Tiger Woods will be taking a leave of absence to get his game back to tournament level, the 14-time major champ announced on his website Feb. 11.
“My play, and scores, are not acceptable for tournament golf,” Woods said. “Like I’ve said, I enter a tournament to compete at the highest level, and when I think I’m ready, I’ll be back.”
Representatives for Woods could not be reached for comment.
Prior to his announcement, Woods’ next anticipated start was the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., at the end of the month. Woods, who lives in nearby Jupiter, Fla., said the event is important to him, but that he won’t be in the field unless his game improves.
“I won’t be there unless my game is tournament-ready,” Woods said of the Honda. “That’s not fair to anyone.”
Woods thanked fans in Phoenix and San Diego for their support, following a disappointing two weeks which saw him miss the cut at the Phoenix Open and withdraw after 11 holes at the Farmers Insurance Open in his first two tournaments of 2015. Woods had previously won at Torrey Pines, site of the Farmers Insurance Open, eight times in his career, including the 2008 U.S. Open, his last major championship.
“The last two weeks have been very disappointing to me, especially Torrey, because I never want to withdraw,” he said. “Unfortunately, lately injuries have made that happen too often.”
Woods, the winner of 79 PGA Tour events and 14 majors, has never looked this bad on the golf course. He had back surgery to relieve a pinched nerve a week before the 2014 Masters and missed three months (including the first two majors), and then he took four months off at the end of last year to regain strength and get his back fully healed. Woods said that his back issues at Torrey Pines last week were not related to his surgery last year.
“This latest injury is not related to my previous surgery,” Woods said. “I am having daily physical therapy and I am feeling better every day.”
His chipping was shockingly bad at the 18-man Hero World Challenge at Isleworth in December, when he tied for last. His chipping looked even worse at the Phoenix Open, a collection of shots that he either flubbed short or bladed across the green.
Woods’ longtime rival Ernie Els expressed sympathy about Woods’ short-game woes.
“As competitive as we are, we don’t want to see anyone suffer like that,” said Els, who has finished second to Woods more than any other player. “We’ve got to do our stuff in public. I don’t care if you’re Tiger Woods, Ernie Els or whoever. If you have some error in your game, you get exposed.”
Woods is currently ranked No. 62 in the world, his worst ranking since before he won his first PGA Tour event in 1996. He is not eligible for the WGC-Cadillac at Doral, which begins March 4. In his statement, Woods said that he does not anticipate being away from golf for long.
“I do, however, expect to be playing again very soon,” Woods said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report