Tiger Woods is a no-go for Augusta.
The world No. 1 announced on his website Tuesday that he underwent surgery for a pinched nerve in his back and will miss the Masters for the first time since 1994. The procedure was performed Monday in Utah.
“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 in a statement.
“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.
“I’d also like to thank the fans for their support and concern. It’s very kind and greatly appreciated. This is frustrating, but it’s something my doctors advised me to do for my immediate and long-term health.”
Woods will begin intensive rehabilitation and soft-tissue treatment within a week, and he could begin hitting balls later this month. His goal was to resume playing on the PGA Tour “sometime this summer,” though he did not specify when.
“It’s tough right now,” he said, “but I’m absolutely optimistic about the future.”
Prior to this announcement, the Masters was the only major that he had never missed a pro.
Said Augusta National chairman Billy Payne, “Tiger was gracious in keeping us updated of his condition and making us aware of his decision. We wholeheartedly offered our best wishes for his immediate and long-term recovery. Tiger will be in our thoughts and will be missed by our patrons and all of us at the Masters Tournament next week. He is one of our most decorated champions and we look forward to his healthy return in 2015 and beyond.”
Woods first showed signs of back pain at the 2012 Barclays, and he grabbed his back after a few swings at last year’s PGA Championship.
Two weeks later, he hit a shot in the final round of the Barclays and dropped to his knees in pain. He was able to play the next three FedEx Cup events, then the Turkish Airlines Open and his own World Challenge to close out the year. This season, however, he is off to the worst start of his career, finishing no better than T-25 (with one WD) in four worldwide starts.
Woods withdrew during the final round of the Honda Classic, citing back spasms. He played the following week at Doral, and was in contention after three days, but he reinjured his back during the final round, closed with 78 – the highest final-round score of his career – and tied for 25th.
When asked at Doral if the issue was more serious than back spasms, Woods replied, “Well, it is back spasms, so we’ve done all the protocols and it’s just a matter of keeping everything aligned so it doesn’t go into that.”
Woods then opted to sit out the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tournament he has won eight times, in favor of more treatment. Last week, when announcing a new title sponsor for his Washington, D.C.-area tournament, Woods said that it was “too soon” to know about his Masters status and that the process had been “very frustrating.”
Woods has now missed five of the past 23 majors dating to summer 2008, when he was recovering from reconstructive knee surgery. He also missed the U.S. Open and British Open in 2011 after sustaining injuries to his left knee and Achilles’ tendon while playing a shot from under a tree at Augusta.
“Of course, we’re disappointed to hear that Tiger will be out of competition for a few months and will miss several big tournaments, but I’m sure no one is more disappointed than Tiger,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in a statement. “I was pleased to hear that Tiger’s procedure to alleviate a pinched nerve was successful and that the long-term prognosis for his recovery is positive.”
Woods, a four-time Masters winner, hasn’t won the year’s first major since 2005. Since then, he has finished no worse than sixth in seven of his last eight appearances.
Before his injury woes, Woods was eagerly anticipating this year’s foursome of major venues. He has finished in the top 3 in each of his two U.S. Open appearances at Pinehurst; he won the Open the last time it was held at Royal Liverpool, in 2006; and he won the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla.
Now, though, the rest of his season is in doubt.