Back surgery forces Tiger Woods out of Masters

Dan Wetzel
Tiger Woods tees off on the fourth hole during the final round of the Cadillac Championship golf tournament Sunday, March 9, 2014, in Doral, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Lingering back issues will force Tiger Woods to miss the Masters for the first time in his career, the golfer announced Tuesday.

Woods, 38, underwent a microdiscectomy for a pinched nerve Monday. He described it as "successful" but at least a few weeks of rest and rehabilitation are needed, making next week's start of the season’s first major championship impossible.

"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 on his website.

"It also looks like I'll be forced to miss several upcoming tournaments to focus on my rehabilitation and getting healthy … this is frustrating, but it's something my doctors advised me to do for my immediate and long-term health."

Augusta National is one of Woods' preferred courses. He’s won four green jackets there, and even when his game has struggled in the past because of injury, inconsistent play or personal scandal, he’s managed to stay in contention. Since winning the event by a record 12 strokes in 1997, he has 12 top-10 finishes and eight top fives.

Woods’ has increasingly battled injuries over the past half-dozen years. He hasn’t won a major championship since the 2008 U.S. Open, which was followed by knee surgery that cost him starts in both the British Open and PGA Championship. He also was forced to skip the 2011 U.S. and British Opens.

While he returned to the top of the golf rankings last year, he hasn’t been able to win a major in 5½ years and counting. That’s left him with 14 career majors, still four behind Jack Nicklaus on the all-time list. He has 79 victories on the PGA Tour, three behind Sam Snead’s record 82. Passing Nicklaus and Snead are two of Woods’ stated career goals.

"It's tough right now, but I'm absolutely optimistic about the future," Woods said in the statement. "There are a couple [of] records by two outstanding individuals and players that I hope one day to break. As I've said many times, Sam and Jack reached their milestones over an entire career. I plan to have a lot of years left in mine."

A bad back was cited as one reason for his poor and sporadic play across the early part of this season. Woods has spoken in the past at the need to get his back corrected for the long haul, so the news of skipping Augusta isn’t entirely surprising.

The field for the Masters will be announced Friday, and with Phil Mickelson also dealing with injury, there is a chance the field this year will be without two of the game’s biggest stars.

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