Reigning Masters champion Tiger Woods will miss next week's US PGA Tour Players Championship with a back issue as the 15-time major winner's return to defend his crown at Augusta National looms. Woods, according to the tour website, told PGA commissioner Jay Monahan he would skip the signature event at TPC Sawgrass, which typically boasts one of golf's strongest fields, just before agent Mark Steinberg announced his 44-year-old client still suffered back troubles. "Back just not ready," Steinberg told Golf Digest and ESPN. "Not concerning long term, just not ready."
It's the short term that is becoming of concern for Woods, who will miss the biggest Masters tuneup and have only three weeks of competition before chasing a sixth career green jacket -- if he's able to play by round one on April 9. "The idea is to peak around Augusta," Woods told reporters last week in a conference call. Woods, ranked 11th, skipped this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational with what Steinberg said was back stiffness. Woods also missed last week's Honda Classic and the WGC Mexico Championship the week before that.
The last time Woods played was in the Genesis Invitational at Riviera three weeks ago, when he placed 68th. His only other 2020 start came at Torrey Pines in January when he shared ninth. Woods would have the Valspar Championship on March 19-22 and the WGC Match Play in Austin, Texas, on March 25-29 as well as the Texas Open on April 2-5 before official Masters practice sessions begin, but he typically skips playing the week before the Masters. Woods won The Players Championship in 2001 and 2013, with only three-time winner Jack Nicklaus having captured more titles in the Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, event.
Woods has played a lighter schedule in recent seasons in the wake of multiple back surgeries, including a spinal fusion operation in 2017. He slowly worked his way back into form after that, including a runner-up effort at the 2018 PGA Championship and victory at the 2018 Tour Championship, setting the stage for his first major win in 11 years last April at Augusta National, completing an epic comeback saga.
Woods won the Zozo Championship last October in Japan for his 82nd career US PGA title, matching Sam Snead atop the all-time tour win list. He then went on to finish fourth at the Hero World Challenge he hosts in the Bahamas before flying to Australia and serving as a playing captain in the US team's victory over the Internationals at Melbourne. Woods is ranked seventh among American players, three spots behind where he would need to be in June to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Even with Dustin Johnson saying he will not compete in Japan, Woods would still need to pass two compatriots to grab a berth in the Olympics.