Tiger Woods won’t play in next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, confirmed that Woods will skip Bay Hill for the second year in a row (he missed last year because of a neck strain) and the sixth time in the past seven years. A record eight-time winner there, Woods had until 5 p.m. ET Friday to enter the field.
Woods hasn’t played since he finished 68th – last among those who made the cut – at the Genesis Invitational. That week at Riviera he fulfilled myriad hosting duties, struggled on the greens and revealed that his surgically repaired back was stiff. Despite the prospect of guaranteed world-ranking, FedExCup and Olympic points, Woods decided not to play the following week at the WGC-Mexico Championship because he “wasn’t going to be ready.” Then he didn’t play his hometown tournament, this week’s Honda Classic. And now he won’t be at Bay Hill, one of his favorite hunting grounds.
In all, Woods has played just eight competitive rounds this year as he remains tied for the most PGA Tour victories all time (82).
Though Woods offered no public statement on skipping Bay Hill, Steinberg told ESPN.com that Woods’ back is “still stiff and not quite ready.”
Still unclear is where Woods will tee it up next. In two weeks is The Players Championship, where he's a two-time winner. Two weeks after that is the WGC-Match Play Championship, where last year he reached the quarterfinals in his final tune-up before Augusta.
If Woods plays those two events, that’d keep him from playing back-to-back events early in 2020 and give him four starts before the Masters. Last year, he played five times before the year’s first major.
Earlier this week, in a Masters conference call with reporters, Woods was vague about his preparation.
“My prep has been just like it usually is,” he said. “It’s, What do I need to do to get ready for the Masters? I’ve been fortunate to have done this now five times, and to try and have everything peak together for just an incredible week, it’s hard to do. It’s hard to try and get all the shots and have everything dialed in.
“The plan is to prepare the same way. It worked last year, so I’ve got a blueprint for what I need to do and hopefully I can have the same feelings.”