Tiger Woods out of Masters
Tiger Woods insists he is still targeting Jack Nicklaus' record haul of 18 major titles despite back surgery forcing him to miss the US Masters for the first time in his career.
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Woods said on Tuesday he had undergone successful microdiscectomy surgery on a pinched nerve in his back on Monday after being advised to do so for his "immediate and long-term health".
The world number one withdrew with just five holes of the Honda Classic remaining last month due to back spasms and was unable to defend his Arnold Palmer Invitational title.
In a statement on his official website, four-time Masters champion Woods said: "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.
"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."
The statement added that the 38-year-old, who has not won a major since the 2008 US Open, would begin intensive rehabilitation and soft-tissue treatment within a week and could start chipping and putting in three weeks.
"It's tough right now, but I'm absolutely optimistic about the future," Woods added. "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 [Snead] and Jack [Nicklaus] reached their milestones over an entire career. I plan to have a lot of years left in mine."
Woods has won 79 PGA Tour titles compared to Snead's 82. He has 14 major titles to Nicklaus' 18.
The news means Woods has completed an unwanted career grand slam, having previously been forced out of the other three majors through injury.
Knee surgery in 2008 to replace his anterior cruciate ligament - just after his last major victory - forced him to miss the Open and US PGA Championship. In 2011, he failed to tee it up at the US Open and the Open because of an Achilles complaint.
Woods has also suffered a litany of other problems that raise doubts about his long-term future.
At The Barclays in 2012, Woods said he felt a twinge in his lower back before the second round and looked in great discomfort at Bethpage Black. He blamed the problem on soft beds at his hotel. Twelve months later the same problem re-emerged at the same tournament - and was again blamed on a soft bed.
By the final round, he dropped to his knees after one shot on the back nine from what he said were back spasms, which he said were unrelated to the tightness in his back two weeks earlier in the final round of the US PGA Championship.
Last year, he played with a left elbow injury in the US Open at Merion, saying only that he injured it at the Players Championship in May during "one of the rounds".
In 2014, Woods withdrew from the Honda Classic after 13 holes of the final round with more back pain and spasms. Three days later he used just wedges and a putter in a practice round ahead of the WGC-Cadillac Championship, then shot 66 on Saturday to get within three shots of the lead but suffered more back trouble as he shot the worst Sunday score (78) of his professional career.
Asked then if it could be something more 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 I don't go into that."
Woods has played in the Masters every year since since his debut as an amateur in 1995. The last of his four green jackets was won in 2005, since when he has recorded seven top-six finishes in eight appearances.
Last year he finished fourth after being handed a two-shot penalty for taking an incorrect drop on the 15th hole of his second round.