It’s official: Tiger Woods, the four-time champion of the US Masters Golf tournament, has confirmed that he will not be playing in Masters Golf 2016 due to a back injury.
Speculation about the champion’s fitness has been mounting after he underwent two consecutive operations last year: a microdiscectomy on his lower back to remove herniated disc material in September and a follow-up op just a few weeks later. He hasn’t played competitively since August 2015.
Woods maintains that he is “making progress” in his recovery from the procedures but has yet to announce a time-scale for his return to the course. He has now released a statement which reads: “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.”
This isn’t the first time this has happened, of course. Woods pulled out of the 2014 US Masters Golf tournament with a back problem, and finished in a tie for the 17th in 2015.
The statement continued: “I’ve said all along that this time I need to be cautious and do what’s best for my long-term health and career. Unfortunately, playing Augusta next week wouldn’t be the right decision.
“I’m absolutely making progress, and I’m really happy with how far I’ve come, but I still have no timetable to return.”
The 40-year-old has chalked up an impressive total of 14 major tournament wins but has slipped in world rankings to 472nd place in later years.
Ominously, PGA Tour winner Frank Nobilo told Reuters that, before his physical issues became known, Wood was the game. But two years of sporadic play, he said, had seen his premier position filled by “golf’s multi-pronged attack” which had changed to focus of the game – a reference to younger players rising in stature.
Twenty-somethings like Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and others are now widely seen as representing not just the present, but the future of the sport.