he would take some time away from competitive golf; soared to a third-round 85 at the Memorial; and opened with an 80 at the U.S. Open.
With four operations on his left knee and three on his back—most recently last September, with a follow-up procedure in October—Woods’s brittle body has been front-page news for years. His fans can only hope some more time on the sidelines hastens a full recovery and the return of the player he used to be.