Tiger Woods chose surgery to heal his ailing back over a quest for another green jacket, announcing Tuesday he will miss the Masters for the first time in his pro career.
Woods, 38, said on his website he had surgery Monday in Utah for a pinched nerve that had been hurting him for several months, knowing the surgery would keep him from Augusta National in Georgia next week for the first time since he was a senior in high school.
The No. 1 player in the world is a four-time Masters champion.
“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.”
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The Masters gets the highest television ratings of any golf tournament, and Woods commands most of the attention, even though he last won in 2005. He won his first Masters in 1997, by a record 12 strokes.
“I know Tiger has been working very hard to return to form and, as I have said many times, Tiger has a lot of years of good golf ahead of him,” Jack Nicklaus said. “I hate to see him robbed of some of that time by injury. But we all know he is doing what is in the best interest of his health and future. I wish him well on a speedy recovery.”
Nicklaus played 154 straight majors for which he was eligible until he missed the 1998 British Open because of an ailing left hip he had replaced a year later. Nicklaus rarely had injury problems in winning 18 professional majors, the record Woods most wants to surpass. Woods has been stuck on 14 majors for six years.
Woods has had four surgeries on his left knee, and his biggest concern these days is his back.
He has been coping with back issues since last summer: a twinge in the final round of the PGA Championship and spasms in the final round of The Barclays that caused him to fall to his knees. Then, they returned with alarming regularity recently in Florida.
He withdrew after 13 holes in the final round of the Honda Classic with what he described as lower-back pain and spasms. Woods shot the highest final round of his career (78) at Doral a week later when he said his back flared up again in the final round. He skipped the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he was the two-time defending champion, to rest his back and do everything possible to be at Augusta National next week.
“Tiger was gracious in keeping us updated of his condition and making us aware of his decision,” Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said. “We wholeheartedly offered our best wishes for his immediate and long-term recovery.”
Woods said he had a microdiscectomy for the pinched nerve, performed by neurosurgeon Charles Rich. A microdiscectomy is a type of minimally invasive spine surgery to relieve pressure and pain caused by a herniated disk.
According to the Masters website, Woods might be able to begin chipping and putting in three weeks.